By Liam Nolan
The men of the 250-strong new intake at the United States Army’s military base, Fort Ord in California, were down at the firing range. As part of basic training each soldier had to shoot at the targets to have his marksmanship rated, or classified.
The 19-year-old kid from Meadow, West Texas, the fellow with the “beat up Sears Roebuck kind of guitar” (his words), didn’t like guns very much. But of the 250 raw soldiers at the range that day, he was one of only six who shot so well that each earned an “expert” classification. It also earned them three-day passes.
The soldier with the guitar was Sonny Curtis. He was no temporarily anonymous kid with musical ambitions. He was a young man of whom Waylon Jennings once said, “My hero then was Sonny Curtis…I admired him so much I wanted to change my name to Sonny. I even tried to stand like him.”
Sonny was the second youngest of six children born to struggling cotton farmers during the Dust Bowl era of the Dirty Thirties. The Great Plains Region was devastated by drought; the worldwide economic slump was so bad that it became known as The Great Depression.
In Meadow, where Sonny Curtis grew up, music was about the only entertainment the folk could afford. They would gather on Saturday nights to make music.