About The Artist
This may be another case of where we have found difficulty in getting things straight when it appears there may be two artists with the same name. Such is the case here. There appears to be another Curley Sanders who was associated with the WFAA Saturday Night Shindig and also recorded for the Imperial Records label. We have found no article that mentions the two are the same as yet.
We have seen some references that indicate he was born in October 1935 in Harlin County. These would be references to a Ray "Curley" Sanders who would later go on to school in Texas and work at radio station KHEY. But then there is the Country and Western Jamboree article in 1958 that spotlights a Curley Sanders and states he was only 20 years old at the time and was from Bardstown, Kentucky - which is east of Harlin County in Nelson County. However, we read in a January 1957 short biography that he was from Cecilia, Kentucky which may make sense since we will see later his fan club was based in Cecilia - in Harlin County.
The 1958 article states his first appearance in front of a large audience was in Rineyville, Kentucky. He entered and won a state wide amateur contest. Subsequent to that, he was first or second in 14 other contests, "...singing the ballads he learned from his mother." He was said to be over 6 feet tall with brown wavy hair. He did not drink alcohol or smoke.
Country Song Roundup named him as a "future country star" in its October 1957 issue. They mentioned he had released four sides on the Concept record label.
In the year prior to the 1958 article, he had appeared on Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree, The Jimmie Logsdon Show, Bill Morgan's Show, the Eddie Hill Show, Carl Smith and Goldie Hill among others. He was then making regular appearances on Saturday nights on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance.
That article states he was on the Abbott record label, but to date we had found no details.
This 1958 article places him in Bardstown, Kentucky as director of country and western music at WBRT. He was said to be on the air for six and half hours of the station's 11 hour broadcast day. He is said to have gotten his start at WIEL in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
That same issue in 1958 reports that he had a fan club headed by Alice Compton out of Cecilia, Kentucky. That fan club was listed as early as May 1957, perhaps when he was just 19 years old if the article in 1958 was correct. The fan club listing may be part of the reasons why we think there were two Curly (Curley) Sanders. In July of 1955, Country Song Roundup was listing a fan club for Curly Sanders run by Linda Malone out of Dallas, Texas. We assume this was for the Curly Sanders that was then on the WFAA Saturday Night Shindig.
Billboard reported in January of 1956 that Curly had signed a five-year recording contract with the Abbot Records label and would use the Rangers band to back him in the studio.
Curly with his band the Rangers played before 1,200 fans in Vine Grove Kentucky and did an appearance on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. He also appeared with Dick Dixon on WLEX-TV in Lexington, Kentucky.
In March 1956, we learned that Curly, who was with radio station WBRT at the time, appeared on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance over WHAS with the Rangers. They were said to also be recording for the Abbott Record label.
In late 1956, a former disc jockey by the name of Kenny Wilder had taken over the booking reins for Curly. At the time Curly was stated to be a regular on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. He was also scheduled to begin a tour at the end of August that would have do a 15 week tour of Japan and Korea.
Back around 1957, he was recording on the Concept Records label and had a couple releases. One was "Brand New Rock and Roll" b/w "Why Did You Leave Me". The other was "Dina-might (sic Dynamite)" b/w "You're Smiling (I'm Crying)". Cowboy Songs published the lyrics to "You're Smiling" in its December 1957 issue attributing Curley as the writer and being published by the Gaylord Music Company. Folk and Country SOngs published the lyrics to "Dynamite" in its January 1958 issue. The tune was co-written with Del Shirley and also published by Gaylord Music.
In November 1957, Billboard indicated that Curley and the Duke of Paducah were working with Dave Rich to tour and play some Army camps. That article also mentions Hal Smith that operated Gaylord Music. We have seen a couple of songs attributed to Curly Sanders that were published by Gaylord Music.
In March 1959, Billboard notes that Ray (Curly) Sanders had just finished an eight-month stint with the US Army and had formed a new band - the Santones. He would focus his personal appearances in the Kentucky and Tennessee area. Before he went into the Army in June 1958, Curly was said to be working in the El Paso, Texas area. His band manager was Reedy Hall and J. Hal SMith, of Nashville, was handling the personal management.
Then it appears he changed his name to Ray Sanders for we find a feature article on Ray Sanders in Cowboy Songs of July 1959 that indicates the same birth area in Kentucky and the same birth date. But it does not mention his previous disc jockey work. It still lists the connection to Hal Smith. But now he is working in Texas and at KHEY in El Paso. It does mention the appearances on the Mutual Network, but omits mention of Renfro Valley. It mentions that Hal had gotten Ray recording on the Cullman label.
A 1962 article mentions he attended college at Texas Western in El Paso. That same article shows him with a guitar with the "Santones" name clearly seen on the fret board. He had moved to Nashville and worked on the Grand Ole Opry for a couple years and then signed a recording contract with Liberty Records.
At some point, Ray met up with Ray Price and worked with Ray. But for some reason none of the articles we have found mention this aspect. We did find a link that provided a glimpse to a tribute CD that Ray did for Ray Price. We listened to his version of "I've Got a New Heartache" and you can definitely hear the influence and note the similiarity in the music backing Mr. Sanders. Now one wonders if he did any harmonizing with Ray Price in the recording studio. But dig we must. It looks like he did the harmony with Ray on one of his classics - "Heartaches by the Number". We think that's Ray Sanders in this video from an old Opry tv show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKA_F3o6nrw. Left undocumented is the time he spent with Ray Price.
Around that time, Hal Smith had joined forces with Ray Price and Claude Caviness to form Pamper Music. One of the first hits was a tune recorded by Ray - "A Little Bitty Tear".
In early 1964, Devvy Davenport reported in her "Under My Hat" column in Country Music Review that Ray had left Liberty records and signed with Stadium Records in Hollywood, both as an artist and A&R representative. His first release on Stadium was "Blue Bells".
He continued to sign with other record labels. In 1966, Ray Taylor wrote a review of his recording on the Tower label. One side was "Graveyard Dance". Mr. Taylor stated "The moon was full, them dancing bones wore no pants. This may not be original, but it's still spooky and cute too". The other side was "Upside Down" - Mr. Taylor stated it was almost a recitation, the "...song is a bit standard but delivery is new."
We found a few more details from a west coast publication called Country Music Life. He had formed a company called "Ray Sanders Productions". They had their own recording studio and had just formed a new label - Industry Records, Inc. He was formerly half-owner of the Stadium records label with Al Minto who took over full ownership. He also had started Pacific Coast Music (affiliated with BMI). Brad Farmer was the publishing company's manager.
In late 1963, he was scheduled to do a New Year's Eve performance with Buddy Cagle at George's Round-up on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, California. Buddy was a mainstay at George's for a while.
Billboard reported in 1969, that Ray had moved his production company and recording studio to Phoenix, Arizona from Hollywood. Business was said to be up 200 per cent. The studio was called Phoenix Sound. Ray said less competion and better working facilities. His partners in this endeavor were Billy Williams and Bob Sikora.
In 1972, we learned that he was a devotee of metaphysics and had obtained a degree from the Institute of Cosmic Wisdom in California. We learned also that he had been a member of a group called Little Dippers that had a big hit with "Forever".
His career continued, but for now, we'll state that in this research endeavor, we found no mention of his being on the WFAA Saturday Night Shindig which leads us to conclude that there was indeed another Curley Sanders on the country music scene.
Credits & Sources
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