This is a two- or three-part story. But, still, relatively simple.
It includes a favorite rock ‘n roll song, the iconic “I Fought The Law”, made famous by Texas musician Bobby Fuller and The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966. Recovered by dozens since, including The Clash, Hank Williams Jr. The Dead Kennedys, Bruce Springsteen, Waylon Jennings, The Ramones, The Grateful Dead, etc.
“I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four
The story also includes Mike Sinks, my contact at The Woody Guthrie Folk Music Center in Pampa, Texas. Yes, another Texas musician.
Finally (maybe), there’s The Crickets, the Texas band made famous in part by Buddy Holly, who died in a plane crash February 3, 1959 in Iowa with Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
And here’s how it goes:
A month or so ago, I found a bunch of CDs by The Bobby Fuller Four – a “best of”, a live cd, one of those “Never To Be Forgotten” cds, etc. I bought the “I Fought The Law” 45, on the Mustang label, at 12. Wish I had it, still. Anyway, I decided to look up the song’s history and discovered, on Wikipedia, that Sonny Curtis wrote the song in 1958 and The Crickets – sans Holly – recorded it in 1959.
The Crickets’ line-up for the song was:
Henry Earl Sinks – Vocal/Rhythm Guitar
Sonny Curtis – Lead Guitar
Joe Mauldin – Bass
Jerry Allison – Drums
(The original Crickets: Holly, Mauldin, Allison and Nikki Sullivan on rhythm guitar. Sullivan quit the band in 1958 but performed on most of the songs Holly recorded before his death.)
Interesting. A post-Buddy-Holly Crickets connection. The song never hit the charts the way it did for Bobby Fuller. Still, here’s the version by The Crickets with Henry Earl Sinks as lead singer:
[A note for lyrics freaks: The song as recorded by The Crickets has these lines:
A-robbin' people with the zip gun
I fought the law and the law won
Bobby Fuller (and many others) replaced "zip gun" (a crude, homemade weapon) with "six gun" - in line (at the time) with outlaws, the old west and, certainly, Texas legends.]
Curtis, alive and kicking at 77, and Holly were teenage friends in Lubbock, Texas. Prior to The Crickets, they played and recorded with other musicians. Curtis also wrote the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, titled “Love is All Around”; “Walk Right Back” (a 1960 hit for the Everly Brothers) and other songs.
Anyway, the name Earl Sinks kept bugging me. And I finally realized it’s because I know Mike Sinks. Two Texas musicians named Sinks. What are the chances?
In a recent email, I asked Mike if he’s related to Earl. This is what Mike said (it’s part of a longer email, part of which will not make sense):
“And another yes, Earl Sinks is my cousin, though I’ve only met him once. Now he has Alzheimers and I can’t even talk to him on the phone. I wanted to ask him to come do a show for us but I was too late. He has a son who is a terrific singer,too.
About the festival, many folks with little or no money show up and busk on the sidewalks, and play at the open mic at the Rocky Road Tavern. Some only show up for the campground picking. You can go on a budget if your expectations aren’t too high! Most of the artists play the festival for room and board. [Mike refers to the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, OK.]
Lastly, we still jam every Friday night. Let me know when if you decide to come. See ya later and thanks again!”
There you have it. Texas: A big state with a rich music history. And this is just one footnote.
Next trip to Pampa, Mike is singing “I Fought The Law.” You can bet.
I leave you with this video I shot last year of Mike singing “Silver Wings”, a Merle Haggard tune. Haggard, a California country singer and part of the “outlaw” country music scene in the 1980s, is perhaps best known for his hit, “Okie From Muskogee.”
Recorded at The Woody Guthrie Folk Music Center in Pampa, March, 2013. (Jerry Lister on electric guitar.)
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[The Beatles picked their name partly as a tribute to The Crickets - who briefly considered calling themselves The Beetles.]