( made famous by The Bobby Fuller Four in '66 and many others since).
THE CRICKET’S SONNY CURTIS & “I FOUGHT THE LAW”
By Alan L. Chrisman
Sonny Curtis replaced Buddy Holly in The Crickets on lead guitar and vocals after Holly’s plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959. The ill-fated incident, which also killed Richie Valens (“La Bamba”) and the Big Bopper (“Chantilly Lace”) is recounted as “the day there music died” in Don McLean’s 1987 song “American Pie”. The legendary story is that Waylon Jennings had given up his seat on the flight that day.
Sonny Curtis, Buddy Holly’s friend, joined the other original Crickets, Jerry Allison, drums and Joe B. Maldin, stand-up bass, for their 1960 LP, In Style with The Crickets. Buddy Holly and The Crickets were one of the most influential songwriters and bands in rock ’n’ roll history. The Beatles were partly named after them. And they influenced everyone from The Stones to Dylan. In fact, a teen-age Dylan had seen Holly perform in Duluth two days before the fatal crash.
But on that first Crickets’ album was a song, which wasn’t popular at the time, but would go on to become a symbol song for rebels of all times: “I Fought the Law”. It was written by Sonny Curtis. It would later be recorded by The Clash, The Ramones, Springsteen, Tom Petty, Waylon Jennings, Nancy Griffith and many, many more. As I say, it would become a classic.
But the most well-known version is by The Bobby Fuller Four, another Texas band, in 1966 and became a top ten hit. Unfortunately, it was to be the only hit for Bobby Fuller, who was found asphyxiated in his mother’s car, only 6 months later.
But the song has certainly stood the test of time. Sonny Curtis would go to tour in with various Crickets for years to come and he would also write “Love is All around”, the theme for the popular Mary Tyler Moore TV series and also wrote” The Good Life” for Glen Campbell and Bobby Goldsboro.
Another song, also about being chased by the law, was R. Dean Taylor’s 1970 hit, “Indiana Wants Me”, with its siren wailing in the background (some stations wouldn’t play it because listeners thought it was real). I remember it because I originally grew up in Indiana. But he actually was a Canadian and would go on to become one of the few white songwriters at Motown in Detroit, and would co-write songs with their famous song-writing team, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Taylor wrote, “I’ll Turn to Stone” for the Four Tops and wrote and was part of “The Clan” song writing and producing team, after Holland-Dozier-Holland left. He wrote many songs for Diana Ross and The Supremes including the great, “ Love Child” in 1968 and “ I’m Livin’ in Shame” in 1969.
I was privileged to see Sonny Curtis and some of the original Crickets perform along with Waylon Jennings at the Chicago Bluesfest on a visit to my family near there in the 80’s.
See below Bobby Fuller’s hit version of Sonny Curtis’s “ I Fought The Law”, 1965:
& Sonny Curtis and The Crickets with Nancy Griffith,” I Fought The Law”, 1997: