#916: A Beatle I Want To Be by Sonny Curtis

Peak Month: March 1964
7 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #10
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
CFUN Twin Pick February 15, 1964

Sonny Curtis was born in a dugout in 1937 in Meadow, Texas. His parents were cotton farmers contending with the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression. He was a teenage pal and lead guitarist with Buddy Holly in Lubbock, Texas, in a pre-Crickets band called The Three Tunes. Sonny is his actual first name, not a nickname. Although Curtis had gone on the road with other musicians by the time Buddy Holly put together The Crickets in 1957, Curtis joined The Crickets after Holly’s death in 1959. Soon, he took over the lead vocalist role in addition to lead guitar. As the credits show, he was part of the band for the 1960 album In Style with The Crickets. On this album they recorded the original versions of two of Curtis’s best known songs, “I Fought the Law” (a hit for the Bobby Fuller Four in 1966) and “More Than I Can Say” (a hit for Leo Sayer sixteen years later.)

Soon after Holly died, three of the The Crickets, Jerry Allison, Joe B. Mauldin and Sonny Curtis, began backing the Everly Brothers in concert and in the studio. On January 8, 1960, Curtis was a session musician for Eddie Cochran for his recording of “Three Steps To Heaven.” Sonny received his draft notice from the US Army and was away from the music scene from 1960 to 1962. During the two years he was in the military, he wrote one of his classic songs, “Walk Right Back.” It was recorded in 1961 by the Everly Brothers and topped the charts in the UK, went Top Ten in the USA and to #5 in Vancouver.

Once out of the US Army, Sonny Curtis released the single, “A Beatle I Want to Be,” in response to the Beatlemania in 1964. While the tune didn’t catch on in the America, it charted in Vancouver, peaking at #10.

A Beatle I Want To Be by Sonny Curtis

Beatle looking cats standing on the stage.
Beatle looking chicks standing in the aisle.
The cats went “woo,” the chics went “ah,”
the whole place went wild.

The Beatle is a little bitty cool, bug,
a little bitty cool of a fool, bug.
With hair kind of funny and he makes a lot of money,
a Beatle I want to be, woo,
a Beatle I want to be. Na-na-na-na.

What is that thing on my radio?
Is it Americans? I don’t think so.
A little British bug from across the way,
talks like Southern USA.

The Beatle is a little bitty cool, bug,
a little bitty cool of a fool, bug.
With hair kind of funny
and he makes a lot of money,

a Beatle I want to be, woo,
a Beatle I want to be. Na-na-na-na.

Paul Revere said a long time ago,
“the British are coming, let everybody know.”
One lantern at the land and two at the sea.
But what about radio and TV?

The Beatle is a little bitty cool, bug,
a little bitty cool of a fool, bug.
With hair kind of funny
and he makes a lot of money,

a Beatle I want to be, woo,
a Beatle I want to be. Na-na-na-na.

Look at that hair, ain’t that funny?
How come them cats are making so much money?
The Beatle invaded from the British Isles,
’cause we couldn’t see the whites of his eyes.

The Beatle is a little bitty cool, bug,
a little bitty cool of a fool, bug.
With hair kind of funny
and he makes a lot of money,
a Beatle I want to be, woo,
a Beatle I want to be. Na-na-na-na.

Remember what happened when Elvis came,
one little wiggle and the whole world changed.
So mama’s and papa’s lend me your ear,
lock up your daughters ’cause a Beatle is here.

The Beatle is a little bitty cool, bug,
a little bitty cool of a fool, bug.
With hair kind of funny
and he makes a lot of money,
a Beatle I want to be, woo,
a Beatle I want to be. Na-na-na-na.
Na-na-na-na….

(Spoken: Where’d you get that haircut man?
Is that one from a wooden basin?
Looks kind of like a bowl put over your head,
wooden basin).

“A Beatle I Want To Be” is a song concerning the phenomenon of Beatlemania from the viewpoint of an American musician. There is a nod to “woo” and “ooo” sounds on “From Me To You,” “She Loves You” and other hits. Curtis recalls Paul Revere’s warning “the British are coming.” Curtis notes Revere never said anything about a British invasion being launched on radio and television. Curtis also reminds his listeners what happened when Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show three times in 1956. The First, on September 9, 1956, was seen by approximately 60 million viewers—a record 82.6 percent of the television audience. Elvis was shown only from the waist up due to the way he wiggled his hips. His hip wiggling got him the nickname, Elvis the Pelvis. The Beatles also happened to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show three times. In the case of the Fab Four it was during February 1964. 

The week of February 15, 1964, when “A Beatle I Want To Be” debuted on the CFUN chart as a Twin Pick, the Top Five singles in Vancouver were:
1) I Want To Hold Your Hand ~ The Beatles
2) You Don’t Own Me ~ Lesley Gore
3) She Loves You ~ The Beatles
4) Please Mr. Postman ~ The Beatles
5) Don’t Talk To Him ~ Cliff Richard

During 1964 The Beatles charted 26 different songs onto the CFUN pop charts in Vancouver. Of these 26 songs, 23 climbed into the Top Ten and nine made it to the #1 spot. Beatlemania was alive and well in Vancouver and the Beatles were making a lot of money from record sales.

Sonny Curtis also made an album in 1964 titled Beatle Hits Flamenco Guitar Style that included “Ballad for a Beatle.” Among the Beatles hits Curtis covered on the album are “A Hard Day’s Night,” “All My Loving,” “And I Love Her,” and “Things We Said Today.”

In 1966 Curtis, continued to comment on pop culture and recorded himself as an act billed as The Camps. Using this pseudonym, The Camps released a single titled “The Ballad of Batman.” The song went to #1 in Corpus Christi, Texas, and #3 in San Antonio. That March his song, “I Fought The Law” was a Top Ten hit for the Bobby Fuller Four.

During the 70’s, along with friend and songwriting companion Don Piestrup, Sonny wrote numerous nationally known jingles for corporations such as McDonald’s, Buick, Western Airlines, Honda and Bell Telephone. He also wrote and sang the theme song for the Mary Tyler Moore Show, “Love Is All Around.”

In 1980 Sonny Curtis 1980 wrote “The Real Buddy Holly Story” in response to the inaccuracies in the movie, The Buddy Holly Story. It was one of over a dozen songs that took him onto the Billboard Country chart as a solo artist. That year Leo Sayer did a cover of Curtis’ tune, “More Than I Can Say.” It earned Curtis considerable royalties as Sayer’s version spent five weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1980-January 1981. One of Sonny Curtis’ biggest country music successes, which he co-wrote, was with “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” a number one record for Keith Whitley in 1989.

Sonny Curtis has continued to record and perform intermittently as part of the band over six decades, most recently in their 2004 album The Crickets and their Buddies. Sonny was one of several members of The Crickets inducted into the “Music City Walk of Fame” in April, 2007 and “The Musicians Hall Of Fame” in October, 2009. On April 14, 2012 he was inducted into the “The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame” along with Jerry Allison, Joe B. Mauldin.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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