Clifford Curry is a true soul survivor, a veteran of more than 45 years in music and still kicking. The Knoxville, TN, native joined the Echos while he still attended Austin High School in Knoxville; they had been around four years before Curry joined and backed Faye Adams on her number one R&B smash "Shake a Hand." The revamped group cut two records as the renamed Five Pennies for Savoy Records ("Mr. Moon" and "My Heart Trembles" in 1955 and 1956 respectively) and also waxed unreleased sides for Herald Records. Royalties, money, and the lack of, caused the group to splinter in different directions. Curry and some other Knoxville cronies formed the Bingos, who cut a deal with Ernie Young's Excello Records. Excello issued the single on its Nasco subsidiary and renamed them the Hollyhocks; as before, nothing happened and the members disbanded into other ventures.
Curry found a stable gig with the Bubba Suggs Band in 1959, staying until 1964. The band played around their home base, Clarksville, TN, and backed up the major R&B acts that wheeled into their neck of the woods. He left after five years because Bubba couldn't vision much outside of Clarksville, neither could the other band members. Hit the road! Jack, you got to be kidding.
Returning to Knoxville, not exactly a music Mecca either, Curry went solo as Sweet Clifford. Revisiting Excello Records, Young recorded four sides on Curry, messing up the first single by crediting "Things Got to Get Better" as Clifford Sweet. Curry was furious, first from Bingos to Hollyhocks, now this crap. A follow-up got it right with the credit reading Sweet Clifford. The efforts stiffed, but that didn't deter Curry, he was in music for the duration.
He hooked up with some more Knoxville crooners -- Luey & Duey Guy, Bob Adams, Jerry Johnson, and Wayne Cronin -- to form the Fabulous Six. Curry had a fetish with six-man groups, his debut crew the Five Pennies, despite the name, was six-men strong: Curry, the Meyers Brothers -- John, Herbert, and James -- Charles Holloway, and Benjamin Washington. The Fabulous Six's single on the miniscule Ridgecrest label out of La Grange, GA, is so obscure that historians and discographers fail to include it in their encyclopedia-type guides to soul singles. As the Contenders, the same lineup cut "Mr. Dee Jay" on Blue Sky Records (1965), which didn't go. Curry tried his hand at songwriting (with Knoxville DJ Rob Galbraith) for others, with little success.
The association with Galbraith bared fruit in 1967, not with one of their songs, but the Galbraith hookup with Buzz Carson enabled Curry to cut a song Carson held the rights to, entitled "She Shot a Whole in My Soul." Carson produced and issued the record on Elf Records, which was distributed by Bell Records. Curry's biggest hit showed at number 95 pop and nearly entered the R&B Top 40 at number 45. Seven more Elf singles followed (from 1967–1969), along with three each on SSS, Caprice, and Abbott Records spanning 1970 to 1973, but none charted as high as "She Shot…" However, Curry's success as an entertainer spread to the Carolina Beaches, where the baritone became a prime showman for their musical events and a solid purveyor of Beach music, which is anything you can shag to and look cool doing it.
The popular Beach entertainer didn't record again until an association with Buddah Records in 1977 that resulted in two singles: "Body Shop" and "Moving in Circles." In 1980, he cut his first tune with the word "shag" in it; "Shag With Me" trailed by "Lets Have a Party" came out on Woodshed Records, the last title dropping in 1982. Two DJ-only singles for CC Records followed and then singles on Ripete and Compleat took him through 1985. While Clifford's recordings weren't chart busters, they got played in regions where he reigned as an entertainer of note and kept him busy. He never stopped recording; releasing music, contributing backing vocals on others albums, and doing commercials into the millennium. Collectables Records outdid themselves in 1995 by releasing a 20-song compilation CD of Curry's recordings, many from the numerous one-off labels he recorded for; Alpaloosa Records issued Clifford's Blues: The Provider in 1996. The Knoxville native now lives in Nashville, TN, with his irons still in the fire, and is not to be confused with the Clifford Curry who sang with the Notations or the Clifford Curry who blew some notes with the Los Angeles-based Sly, Slick & Wicked. ~ Andrew Hamilton