Curly Putman--An appreciation
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Curly Putman had his pen on the paper of some of country music’s greatest hits, perhaps most notably including “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the George Jones chart-topper and Country Music Association Song of the Year in both 1980 and 1981, which he co-wrote with Bobby Braddock and is often cited as the finest country music song ever.
But Putman, who died Sunday (Nov. 30) at 85, is responsible for many other landmark country songs including Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” (also co-written with Braddock), the 1979 Academy of Country Music Song of the Year “It’s a Cheating Situation” (sung by Moe Bandy and Janie Fricke and co-written with Sonny Throckmorton), Dolly Parton’s first hit “Dumb Blonde” (1967), Tanya Tucker’s 1973 chart-topper “Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” “My Elusive Dreams” (1967 chart-topping duet for David Houston and Tammy Wynette, co-written with Billy Sherrill), “You Can’t Have Your Cake and Edith, Too” (with Braddock, the No. 10 hit in 1967 for the Statler Brothers), “It Don’t Feel Like Sinnin’ to Me” (the No. 2 hit in 1978 for The Kendalls, co-written with Mike Kosser) and “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” the much-covered 1965 hit for Porter Wagoner that reached No. 4 on the country charts, and No. 1 on the pop charts for Tom Jones the following year.
“’Green Green Grass of Home is all anyone needs to know about songwriting—and it’s impossible to teach,” says Don Schlitz, himself a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer as well as a Songwtiters Hall of Fame inductee. Notes the Statler Brothers' Don Reid: Curly Putman and Bobby Braddock—two fantastic songsmiths who wrote an early hit for us in the late ‘60s that was a Top 10 record: 'You Can’t Have Your Kate and Edith, Too.' It was a light-hearted little ditty that served its purpose for all of us. But, wow! These guys went on with much heavier and meatier work and made a deep groove in country music history. I have the greatest respect for their bodies of work."
For music historian John Alexander, Putman was a “true songwriting hero.”
“He was a true craftsman who never received the fame he so richly deserved, but rather he let his songs cement his legacy,” says Alexander. “As co-writer of ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’--what many consider the greatest country song ever written--he received awards and honors, but there were so many more: ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ could also be classified among the greatest country songs ever written. Porter Wagoner's rendition is a masterpiece, but so is Johnny Cash's. And speaking of Cash, he also recorded Putman's ‘Mobile Bay’--an absolutely stunning story-song that Cash believed in enough to release as a single.”
The “common denominator of some of Putman's finest songs,” continues Alexander, “is their ability to actually hit you in the heart and make you cry. I dare anyone to listen to ‘My Elusive Dreams’ and not become choked up and teary-eyed. That's what makes a country song unique and Curly Putman, like Hank Williams, wrote some of the most gut-wrenching songs ever recorded.”