Henry Earl Sinks (born January 1, 1940), known professionally as Earl Sinks, is an American singer-songwriter and actor, known by many pseudonyms. He led a prolific musical and acting career from the 1950s to the 1990s before retiring. He is best known for his long music career, including his brief tenure as lead singer of the Crickets from 1958 to 1960, and for his acting roles in numerous low budget movies and TV shows in the 60s.
Sinks was performing with Bob Wills at age 12 before recording publicly in 1957, as a solo artist on Dot Records. He went on tour (backed by Tommy Allsup) supporting Buddy Holly. After Holly split with his band, the Crickets, later that year, Sinks was brought in by Norman Petty to fill his spot, noting a similarity in their singing styles. He recorded and performed with the Crickets after Holly's death in 1959, contributing to the album In Style With the Crickets, singing on songs such as "I Fought the Law," "Love's Made a Fool of You", and "When You Ask About Love". Sinks' association with the Crickets ended in February 1960, citing a disagreement. David Box was later brought in to finish recording and fulfill the band's contract with Coral Records.
Sinks later moved to Nashville, where he continued to release records. He recorded for Decca Records, in addition to Hickory, Capitol, Coral, Brunswick, United Artist, Warner Brothers and Ace of Hearts Records. He and Norro Wilson, along with Bill Fernez, recorded as the band the Omegas country music. In October 1958 Tommy Allsup rejoined the Crickets for the "Biggest Show of Stars: Autumn Edition", after Buddy split from Jerry Allison and Joe Mauldin. The Roses (a vocal backup group) were also on the tour. Needing a new band for the planned "Winter Dance Party Tour", Buddy asked his pal Waylon Jennings to play bass, with Tommy on guitar and Allsup's pal Carl Bunch for drums. After the tragedy, Tommy Allsup and Earl remained in New York following the end of the "Winter Dance Party Tour" for promotional pictures with J.I. and Joe B. as The Crickets.
Sinks had recorded earlier with the Crickets, along with Sonny Curtis, and sang lead on their version of "I Fought the Law," "Someone Someone," and "Loves Made A Fool of You." In 1958 he came to Nashville with his pal Bob Montgomery, where they worked together as songwriters with Acuff-Rose. He recorded under the names of Earl Sinks, Sinx Mitchell, Earl Richards and Earl "Snake" Richards. He wrote songs for artists such as Sue Thompson, the Everly Brothers, the Newbeats, Ernie Ashworth, Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison, Mel Tillis, as well as the Crickets and Buddy Holly. He would either play guitar or sing harmony over a majority of the sessions with artists such as Mel Tillis, Del Reeves, Mel Street, Charlie Pride, etc.
When Nashville filmmaker Ron Ormond started looking for a star for his low-budget films in the mid-1960s, he asked Smiley Wilson (artist and booking agent), and Smiley recommended his son-in-law Earl. At this time, Earl was recording for the Warner Brothers record label as well as appearing in some of the Warner Brothers television shows, such as Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, and Surfside Six. In his first Ormond film, "Girl From Tobacco Row", Sinks found himself with a nickname. When talking with Ken Beck of the Tennessean newspaper he said "Ron gave me that name", and from then on, all the jocks (deejays) started calling him Snake Richards. Along with "Girl From Tobacco Row", Ormond's film "White Lightnin' Road" also included Earl as "Snake" and also later in the 20th Century Fox film by Richard Ball That Tennessee Beat.
By the 1970s Sinks was tuned in more to the business end of things and ran Ace of Hearts Records and acted also as producer. Over the years he notably produced artists such as John Anderson, Faron Young, Joyce Cobb, Jimmy Dickens, Porter Wagoner, Mark Dinning, The Remingtons, Bobby Lewis, Mel Street and many more. He stated "It was great being an entertainer as well as singing and or playing on so many sessions, writing the songs, etc. but I'm glad I gradually drifted over to the business side."
According to the Nashville Tennessean, "Snake" lives with his wife, once known as Little Rita Faye on the Grand Old Opry and the daughter of country stars Smiley and Kitty Wilson. They have been married for over 50 years and live in Goodlettsville, where their son Brandon Earl Sinks keeps the music tradition going.
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