About Willis, Sleepy
Born Tasio Golios, the country singer with the tired stage name is a member of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame but actually didn't get that far North until he was in his mid-twenties. He came to Maine in 1955 to work on television with Ernie and Candy Lindell and the Rhythm Rancho Show, which combined with that state's cold weather might be enough to make anyone feel sleepy. He later worked with Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody. When he joined the Wagon Masters, it was the beginning of his association with Dick Curless, one of the funniest country singers from New England, who wore an eye patch and specialized in the genre known as truck driving music. The band broke up, but Willis formed a new trio with Curless and Harold Carter and, with a stack of songs about 18-wheelers and a CB radio, went to Bangor to began a long residency at the Silver Dollar. Since at least one of Maine's highways is known as "the graveyard of truckers," it can be assumed that the last country & western music some of these unfortunate souls ever heard was this band. Willis and Curless cut some sides for Event Records, and as the truck driving country/CB radio fad began lifting off the ground, some of songs were thereby appropriated by Capitol for more extensive merchandising. A good example of the material from this period is the record The Soul of Dick Curless. An interesting side note is the presence of one Sonny Breau on this album. The lad was about 14 years old at the time and played a lot of lead guitar for Curless and Willis. The surname Breau will hit an augmented chord with jazz guitar fans, and sure enough, the teen country picker in that band went on to become the jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, who continued to dabble in country the rest of this career.
Breau wasn't the only one who changed directions after the Curless band broke up. Willis drifted into rock & roll, traveling all over the country with many different bands. In 1961, he cut a reasonably successful record called "The Peppermint Twist." He went back to Bangor in 1965 to buy the Silver Dollar where he had spent many a night on-stage. He continued running this club until 1968 when he relocated, but business was not as good, so he sold out. He then rejoined Dick Curless and became his manager and agent, as well as lead guitarist. They formed their booking agency and were very successful until 1973 when Willis moved to Connecticut.
In 1980, Willis bounced back to Newport, RI, the town of his birth, and got into playing the fiddle. He was the Rhode Island Country Music Association's fiddler of the year for two years and was inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame in 1980. Five years later, he was given a similar honor by the Maine organization. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi