Curly Putman, the composer who enriched the American country songbook with such classics as “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and “My Elusive Dreams,” died Sunday (Oct. 30) at the age of 85.
He had been in ill health for some time, but, according to his friend and co-writer Bobby Braddock, who eulogized him on Facebook, he was still crafting songs a few days before his death.
Claude Putman Jr. was born Nov. 20, 1930, in Princeton, Alabama, the son of a sawmill worker, a trade Putman himself would pursue briefly. After a four-year stint in the Navy, Putman returned to Alabama, where he sang and played steel guitar in various bands. He also began writing songs. His first major success was “I Think I Know,” a Top 10 hit in 1960 for fellow Alabamian Marion Worth.
According to Braddock, who shared writing credit with Putman on George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” Roger Miller discovered the aspiring songwriter when Putnam was working in a shoe store.
Putman moved to Nashville in 1964 and signed as a staff writer to Tree Publishing. The following year, he wrote “Green, Green Grass of Home.” It became a Top 5 hit for Porter Wagoner and was subsequently recorded by Tom Jones, Elvis Presley, Bobby Bare, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Kenny Rogers and Joan Baez, among many others.
Putman also penned Dolly Parton’s first chart single, “Dumb Blonde,” which reached the Top 30 in 1967.
Briefly a recording artist himself, Putman put three of his own songs on the charts — “The Prison Song” in 1960 and “My Elusive Dreams” and “Set Me Free” in 1967. Written with Billy Sherrill, “My Elusive Dreams” became a No. 1 hit that year for David Houston and Tammy Wynette.
Paul McCartney, who stayed in Putman’s home while recording in Nashville in 1974, wrote the song “Junior’s Farm” about Putman’s Lebanon, Tennessee, spread. “Junior” was the name McCartney called Putman.
Other standards in Putman’s catalog include Tanya Tucker’s “Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” T.G. Sheppard’s “Do You to Go to Heaven,” T. Graham Brown’s “I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again,” the Kendall’s “It Don’t Feel Like Sinnin’ to Me,” Moe Bandy’s “It’s a Cheating Situation” and Hank Thompson’s “The Older the Violin, the Sweeter the Music.”
Putman was known for his mentoring of and generosity toward young songwriters, Braddock said, citing such of his later-famous “apprentices” as Sonny Throckmorton, Sterling Whipple, Red Lane, Rafe Van Hoy, Don Cook and Jamie O’Hara.
Putman was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame.