Jimmy Curtiss

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Singer/songwriter Jimmy Curtiss is one of the more interesting footnotes in the history of rock & roll -- the rare would-be teen idol who actually wrote his own material (and did so admirably), he later…
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Singer/songwriter Jimmy Curtiss is one of the more interesting footnotes in the history of rock & roll -- the rare would-be teen idol who actually wrote his own material (and did so admirably), he later expanded his reach into psychedelia and harmony-laden folk-rock, but while the subject of a small cult following, none of his records ever made a commercial dent. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Curtiss first surfaced in 1959 as a member of the doo wop combo the Enjays. He issued his solo debut, "Without You," on United Artists in 1961 -- the label attempted to position him as a teen crooner in the mold of Bobby Vee or Paul Anka, although original and distinctive efforts like 1962's "Five Smooth Stones" (a pop retelling of the David and Goliath story) not surprisingly failed to make a commercial impact. Stripped of his record contract, Curtiss sold songs to Bobby Darin and Ellie Greenwich, and even worked for a time in advertising -- he returned to music full-time in 1965, assembling a doo wop backing group dubbed the Regents and signing to Laurie Records to issue "Not for You." "The Girl From the Land of 1,000 Dances" followed later that same year, but then Curtiss again disappeared from sight -- he returned in 1967 with the bubblegum cult classic "Psychedelic Situation," a major hit in Germany that attracted little attention at home. Curtiss then signed to Decca, collaborating with producers Jerry Vance and Terry Phillips on a studio group called the Hobbits -- despite borrowing their name from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels and titling their 1967 debut Down to Middle Earth, the Hobbits turned out relatively straightforward sunshine pop, and the album is much sought after by soft-psych aficionados. Only Curtiss remained from the original lineup by the time of the 1968 follow-up, Men and Doors: The Hobbits Communicate -- like its predecessor, the record didn't sell, and Decca terminated the contract. Curtiss then formed his own label and production company, both dubbed Perception; in addition to working with acts including the Lost Souls ("Artificial Rose"), the Sweet Bippies ("Love, Anyway You Want It"), and the Changing Colours ("Da-Da-Da-Da"), he also helmed an LP and three singles by the psychedelic soul act the Bag, members of which reportedly worked on the Hobbits project as well. Speaking of which, after rechristening the group the New Hobbits, Curtiss released 1969's Back From Middle Earth essentially a solo effort -- later that year, he also issued an official solo LP, Life. While his own material continued to flounder commercially, Perception actually managed a few hit LPs, most notably King Harvest's 1973 effort Dancing in the Moonlight, which generated the smash title cut. However, a year later Curtiss returned to advertising, subsequently creating a television campaign for Bumble Bee brand tuna fish. According to the liner notes in the second volume of the Soft Sounds for Gentle People series, he eventually ended up in San Francisco, going solely by the initials J.C. -- his current activities and whereabouts are unknown.