Curly

Susie Gairhand (from left) daughter of the late Curly Glasco, stands with Lindsay and Randy Phillips outside the old Curly’s Liquor Store near the Poinsett-Craighead County line.

TRUMANN — A piece of Arkansas’ rich rockabilly music history sat rusting away at the Poinsett-Craighead County line for decades.

While the music and alcohol are long gone, the old Curly’s building is coming back to life, thanks to the efforts of newcomers who had no idea of the history they had bought.

Randy and Lindsay Phillips bought the side-by-side quonset huts on Arkansas 463 a few months ago from Susie Gairhand, daughter of the late Curley Glasco.

“The first story I heard was of Elvis playing out here, and I was like, you’re kidding,” Lindsay Phillips said. “And Randy said, ‘No.’ And so I Googled it, and sure enough, it was Elvis, Conway Twitty and Jerry Lee Lewis, I think, are the three that we saw.”

Back in the day, what’s now Arkansas 463 was U.S. 63, and was the main route between Memphis and Northeast Arkansas.

C&R was on one side of the road and the Cotton Club was on the other. And those clubs were often a stopping off place for not only the early rockers, but for such wrestling greats as Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee as they traveled the region, Gairhand said.

Randy Phillips, head football coach and assistant principal at Trumann High School, said he had his eye on the property since the day he first interviewed for the school job.

For years, he has had a hobby metal works shop. He’s dreamed of owning his own business.

“I drove past this one and thought, ‘Man, that’s cool,’” Phillips recalled. “Just that round top. We had used that a bunch in Gillett where I lived. So, I’d seen it my whole life, it was cool. I looked at it and thought I might get it cheap enough for the shape it was in.”

Lindsay Phillips didn’t quite see her husband’s vision when she first laid eyes on the vine-covered structure.

Learning the history changed her mind. When people saw Phillips clearing years of junk from inside the building, they would stop by, wish them well and tell more stories, he said.

Curly’s Liquor Store closed in the 1990s, and then voters decided to make Willis Township dry, Gairhand said.

She said her own memories of the place aren’t as detailed as she would have liked.

“I wish I had paid closer attention … I wish I had written it down,” Gairhand said. “But woulda, shoulda, coulda, but didn’ta.” At the time, she was growing up and didn’t understand history.

Beginning in the 1940s, the 4,000-square-foot structure was known as C&R Nightclub, and Curley’s Liquor Store was in a smaller, adjacent quonset building. Both buildings still stand. Also part of the two-acre development was Curly’s Motel. Only the cement slab remains of the motel, which burned, Gairhand said.

Curly Glasco and Roy Finley were the C&R of the nightclub. Eventually, they parted ways and Finley moved to Paragould and established another legendary club, known as Roy’s.

The late Bill E. Burk, who was a columnist for the old Memphis Press-Scimitar, wrote about a dozen books on the life of Elvis Presley, always trying to track down legends about the famed musician.

One was the story of an impromptu concert. What he wasn’t able to confirm was whether the event happened outside of C&R or across the road at the Cotton Club. He quoted an unidentified source

“He said that while Elvis never appeared at the Cotton Club, that one night on a flatbed trailer sitting along the U.S. Highway 63 in front of the Cotton Club, the local musicians were jamming on the flatbed when Elvis happened by,” Burk, who died in 2008, wrote. “Elvis, he said, stopped, got out his guitar, climbed up on the flatbed and joined in.”

While his source indicated Elvis’ impromptu jam session happened at the Cotton Club, he believed it more likely happened in front of C&R.

While there will be a new business in the building, now that the new owners know its history, they’re going to preserve the Curly’s sign.

“I kind of like the history of it, and we’re just going to put ours over it,” Lindsay Phillips said of the Curly’s Liquor store sign.

When Southern Silo Design, the combination retail store and metalworks shop opens, hopefully before Christmas, Lindsay Phillips said she hopes to have compiled photos and other memorabilia from the building’s previous history.

As Gairhand and Lindsay Phillips were wrapping up a recent visit at the site, Gairhand spotted something on the ground. It was the key to Room No. 2 at Curly’s Motel.

It’ll join the display.