The Ballad of Curtis Loew
Music/Lyrics: Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant
Original Artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd
Original Album: Second Helping (1974)
Historian: Craig DeLucia, Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2014-08-01
"The Ballad of Curtis Loew" is the story of a lonely old guitarist whom the narrator, as a young boy, would pay to play the blues from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 release, Second Helping. It was only performed live once by the original Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup, prior to the October 20, 1977 plane crash that killed band leader Ronnie Van Zant and five others.
Lynyrd Skynyrd – "The Ballad of Curtis Loew" – Second Helping
The first known Phish performance of “Curtis Loew” took place on 4/29/87 at Nectar’s. From that date through 10/30/90, "Curtis Loew" was a regular second or third set number in the Phish repertoire. The song was then not heard from again until 3/14/93 (302 shows) when the band dusted old “Curtis” off during the soundcheck and then played during the gig. It was played two more times and then was again buried after 8/2/93.
“Curtis Loew” remained one of the most frequently requested covers on tour through the hiatus and all the way up to Phish's breakup in 2004. For many eager fans, hearing the song at an occasional soundcheck (for example, at Big Cypress in 1999) only made matters worse. At Fenway Park on 5/31/09, Phish rewarded many fans' patience with a breakout performance after an absence of almost sixteen years and 625 shows. Happily, the Fenway version was not a one-time bust-out, and "Curtis" has eased his way back into a very light rotation – check out 8/13/10 Deer Creek, 5/29/11 Bethel Woods or 7/26/13 The Gorge for examples. On 8/1/14 “Curtis Loew” made an appearance in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” home when Phish performed at the Amphitheater at the Wharf in Orange Beach, AL.