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CRAYTON, CONNIE CURTIS [PEE WEE]

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CRAYTON, CONNIE CURTIS [PEE WEE] (1914–1985). Blues guitarist Connie Curtis (Pee Wee) Crayton was born in Rockdale, Texas, on December 18, 1914. His family moved to Austin while he was a child. The boy, whose father called him Pee Wee in honor of a local pianist, began playing music early in life after building a makeshift guitar-like instrument from a cigar box. Later, as a teenager, he received his first formal musical training on trumpet and ukulele through his school band.

In 1935 Crayton moved to Los Angeles. During the 1940s he performed throughout California in a variety of different venues. He was influenced by the playing of T-Bone Walkerqv. One musicologist called him "a shaper of the West Coast blues sound." Among the musicians Crayton toured or recorded with in the 1950s and 1960s were Ivory Joe Hunter, Lowell Fulson, Gatemouth Brown, and Ray Charles. He first charted in 1948 with "Blues After Hours," an instrumental on the Modern label, which reached number one on Billboard's rhythm and blues chart. He soon had other successes with "Texas Hop" (1948), which reached number five, and "I Love You So" (1949), which reached number six. Crayton later recorded for other labels, including Vee-Jay, Aladdin, and Imperial, but with less success. Seeing his popularity declining, he moved to the Midwest to play music and try his hand at various other jobs, including golf hustling, before returning to Los Angeles in the 1960s. During this period he drove a truck and occasionally collaborated on songs with his wife, Esther.

Crayton launched a musical comeback in 1970, when he played with Johnny Otis at the Monterey Jazz Festival. He released his first album, Things I Used to Do (Vanguard), the following year. Crayton also performed on albums by Lightnin' Hopkinsqv, Joe Turner, and Dizzy Gillespie. He continued to record and tour throughout the remainder of his life, and his performances included an appearance at Antone'sqv in Austin. Crayton died in Los Angeles on June 25, 1985, and was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Michael Erlewine et al., eds., AMG All Music Guide to the Blues: The Experts' Guide to the Best Blues Recordings (San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1996; 2d ed., San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1999). Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979). Robert Santelli, The Big Book of Blues: A Biographical Encyclopedia (New York: Penguin Books, 1993).

Jarad Brown

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Jarad Brown, "CRAYTON, CONNIE CURTIS [PEE WEE]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcr88), accessed April 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on August 30, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.