Curb Museum offers unique blend of racing, music history

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Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013 8:23 am

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Heroes of motorsports and music live side-by-side at the Curb Museum here – a unique marriage that reflects the twin passions of Mike Curb.

Curb’s music company has produced dozens of No. 1 records, while his race cars have won a NASCAR championship and an Indy 500. And it’s all on display in his museum located on – where else? – Dale Earnhardt Boulevard in Kannapolis.

Here, in this 20,000-square-foot museum, visitors will find the blue-and-yellow No. 2 Chevy that Earnhardt drove to his first Winston Cup title in 1980. Right beside Earnhardt’s Monte Carlo is the car that Dan Wheldon drove to victory in the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Then there’s the Curb car that Richard Petty drove to his 199th win at Dover in 1984.

Those are just some of pieces of racing history that sit at Curb Museum for Music and Motorsports. Among the more than 30 cars that fill the room, there is also the Dodge Viper that singer Leann Rimes bought when she was just 12 years old after working with Curb, who has been involved in the music industry for more than 50 years.

Curb has been a winning NASCAR race team owner and has worked with some of music’s top talent, including Rimes, Tim McGraw, Kenny Rogers and others. Fans of racing or music can pop in and see a unique collection of racing and music history – for free.

Jerry Spurgeon is the museum’s manager and often gives a tour of the collection to visitors.

“It’s enjoyable because different people come in and ask different questions every day,” he said.

Spurgeon has been involved with Curb since 1986 and came to the museum after it was built about five years ago.

“Every race car out here belongs to Mike Curb, raced by his drivers,” Spurgeon said.

In the 1960s, Curb's record label became an important part of the West Coast rock 'n' roll music scene, releasing early recordings by such artists as The Arrows (featuring Davie Allan), The Stone Ponies (featuring Linda Ronstadt), The Electric Flag (featuring Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles) and was partnered with Jim Guercio in the early recordings of Chicago. In 1969, Curb merged his company with MGM Records and became president of the MGM Co.

Curb has been active for most of his adult life in motorsports. Curb has owned or sponsored cars driven by stars such as Earnhardt, Petty, Wheldon, Tom Sneva, Greg Biffle, Dale Jarrett and many others. Curb has owned or sponsored cars that have won more than 300 races in 25 different series.

When he wasn’t winning races or topping the music charts, Curb served as lieutenant governor of California from 1979 to 1983.

But it was racing that led Curb to set up shop in Kannapolis, where he teamed up with a young racer named Dale Earnhardt, who won his first Winston Cup race and the first of his seven series championships behind the wheel of Curb-owned cars.

Curb lives in Nashville, Tenn., but he still keeps ties to the area he came to when he first started working with Kannapolis native Dale Earnhardt.

With many of Curb’s NASCAR rides in the museum, the place also has a 1964 Cadillac he bought for $3,000 when he sold his first song at the age of 17.

In addition to Sturgeon, his wife, Pearl also gives tours. During a recent visit she escorted Tom Stegman and Craig Sharfenberg, both of Ohio, through the museum. One of the cars is a yellow Nash Metropolitan that Curb bought for his kids. But Pearl told the visitor a secret about the homely little Nash.

“When they got old enough to drive they said, ‘Oh, no, dad,’ and he kept it,” Pearl said with a laugh.

The museum also offers the YMCA promotional car – a race car used for pit-stop practice and promotional appearances – and one that museum visitors can climb into. Almost everyone who comes here winds up inside the car.

“It’s our biggest draw,” Pearl said.

Craig Sharfenberg was just impressed with the sheer number of cars that filled the museum.

“He has spent a chunk of money over the years, hasn’t he?” he said with a laugh.

In addition to the NASCAR appeal, music lovers will see a different history on display. Curb worked with a dizzying array of music giants, including Lyle Lovett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ray Stevens, Roy Clark, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, George Jones and more. Curb was also involved with movie soundtracks for the Clint Eastwood classic “Kelly’s Heroes,” as well as “Coyote Ugly” and “Teen Wolf Too.”

Jerry Spurgeon said that when people visit the museum, not only are they surprised by how many race teams Mike Curb owned, but also by the music talent he was involved with.

“They all say, ‘Are you kidding?’ Because every artist here is on Curb Records,” Spurgeon said. “And that’s the main thing they say … ‘I didn’t know that.’”

Contact Michael Knox at 704-789-9133.