Interview with Buzz Cason
By CSO European
Contributing Journalist, Christian Lamitschka.
Cason songwriter, musician and book writer started his career in 1956 as
CL: Buzz you started your career at the local talent show "White
Chrismas" which was a Noel Ball Saturday Showcase. Did you think
that this would be your first step to the big business? And how did it
happen that you went to this talent show, which aired on WSIX-TV? Did
BC: I got invited to go on the show by Jim Seymore who was a fellow art
student. He said how would you like to go do a production lip syncing
White Christmas by Bing Crosby? A bunch of kids from our school and a
bunch of other schools were gonna be in this production, that's not my
thing. I was more interested in art at the time. Well there will be a
lot of girls...I said I'll do it! I'll tell you what when I saw the
lights in the T. V. studio for the first time I really liked the
atmosphere and Jim and I went on to do a few sets then I started lip
syncing my own solo records and that led to meeting the band.
CL: You met with musicians at the Television station and formed
Nashville's first Rock -n- Roll band The Casuals tell us about that part
of your life.
BC: While I was working at the T. V. station I met Richard Williams,
Chester Power, Johnny McCrary and Bill Smith part of Richard Williams
and his trio and I had never seen live music on that level. I had seen
it at a church or the Grand Ole Opry or something like that but I had
never seen a little amateur band like that so I eventually worked my way
into the band by leaving my records at home. I showed up at Lebanon Tn.
March 16, 1956 without any records. The manager had said leave those
records at home and you'll have to sing. I did, they were very nice and
let me sit in I did Blue Suede Shoes for my first song I ever did on
stage as a solo and it went over well so the band accepted me and then I
would later on name them The Casuals.
CL: You wrote your first song "My Love Song For You" with
Richard Williams. Who brought the story to the song and the melodies?
And what's the story behind this song, which was placed on your first
album with your band The Casuals?
BC: As well as I recall I wrote most of the lyrics and Richard kind of
helped me, he was more the musician. I could just barely play guitar or
piano at the time I had piano lessons as a kid but I couldn't improvise
well at that time. I wrote most of the lyrics and Richard helped the
most with the harmonies and with the melody part of it.
CL: Tell us about your collaboration with Bobby Russell and what he
meant to your career.
BC: I met Bobby in about 58' in a little studio that was above what is
now Tootsies Orchid Lounge. The café was called Mom's. I met Bobby who
went to Hillsboro High School and I went to Litton. I was from East
Nashville and he was from the West End so we were kind of rivals in
football and schools and everything. He asked if I wrote songs, I said
yes though I had only written one. He said do you want to write? I said
yeah. We wrote Tennessee which we put out under the name The Todd's and
it got covered by Jan and Dean. Then we wrote another one called
Popsicle that also got covered by The Todd's and it was the beginning of
a life long friendship. I guess Bobby would be the single most
influential person in my musical career, at least the writing end of it.
CL: You seem to have worn every hat in the business, is there any job
you haven't done?
BC: I haven't directed a movie yet I haven't gotten into that field yet;
I've probably tried to do too much. I spread myself too thin but it has
been an adventure it's been fun and I would really love to work on a
film project as a script writer or something like that. That along with
art was what I had originally set out to do, I set out to do some sort
of dramatic thing, which I never really did except for piddling around
with some videos but I have tried a little bit of all of it.
CL: You've recorded with several different groups and also under the
name Gary Miles how many names or groups have you recorded under, and
have you ever recorded under your own name?
BC: A lot of them are very obscure names, my first record was out as The
Casuals on New Sound records and then Dot records and then I did a
record under the name of The Statues with Hugh Jarrett and Richard
Williams and actually Mary John Wilkin was background part of that for
Liberty records. We had a chart breaker called Blue Velvet on Liberty
and later on in the 60's when I went to work for Liberty records in
California in 62. In about 63 and 64 I was part of The Crickets I
produced them I was just some little bit of background for them mainly.
The Crickets sang their own stuff then. When I moved back to Nashville I
was part of Ron and The Daytona's when the Sandy record came out. I
actually sang on the Sandy album I did sing on GTO which was their big
hit and then I was a Chipmunk in 1964 I played the part of Alvin for The
Chipmunks, "Sing the Beatles." When Larry Butler co-produced
Urban Chipmunk I was in that. Then I also did a television show that was
kind of a funny little deal then I did put out a record. I had one
record on Warner Bros. Under Buzz Cason this was after the Gary Miles
thing.I had a couple of releases on Liberty.Look for a Star was the top
20 record out of that. Then I put out a couple of records under my own
name. I put out one under the name BC and the Darts which was a
Rockabillie record in 1986 and that's about it up to know. I do have a
record called East of Nashville which is on the Rena recordings which is
one of our labels and that came out in 2000 and then I have this Six
Pack that is a acoustic album that sort of goes with the book.
CL: You have had a long and successful career as a songwriter how are
the songs you write today different than the ones you wrote earlier in
BC: I'd like to say maybe they are a little better, I don't know if they
are different or not. It's kind of hard to change with the times,
I've been blessed with some great co-writers. "Loves the Only
House" was the last big song co-written with Tom Douglas who's a
genius of a writer, a great writer and singer himself. In fact we
started out writing that song for him as kind of a little writer
project. Then this last year 03 and part of 04 we had a pretty good
secondary record with the Oak Ridge Boys called Glory Bound which was
written with a very talented writer named Anthony Crawford who's now a
member of Black Hawk.
CL: Can you remember how many #1 hits you wrote and how it felt when you
heard for the first time you had a #1 hit?
not sure as far as writing if I've had but a couple of number one's I
had one called Ann Don't Go Running for Tommy Overstreet back in the
70's. Everlasting Love went number one as a dance record then went
number one for Gloria Estafon in Easy Listening charts. I have published
several songs that have been number one and actually Martina's got to
number two. The video went to number one but "Love's the Only
House" got to number two. Yesterday I was making a long drive 600
hundred miles from Myrtle Beach to Nashville I had just been on the
phone talking to my co-writer Matt Gayden who co-wrote Everlasting Love
then the 1974 version came on the radio and it's still a thrill. I
remember guys like us would do anything to get a record on the air. They
ask us now why'd you sign such a bad contract? We were not worried about
the contract we wanted to hear our self on the radio.
CL: You're the owner of Creative Workshop Studios in Nashville. Please
tell more about the studios and how you got the idea for it.
BC: The studio was started in 1970 here in Berry Hill, Tn., which is now
a studio community, we were the first business here actually. My partner
Bobby Russell and I were one block over on Bransford in about 69 it was
just an office, we planned a studio. Then he married Vicky Lawrence from
the Carol Burnett show and moved to the coast, and we split the
partnership up. I moved here on Azalea Place and built
Creative Work Shop in 1970 and Travis Turk was my engineer we had
co-discovered Jimmy Buffet so we recorded Jimmy Buffet's second album
here at Work Shop when it was an eight track studio. It went from eight
to sixteen and now digital. It's really been fun, we've had everybody
from the Doobie Bros. and Leon Russell to Meryl Haggard, Roy
Orbison and just a slue of country stars. The number one record
"Bluer that Blue" by Michael Johnson. Just When I Needed You
Most by Randy Van Morimer. Ol,ivia Newton Johns 1976 album "Don't
Stop Believing." Jimmy Buffet part of his "Havana
Daydreaming" as well as High Cumberland Jubilee just a lot of
records have been cut here a lot of great artists have come through
these doors it's been fun.
CL: T.G. Sheppard,Martina McBride, U2, Pearl Jam are only some of your
clients. Is there a time where clients are friends? And are there
some that are really good friends and is there an story behind it?
BC: Martina's our neighbor in the studio next door and I would say she's
a friend. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Gloria Estaphan Pearl
Jam or U2. I met one of the Beatles I met Ringo. A lot of times you are
just a little name in fine print not really a part of their career other
than just providing a song I mean I'm a friend with some artists but not
necessarily the one's who have cut my songs.
CL: Living The Rock'n Roll Dream, is not a song from you, it's a book.
What inspired you to write a book? And what can the interested reader
BC: People would ask me why don't you write a book when we would be
sitting around telling stories. Finally Bill Lloyd of Foster and Lloyd
asked me one night man why don't you write a book? Your about the
upteenth person to ask me that I think I'll go do it, so I had already
started it. I just complied all these stories to see what would happen.
I was fortunate enough to have a lot of pictures and a lot of
photographs gathered together and just did an outline of my career. I
didn't want it to get too complicated or be a history book of the music
business or a reference book but more of a story a fun trip from a guy
starting out from humble beginnings and a little Rock n Roll band
traveling all over kind of achieving his goals and dreams. It's about
the people I've met. I had someone tell me they really weren't looking
forward to reading it until they got into it then they realized it was
all about everybody else. I have a little part in the middle called
celebrity snap shots it just has little paragraphs about meeting
interesting people Martin Luther King Jr. Frank Sinatra, Kris
Kristopherson just different people like that. It's kind of a collection
CL: How did it happen that Brenda Lee wrote the foreword for the book?
BC: We first worked together in the late 50's maybe as 12 years old. The
Casuals backed her up and became her back up for many years after that,
her manager had a vision of a teenage band backing his teenage artist
and he tried us out in Rockford, Il. in about 58' and it worked out
well. We traveled all 50 states with her, the band became a big part of
her show, and she was having one hit right after the other. She had just
tons of hits in a row and we were with her during all that. We
remained friends and she was kind enough to write this forward. I was
honored to be part of her book when she did her biography a couple of
years ago and Robert Orman and her daughter Julie interviewed me for
that. It was really a nice thing, she and her husband Ronnie had been
friends with my family for years.
CL: You begin one chapter with Hello Elvis. What's the story about you
BC: We first met Elvis when we were promoting a record "The Hotel
Chizka" for Duey Phillips who was the first disc jockey to ever
play an Elvis record. We had been tipped off by Wink Martindale and
George Cline who hosted T. V. shows that if we went to The Chizka at
about 9 at night we'd get a chance to meet Elvis sure enough we pulled
up in front and there was a black Cadillac pulling off he was dressed in
black and shoed the kids off the back off the car and he took off. I
said well we saw Elvis but when we got inside Duey Phillips kept saying
Elvis will be back so we went in and did our interview and sure enough
right when we came out of the studio and turned the corner we ran smack
into Elvis. I happened to have my camera with me and that's were I got
the shot we used in the book. He had just purchased Graceland and tell
Uncle Vester to let ya'll on the front porch and clown around and make
some pictures we did and then later on we partied with him in California
during one of his movie shooting sessions, we jammed, we sat at the
piano and played. We sang for hours it was really fun then after he had
passed away I sang background on some of his songs that were country
cuts. His last track
Way on Down which was his last hit before he passed away the tracks were
cut here. They couldn't get his vocals on here but the tracks were cut
here at Creative Work Shop.
CL: You wrote in the book about the meeting with Chubby Checker in 1960
as Gary Miles. Did he know the secret about you? And how was it to meet
BC: You mean the name, I guess he did, we worked a long tour with him in
1960. Show of stars featured Chubby and many headliners were on the
show. Then we did a Hawaiian tour with him, when we arrived my record
was above Chubby and above Brenda and that was kind of neat. I'm sure he
knew the story that they had covered the name that the original was Gary
Mills and that I came out under the name of Gary Miles what's ironic
about that is Liberty records wound up owning both versions. Not long
after that Liberty purchased Imperial records which had the Gary Mills
record on it.It was kind of a point of embarrassment for me covering a
guys name it would never happen again it was an amazing quirk in Rock
history for something like that.
CL: It looks like that everything came from your hand turned to
gold. How is the book going?
BC: I was just informed a couple of weeks ago we are going into a second
printing which is a good sign. I've been so busy promoting I don't know
whether it's selling or not.I know we sell a few when we go out to the
book signings. We leave here and June 15th will be in Milwaukee June 17
th Chicago. Then kind of a gulf event in the Bahamas. We are going to do
a West coast swing after that. We've been to Boston, Philadelphia, New
York and Washington and Myrtle Beach last month.
CL: The book is just only in English. Do you plan to publish in
BC: If there are I don't know. I understand the book is coming out in
England July 15th I don't know how that end of it works but now that you
mention that I will definitely bring that up with the publisher to see
if it is going to be in other languages.
CL: Can you tell us something about your new project or is it a secret?
BC: I'm working on a book deal which I can't announce yet but it
involves another old Rock - n - Roller and stories about the older days
and of course I'm always writing songs always producing so I've got some
things up my sleeve for that pretty soon.
CL: After all you have achieved in your life are there any mountains
left to climb?
BC: There's been some talk about this book Living the Rock - n- Roll
dream being a little movie about us. I visualize it 50's 60's feature
length video using all the records from that era. The Chubby Checker,
Brenda Lee, Fats Domino, Little Richard thrown in with some of the stuff
I had something to do with. I'd like to be involved with that. That
would be one goal that I would be involved with the filming of something
and if not just to see my younger son get started in business or both my
son's interested in the music business, Taylor and Parker they are
kind of wanting to move on into it and I'm hoping to help launch their
more information on this incredible artist please visit BuzzCason.com.
Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de