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An Interview with Buzz Cason
By CSO European Contributing Journalist, Christian Lamitschka.

Buzz Cason songwriter, musician and book writer started his career in 1956 as a teenager.

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 you perform?

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 your career?

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?

BC: I'm 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 read about?

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 of memories.

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 and Elvis?

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 Chubby Checker?

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 different languages?

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 careers. 

For more information on this incredible artist please visit BuzzCason.com.

Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )

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