Sunday, May 18, 2008

LAZY SUNDAY #24: BUDDY KNOX

There's a "Battle of the Bands" in my neighborhood this weekend. Turns out my hometown is a hotbed of budding rockers, most notably the Tokyo Police Club, now touring the US and appearing in the UK later this month.

Back in the day, in Regina, our Battles of the Bands were held in a place called the Trianon Ballroom. It was a fading dance hall that had seen its best days just after WWII. Used to the likes of Glenn Miller and Guy Lombardo, it was primarily hosting wedding receptions by the time I moved into town.

But now and then, a touring rock star would roll through and, the Ballroom being the only real venue available, the Swing era music stands labelled "TB" were shunted into the wings to make room for amps, drum kits and electric pianos.

Guys like Bobby Vee, who lived just over the border in South Dakota and Thunder Bay's Bobby Curtola were regulars, drawing crowds of pompadored and pony-tailed teens to dance under the ballroom's chipped but still operational mirror ball.

The first rock n'roll show I ever saw was at the Trianon and featured Buddy Knox. Knox had one big hit in 1957, "Party Doll" and by the time I attended his concert 7-8 years later had churned out several more forgettable hits like "Lovey Dovey" and "Hula Love".

But in our world, he was a star. He'd grown up with Buddy Holly, toured with Elvis, held the record for most appearances on "American bandstand" and had been on The Ed Sullivan Show a couple of times.

He had a rockabilly sound, like most of the bands that came out of Texas back then. Still partly country but with enough extra they could get their records played at both ends of the radio dial.

For most of his career, Knox spent 11 months of the year on the road, playing one nighters in places like the Trianon or any bar or honky-tonk that was within driving distance and had an open booking. The trappings of modern rock stardom were still decades away. There were no private jets, stadium shows or armies of record executives marketing the crap out of their artists.

Buddy and his band traveled and slept in a beat-up Winnebago, eating late night hamburgers in truckstops and selling 45's and 8x10 glossies at the door.

I'd like to say that first Rock 'n Roll show and Buddy's appearance were memorable, but they weren't. I remember him wearing a gold lame shirt and no shoes, because it was a "sock hop" night and he'd been up dancing with some female fans while the opening act was playing.

He opened and closed with "Party Doll", did his other hits and a few covers of current offerings on the rock and country charts. I was maybe 13 and what impressed me most was how much he sweated for a guy who didn't seem to be moving around a lot.

I passed by the local auditorium this morning as a couple of beat up vans disgorged amps, drum kits and electric pianos. The kids doing the unloading looked like they were probably the musicians who'll be playing later. And they didn't look much different from the guys in Buddy's band.

It got me thinking that no matter how much the music changes, the spirit and the people making it are pretty much the same. Kids that don't quite fit in. A desire to say something about their hopes and dreams and what's fun to them. Maybe a chance to find some people who are like-minded or just want to have a good time too.

Alan Freed was right. "Rock 'n Roll will never die". And maybe it's going back to what made it so special when it first appeared, coming from the streets instead of being concocted in a corporate office and massaged by a marketing firm. I think both Buddy and the Tokyo Police Club would like that.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Buddy Knox



The Tokyo Police Club


3 comments:

DMc said...

Jim, wasn't Buddy Knox also the guy who went to tour England as the headliner in 1963 and found out that his opening group, 'The Beatles' was actually quite popular, and so immediately agreed to flip the bill?

I think so.

Anyway.

joel s. said...

Hey Jim: In 1993 I was commuting between Moose Jaw and Regina daily on the Greyhound bus. I had just come from Hosting Joni MItchell for a weekend in Saskatoon where the Sask. Recording Industry gave Joni a LIfetime achievement award and I had stopped to pick up the daily Misleading Post. I boarded the 12:30 am bus for the 45 min trip home. There was one seat available, 2nd from the front. I instantly rcognized the older citizen sitting in the seat by the window. I sat down, said hello and then proceeded to read the daily rag. I flipped open to the 3rd page and there was a picture of me and Joni from the weekend festivities. As the bus pulled away I turned to the bearded gentleman and said, look at that papparazzi on the prairies, hi I'm Joel. The gentlemann chortled and then said hello...that was it. Not being able to keep my tongue quietly I said "you're Buddy Knox." He statred at me momentarily and then said "yep,...what's left of me!" lol
Well were were off and running with a factual 1st hand Rock and Roll anectdote filled trip that I will always remember. Buddy told me he was living on a mountain in Armstrong BC with one of the founders of Armstrong Cheese in a guest house. He was coming from Manitoba where he had been visting an ex wife and was enjoying watching his son Buddy jr. perform with a local band! he went on to talk at great length about the organized crime influence in the 50's and 60's in the music business and why he fled the U.S to avoid being shot by Mob thugs. He was still worried about the thugs some 30 years later and his knuckles turned white when he told me about the same thugs who were threatning Frankie Lymon, had shoved a gun in his ear in a recording studio when he compalined about ZERO royalties for his music! Party Doll sold 4 million copies and he received ZERO royalties! That is why he settled in Western Canada.
He told me that one day in 1966 he was feeling depressed and wanted to leave the music biz behind, when he got a call from John Lennon who wanted to chat, he said he was so energized by that Brit it gave him the power to motor on and not quit!
The most interesting anectdotes were about touring with Elvis, Orbison and Buddy Holly in Texas in the 50's. He said Elvis was obsessive compulsive about dying his hair black to cover his blonde hair. He stated that Elvis, after being on the road for a few weeks, would see that his roots were showing , so he would get off the bus in the small towns of Texas and scour the drug store shelves for black hair dye. Often there was only blonde peroxide, and no black. That was when Elvis got the idea of using deep blue india ink in his hair, so he would buy a bottle of that lead laden shit and comb it in.......yikes. It ws Buddy's memory that made me realize that I had seen several pictures of Elvis where his hair appeared deep blue. It wasn't a printing mistake, that was the colour of his friggen hair! A Revelation! Buddy and I parted company that night but we exchanged phone numbers and a few weeks later I called him at home on the mountain and we chatted for nearly an hour. I still cherish talking to that man, he was an encylopedia of who zoomed who in the music business, and how much was stolen from him. His passing on Valentines day in 1999 was a very sad day.
What's left of Buddy Knox ? Alot, 5 kids , numerous top ten hits and millions of satisfied fans, I'm one of those fans who was graced with a very personal, up close view of his fascinating life story and music! Buddy Knox, a true North American icon, and most importantly, he was excellent at sharing his secrets and his music.

DON MCDONALD said...

02/26/2011
BUDDY KNOX'S FIRST CANADIAN DATE WAS IN A SMALL TOWN IN SOUTHWEST SASK ON A WED NIGHT IN1961..THE NEXT NITE IN WISETON SASK (POPULATION 350) AND THEN FRI & SAT NITES AT LOWELL HANSON'S DANCELAND IN SASKATOON. THE SASKATOON FRIDAY DATE WAS A LITTLE DIFFERENT AS BUDDY HAD TWO DRUMMERS SHOW UP. HE USED RONNIE FALKNER (FROM TACOMA WASH "X-EVERLEY BROS" ON WED-THUR AND FRI NITES) HOWEVER THE FRIDAY NITE THE RHYTHUM ORCHARDS REGULAR DRUMMER SHOWED UP SO BUDDY FRONTED TWO DRUMMERS.THEN SENT FALKNER HOME..(ACTUALLY FALKNER WAS ABLE TO PICK UP WORK ON THE SAT NITE WITH MIKE SERMAN'S BAND AT PIKE LAKE SASK THUS HELPING WITH THE GAS MONEY FOR THE TRIP HOME WITH A FIAT FULL OF DRUMS!!!!!
BUDDY WAS BOOKED INTO CANADA BY GEORGE NELLIS FROM MOOSEJAW SASK (ALSO THE OWNER OF TEMPLE GARDENS IN MOOSEJAW.) GEORGE BONUSED BUDDY WITH THE USE OF HIS
COTTAGE AT KETEPWA SASK. GEORGE
WAS ABLE TO KEEP BUDDY BOOKED RIGHT ACROSS CANADA "BETTER THAN 52 WEEKS A YEAR. THIS WENT ON FOR MANY YEARS.
BUDDY TRAVELED WITH HIS THEN WIFE SUE IN A BABY BLUE CADILLAC
CONVERTABLE...THE SIDE MEN GOT TO FOLLOW IN A SECOND CAR!
THERE WAS A WELL ATTENDED WAKE OR MEMORIAL HELD IN SURREY
BRITISH COLUMBIA IN FEB 1999 WITH MANY GLASSES RAISED IN BUDDY'S HONOR