Born James E. Cason, 27 November 1939, Nashville, Tennessee
The recent publication of Buzz Cason's autobiography* is a good occasion to put this artist in the TIMS spotlight. Cason was a founding member of The Casuals, generally considered to be Nashville's first rock 'n' roll group. With Buzz on guitar, they recorded "My Love Song For You" (co-written by Cason and the group's vocalist/keyboardist, Richard Williams) for the tiny Nu Sound label in Nashville. It was picked up by Dot (# 15557) in April 1957 and became a local hit. The Casuals started touring and were heard by Brenda Lee's manager, Dub Allbritten, who asked them to become Brenda's backing band. They accepted the offer and some of the group members (The Casuals were then a six-piece band), notably Richard Williams, would stay with Brenda until the mid-seventies! In 1958 Buzz met Bobby Russell (1941-1992), the later writer of such megahits as "Honey" (Bobby Goldsboro), "Little Green Apples" (O.C. Smith) and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" (Vicki Lawrence, Russell's then-wife). They started writing songs together and had two of their songs recorded by Jan and Dean ("Tennessee" and "Popsicle"). Also, Buzz and Richard Williams teamed up with Hugh Jarrett of the Jordanaires to record as The Statues for Liberty ("Blue Velvet", # 84 in 1960). At Liberty, Buzz was approached by producer Snuff Garrett to cover a song from the film "Circus of Horrors", called "Look For A Star". The original version was by British singer Garry Mills ; Cason was renamed Garry Miles by Garrett for the occasion. "Can you imagine?" exclaims Buzz. "We not only took the guy's song, we pretty much stole his name, too. There'd be a huge lawsuit if you did that nowadays." (Quote from Brenda Lee's autobiography, p. 86.) Cason's version of "Look For A Star" passed the original on the charts, peaking at # 16. "We were like the ultimate self-contained show", writes Brenda. "Buzz was a Casual and a Statue and was also Garry Miles. And he had to perform as all of those on the show. Sometimes even he got confused."
Cason left the Casuals in 1962, to work as Snuff Garrett's assistant at Liberty Records. He moved to Los Angeles and produced the Crickets (with whom he would tour the UK in 1964, as a member), Buddy Knox and a few hot rod groups ; also he did background vocals for Bobby Vee, Jackie DeShannon and Walter Brennan. After getting fired by Liberty in 1964, Buzz went back to Nashville to run Bill Justis's publishing company, Tuneville Music. At that time, Justis produced a hot rod group called Ronny and the Daytonas (who had a # 4 hit with "G.T.O." in 1964). For some time Cason was a member of the studio version of this group and wrote "Sandy" for them, a # 27 hit in late 1965.
In 1967, Cason had his biggest success as a songwriter, with "Ever- lasting Love". The original version by Robert Knight went to # 13 on the Billboard charts, then a British cover by The Love Affair topped the UK charts in early 1968. The song was published by Cason's own publishing company, Rising Sons (also a record label, on which the Robert Knight version came out), which he had started in 1966, together with his old pal Bobby Russell and Fred Foster of Monument Records. Dolly Parton's first Monument single, the remarkable "Don't Drop Out", was also written by Cason and Russell.
In the sixties and seventies, Buzz Cason recorded under his own name for a wide variety of labels, but without chart success. He kept writing songs and had a # 2 country hit in 1972, "Ann (Don't Go Running)" by Tommy Overstreet on Dot. The 1990s saw the release of the Beatles' "Live at the BBC" recordings, which included Cason's "Soldier of Love", previously recorded by Arthur Alexander.
Today Buzz still lives in Nashville, where he owns two recording studios. He continues to write, produce and publish. Since the mid-80s he's had his own rockabilly-styled group, B.C. & the Dartz, who have recorded a couple of albums on Cason's own Track label.
More info at: http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BuzzCason1.html
* Living the Rock 'n' Roll Dream : The Adventures of Buzz Cason. Foreword by Brenda Lee. Milwaukee : Hal Leonard, 2004 ($ 22,95).
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