Published in Historical Reasons
- BUDDY KNOX -
Rockabilly Legends Exclusive
None Sun Records recording artist
A brief look at the life and accomplishments of Rockabilly Legend Buddy Knox by Jerry Naylor and Kris Kristofferson.
BUDDY WAYNE KNOX - Was an American singer and songwriter, best known for his 1957 rockabilly hit song, "Party Doll". Born on July 20, 1933 in the tiny farming community of Happy, Texas and as a boy learned to play the guitar. In his teens, he and some high school friends formed a band called the "Rhythm Orchids''. After they performed on the same 1956 radio show as fellow Texan Roy Orbison and his "Teen Kings" band, Orbison suggested Knox go see record producer Norman Petty at his studio in Clovis, New Mexico, the same studio where Buddy Holly recorded several of his early hits, including "That'll Be the Day".
Knox recorded three songs at Petty's recording studio, most notably "Party Doll" that later was released on the Roulette label and went to number 1 on the Cash Box record chart in 1957. This success was followed by "Rock Your Little Baby To Sleep", a number 17 hit, and "Hula Love", a number 9 hit. While he never achieved the same level of artistic success as Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison, Knox enjoyed a long career in music. For his pioneering contribution, Knox was elected to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. "Party Doll" was voted one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
In the early 1960s Knox signed with Liberty Records and released a number of more mainstream pop records, featuring string arrangements and backing vocalists. "Lovey Dovey" and "Ling-Ting-Tong" were the most notable recordings from this era. The sound captured on these recordings was a distinct departure from his earlier rockabilly work for Roulette. Liberty and principal record producer Tommy "Snuff" Garrett, successfully employed the same production techniques for their other mainstream pop artists of the time, which included Johnny Burnette and Bobby Vee.
In 1968 Knox, who had been living in semi-retirement in Macon, Georgia while running his publishing company, moved to Nashville and signed a new recording contract with United Artists Records. Working with producer Bob Montgomery, Knox honed his traditional rockabilly style more toward the modern country sound of the day. His first album on United Artists earned him the nickname by which he would be known for the remainder of his life. The title song of the album, "Gypsy Man", written by Sonny Curtis and featuring Curtis' acoustic guitar work, received airplay on country radio stations.
Several singles recorded by Knox between 1968 and 1974 were notable for the fact he experimented with a variety of sounds and styles and, from a creative and critical standpoint, may have been his most productive era. His version of Delaney Bramlett's "God Knows I Love You", along with his self-penned "Salt Lake City", placed Knox firmly in the midst of the new pop music genre, being populated by artists such as Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, and others who were on the leading edge of the developing Southern rock style such as Black Oak Arkansas and the Allman Brothers Band. His cover version of James Hendricks' "Glory Train" was another stylistic stretch and featured a gospel-like chorus of backing vocalists. His cover of the Fleetwoods' "Come Softly to Me" demonstrated a vocal range not heard on his older recordings. He also reached out to the new generation of songwriters who would become prominent during Nashville's "Outlaw Era" of the 1970s, as he was one of the first artists to record Mickey Newbury's "I'm Only Rockin'". Several other major country music artists later recorded this song, but under the alternate title of "T. Total Tommy". Knox also recorded songs by Alex Harvey, John D. Loudermilk and Gary Paxton. On several of these recordings, Knox experimented with multi-tracking, something very few artists had done at that time.
During this same time frame, Knox was also involved in several business ventures in Canada. One of these was said to be a partnership with Gordon Lightfoot and involved a chain of Canadian nightclubs. In May 1969, Knox appeared at Langley Speedway (British Columbia) in Langley, British Columbia,
Canada and assisted in handing out trophies to the race winners.
Buddy Knox died on February 14, 1999 of lung cancer in 1999 in Bremerton, Washington. He is interred in Dreamland Cemetery, in Canyon, Texas. His son, Michael Knox, is a record producer.
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