About The Artist
Buzz Busby (born Bernarr Graham Busbice) holds a small, but significant niche in the evolution of bluegrass music, particularly in the Washington-Baltimore area. A native of Eros, Louisiana, he grew up in a poor, but musical family idolizing Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe. He finished high school in the spring of 1951 and was class valedictorian. In the 1950s and 1960s, an opportunity for advanced education came via hundreds of high school graduates who were recruited to work for the FBI. With his family short of funds, the youth chose this means toward success. Sadly, circumstances did not work out as planned.
In addition to employment work, the DC area was also a place where bluegrass music was rapidly evolving in a city which contained tens of thousands of Southern and Appalachian migrants. Much of this was taking place in night clubs and taverns and job opportunities abounded that seemed more exciting than dull government office work. Exposure to the "dim lights, thick smoke, and loud music" also constituted exposure to the vices associated with urban life. Buzz revealed not only great talent, but also weaknesses. His career was thereafter characterized by high and low points, the latter which included two stints in prison.
Two of Buzz's early musical associates included Jack Clement (then in the Marines) and fiddler Scott Stoneman (who had his own share of problems). They worked in local clubs and spent a brief stint as band members for Mac Wiseman in Baltimore. During a short stay at WCOP in Boston they recorded on the Sheraton label.
Back in DC, Buzz and Pete Pike had a TV program for six months starting a band called the Bayou Boys that sometimes included Don Bryant on banjo. Buzz and Pete also created a comic alter ego called Ham and Scram in the manner of Homer and Jethro.
Buzz went back to Louisiana in 1955, worked on the Hayride at KWKH for a time, and cut a single on the Jiffy label "Me and the Juke Box" b/w "Lost" which were probably his best-known numbers. When he returned to Washington DC, Busby formed a new version of the Bayou Boys which included at times such future bluegrass luminaries as Charlie Waller, Bill Emerson, and Eddie Adcock.
On July 4, 1957, he was severely injured in an auto crash which took him out of commission for several months.
In early 1958 he began recording for Starday with support from prior band members including Stoneman and Pike, but also other area pickers including Emerson, Carl Nelson, Bill Harrell, Roy Self, and John Hall. In a total of nineteen Starday cuts, he sometimes backed other lead vocalists (all later released on compact disc as Starday SD-0123-2).
The next several years saw Busby have career ups and downs. In 1965 he recorded a single for Rebel and at the decade's end he formed a band with the Canadian vocalist Leon Morris which held together long enough for a single on Rebel and an album on Rounder along with health and legal problems. Later, with help from his brother Wayne who started the record label Webco, some of his later recordings appeared.
He spent his last years in a nursing home and passed away at age 69.
Credits & Sources
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