About The Artist
Perhaps more than anyone in the country music business, Buddy Starcher exemplifies the live radio musician who switched his airwave base every year or so whenever he had "played out the territory." However, the fact that he often returned to three or four locales showed that he retained lasting popularity. Despite wide traveling, his best locations were Charleston, Fairmont, and Harrisonburg. He also gained a reputation for being a top-notch salesman of his sponsor's products and also learned a great deal about radio station management which proved useful as he grew older.
Oby Edgar Starcher was born near Ripley in Jackson County, West Virginia, but the family moved to Nicholas County soon afterward. Always known as Buddy, he allegedly did not know his real first name until he needed a birth certificate when registering for the World War II Selective Service. After completing the 8th grade, Buddy alternated labor and farm work with wandering here and there, a practice he followed for several years. In 1928 he won a talent contest in Baltimore, Maryland, the prize which included a radio program with no salary, but he managed to exist by playing for tips in local speakeasies.
After he had gone back home for a while, he went to WOBU (later changed to WCHS) in Charleston for the first of four stints. There he first met other Mountain State legends such as Clark Kessenger and Billy Cox. As in Baltimore, this radio program paid nothing, but Starcher managed to subsist for a few months. He then went back to Nicholas County again.
Back to wandering, he showed up in Washington, DC in 1932 where the Bonus Marchers were encamped on the Capitol Grounds. As a sympathizer, he penned the song "The Bonus Blues" (a parody of "Twenty-one Years") and sold printed copies for a dime to help support their cause. The song got national attention, though anonymously. The tune was about the "Bonus Expeditionary Forces - World War I Veterans that were popularly known as Bonus Boys.
Buddy recalled that when the "Bonus Boys" marched on Washington, he had been there a while. He became official entertainer for several of the camps. He said there was an average of 10,000 men there, with the count getting as high as 30,000. They were the pride of the nation in 1918, but by 1932, they were a 'ragtag army' of a few thousand. They dug latrines and their diet was greasy mulligan stew and coffee. They lived in makeshift houses and small buildings.
Buddy said, "I managed to purchase an old Reo and was able to gather up leftover food at restaurants since I was fortunate to be working at this time, I was able to supplement this with food I bought from the grocery stores. Also from time to time purchase clothing for the guys to make the winter. This gave me a lot of deep satisfaction, also being able to pick and sing and bring a little laughter to the camps. This was when I wrote "Bonus Blues" along with "Hoover Blues" and "Blood Hand." The man that printed these songs was a veteran and had a printing shop or a printing press. I was told there were as many as five million copies printed of the "Bonus Blues." The boys, in addition to selling all they could there in Washington, also sent thousands of copies home to their folks who were supposed to sell them at ten cents a copy or whatever they could get and return the money that was sorely needed."
Buddy borrowed a well-known tune written by Bob Miller, "Twenty-One Years" for his melody. The words of Buddy's song are slightly reminiscent of the one Miller wrote.
Buddy Starcher - circa 1932
Hoover said go home boys
And dry up your tears
For you won't get your bonus
For 13 years.
Bid your wife good-by [sic] boys,
And fall in our line;
For 13 years, boys
Is a mighty long time.
When we were in France boys,
You'll remember very well;
And fought for our country,
We sure had hell!
Then we were heroes,
And blessed by our land,
But when we want money,
No one offers a hand.
Go talk to old Hoover
With tears in your eyes,
Just ask him for money,
And he'll look surprised.
He'll say go home boys;
That's where you belong.
And that is the reason
I'm writing this song.
When we were in France boys,
Fighting for our lives,
And thinking of our mothers,
Our sweethearts and wives.
Hoover was at home boys,
And he made himself rich;
Now we fight for our bonus,
And sleep in a ditch.
I've counted the bed-bugs,
I've counted the lice,
I've counted the insects,
I've counted the mice.
I've counted the soldiers
That left with good-bys; [sic]
But I never have counted
Old Hoover's big lies.
So join in the chorus,
Let's sing this lillie tune;
We may get our bonus,
By some time next June.
So come on and sing boys,
Help sing this lillie rhyme;
For 13 years boys
Is a mighty long time.
This tune was a bit successful - it got him an appearance in a nationally distributed Pathe News short. The article we found said it showed Buddy sitting on the steps of a makeshift building, singing and playing for the boys. He was grateful for the recognition, but would rather have liked to see the bonus campaign succeed. This marked the end of Buddy's stint as a "protest singer."
An August 1932 article states that the Bonus marchers announced they were making camp in North Carolina until at least March of the next year. The leader of their group was B. B. Sprouse. He had tentatively selected a large house on the edge of Charlotte and would setup headquarters. A collection was taken up to obtain funds to help the fight in behalf of early payment of the bonus. A dozen men agreed to give one dollar a month towards payment of the rent. Their meeting was addressed by Sprouse as well as William A. Bradley of Nashville. Buddy Starcher said to be the bonus army's song writer, sang several tunes. One tune was "The Hoover Blues." Another news report indicated "the official singer from the bonus army" also sang "Bonus Blues." The other was a tune in tribute to the World War veteran who was killed in a fight in Washington. Severe criticism was laid on President Hoover for his treatment of the veterans.
The protesters had been thrown out of the old jail where they were staying. Sprouse got permission of the renter of the lot and a proprietor of a filling station to hold their meeting. A smaller group spent the night as guests at the Albert Hotel courtesy of owner. At the meeting, Bradley gave accounts of the "rout of veterans from their squatter camps in Washington. Hoover ordered troops to clear the camps and set fire to them. Sprouse tried to make the case for the veterans to be paid the bonus money.
The "Bonus Army" as they were called arose from a 1924 law the World War I veterans were entitled to a bonus, but it was not to be paid until 1945. It would be about $1,000 for each veteran, dependent on their service record. The "Bonus Army" was a gathering of about 10,000 to 25,000 World War I veterans who with their wives and children marched to Washington, DC and wanted an immediate payment of that bonus money to help alleviate the hardships being endured during the Great Depression.
He then went to WSOC (then in Gastonia, North Carolina) where the Three Tobacco Tags picked up the song and recorded it for Champion, but it was never released. After more wandering about, he again tried his luck at WCHS.
This time, Starcher did better, obtaining a sponsored program with Certified Crystals. He also did dramatic skits on a program called "The Better Health Hotel" with Gene Ferguson and worked some as an announcer. When the vaudeville team of Salt and Peanuts came to WCHS, they taught him how to book shows and advertise them on his programs. He stayed there until 1935, but would return two more times.
It would be about this time that Buddy became his career as a traveling radio musician. In the fall of 1935 he went back to Washington, D. C. with a program on the Dixie Network for a few months; then for about the same for his first sojourn at WMMN Fairmont; then to WPAY Portsmouth, Ohio, a station that had relocated to the river city from Mt. Orab, Ohio (locally famous for being in the back of a general store and playing lots of Gennett Records). He was at Portsmouth during the 1937 Ohio River Flood as was Lee Moore in his first professional job.
In the spring of 1937, he was back at WCHS where he put his first band together, the Mountaineers. They included Lee Moore; Robert Rutland who Buddy renamed Georgia Slim; Smiley Sutter who later became better known as Crazy Elmer; a relative musically unknown named Jack Carter, and a girl known as Betty Lee. Rather than all play together like a string band, for the most part each worked mostly as a featured act, or in varied combinations.
After a year or so this group broke up. Buddy and Smiley stayed together and went to WMMN which was increasingly becoming a haven for several music groups. Buddy took on a fiddler named Ted Grantham (known on stage as Ted Grant) who had once been part of Milton Brown's Musical Brownies in Ft. Worth, Texas. Mary Ann Estes, who later became Buddy's wife, also worked with him for the first. Briefer members of the group included Little John Graham, Bill and Evalina Stallard, Rusty Gabbard and Natchee the Indian. Along with other WMMN entertainers, they started the Jamboree-type show, Sagebrush Roundup in 1939.
Starcher remained at WMMN until 1941 when he went to WIBC Indianapolis for a short spell and then to WSVA Harrisonburg, Virginia which would eventually became one of his favored locales and where his group included Dolph Hewitt and mandolin whiz Paul Buskirk.
After a time, they went KXEL Waterloo, Iowa, but the World War II draft began taking his band members, so he went to KMA Shenandoah, Iowa and worked solo daily shows and was quite popular there, but did not play many live shows.
Late in 1944, he went back to WSVA in Harrisonburg with a group that included Red Belcher, the Franklin Brothers, and Mac Wiseman.
After Harrisonburg, Buddy came to Fairmont again for what would be his last regular sojourn there with a rendition of his All-Star Roundup that included Belcher, the Franklins, French "Curly" Mitchell. and young new comedian William "Dusty" Shaver aka "Oscar August Quiddlemurp."
In the summer of 1945, Buddy informed his fan club newsletter readers that he was starting to record transcriptions. He said they were being played over several radio stations including: WSAZ in Huntington, WV; WPAR in Parkersburg, WV; WLOG in Logan, WV; WEGO in Concord, NC and KFNF in Shenandoah, IA. On those transcribed programs, he was promoting and selling subscriptions to the Mountain Broadcast magazine.
Fan club newsletters can sometimes provide interesting tidbits you don't find in the mainstream magazines. Entertainers of this era were always trying to do 'pulls' in terms of giving the sponsors their money's worth by how much mail they 'pulled in' for a product. Well, Buddy wrote in December 1945 (he had been at WMMN for several months) that he won a $150.00 cowboy suit as first prize in a nationwide contest. He sold the most of a national product and got the most orders. He even had a new batch of pictures taken to put in the newsletter.
He told readers on another occasion what a day was like for Buddy while working at the radio station (WMMN).
He started his day usually around 7am. He lived in a hotel at the time, so the front desk would call him at the time he wanted to get up, but he was usually already awake unless he got back late the night before from a personal appearance.
In the late 1945 fan club newsletter, he told readers the names of those in his All-Star Roundup group. They were: Red Belcher; Bill and Delmas Franklin; Curley Mitchell; Mary Ann Estes; Dusty Shaffer (aka Bashful Oscar August Quiddlemurp). Rusty (Arizona Rusty) Gabbard was to join the group shortly.
One of the tunes Buddy wrote, "Song Of The Old Water Wheel," he felt was one of the most attractive pieces printed; it included a picture of him. The song was recorded by none other than Slim Whitman and can be heard on youtube. Some later versions of it on youtube do not show Buddy as composer.
In another issue, Red Belcher wrote a note at the behest of fan club president Jesse Nichols (B: August 23, 1923 — D: August 7, 1988). He said he first started with Buddy in the fall of 1944 on WSVA in Harrisonburg, VA
In the March-April-May 1946 issue of the fan club newsletter, Buddy informs readers of the current cast that made up his All-Star Roundup. They were: Red Belcher; Mary Ann Estes; Bill and Delmas Franklin; Curley Mitchell; Jackie Osborne; Marjorie Lee; Tex Redmon; Oscar August Quiddlemurp (aka Dusty Schaffer).
On June 3, 1946, he and Mary Ann Estes became husband and wife.
Buddy Starcher's Traveler's Rest Park — Summer 1946
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His newsletter revealed another tidbit. In the summer of 1946 Buddy operated his own park - "Traveler's Rest Park." It was on Route 40, 17 miles east of Uniontown, PA. He booked such acts as: Gay Schwing and his Boys From The Hills; Ed Moose and his South Mountain Rangers; Doc Williams and his Border Riders; Budge and Fudge, the Mayse Brothers; LEe Moore and his Sandy Valley Gang; Little John and Cherokee Sue; Hawkshaw Hawkins and his Country Cousins; Curly Miller and his famous horse, Sage King; Woody Woidell and his Riding Rangers; Al Hendershot and his Dixie Ramblers; Cal and Blaine Smith; Slim Bryant and his Georgia Wildcats; Salt and Peanuts; Little Mose The Human Lodestone; Charlie Arnett and the Haymakers and more!
In the August-September 1946 fan club newsletter, it told fans to order sheet music of some of Buddy's songs. At the time, he had four pieces of sheet music he was offering for sale to fans for 40 cents each or $1.50 for all four. The tunes were "Rag Doll," "Bless Your Little Heart," "Song of the Water Wheel," and "Filipino Baby." The webmaster has a copy of "Filipino Baby" in his collection. But we are unable to find or determine if he ever recorded that tune.
Buddy seemed to always have a horse. By 1946, he had lost two of them. One, Chief Highland, burned to death in a stable fire. His horse at the time in 1946, Dawn, fell ill and went blind. He wanted a new horse. The fan club thought of taking up a collection, but that idea did not get enough votes. But the Mountain Broadcast magazine folks came up with a contest to see who could get the most new subscriptions. The prize? A new horse, complete with new saddle and all the rest of the trappings. So, in that issue, they were plugging the sale of new subscriptions. One wonders if perhaps Buddy was part of the group that owned the magazine.
In 1946, Buddy — after many years in radio — signed a recording contract with Four Star which had recently signed former West Virginia radio veteran T. Texas Tyler.
In two sessions that year he recorded a total of fourteen songs, including his best-known composition "I'll Still Write Your Name in the Sand," his theme song "Bless Your Little Heart" (actually recorded twice with just him and guitar and once with a band), and a tragedy song about a teenage girl named Opel who was killed in a car wreck a few years before. About this time Buddy got saved.
Buddy Is Saved
Russell T. Hitt wrote a story of Buddy's conversion in a 1950 of "Power", a short booklet published by Scripture Press. He wrote that house-to-house sales people in the Clarksburg and Fairmont areas could not drum up any business when Buddy's radio programs were on the air. He was known as the "Flying Disc Jockey" and had two daily programs over WPDX in Clarksburg.
Indeed, "I'll Still Write Your Name In The Sand" had lifted his popularity and its success on the jukeboxes got him noticed on the charts in Billboard. Seemingly he had everything going to be happy. But Mr. Hitt wrote, "But life didn't really begin for Buddy until December 5, 1948, when he took the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour."
Up to that point, Buddy was not exposed much to religion. It certainly wasn't when he was growing up in Ripley, WV. Mr. Hitt said Buddy had not seen the inside of a church from the age of 12 to about the age of 40 more than two or three times except when he put on a show.
We learn that when he was about six years old, a mountain preacher, named Jim Brown conducted a revival at the school. He gave Buddy a Gospel of John, put his hand on the boy's shoulder and stated, "That boy'll make a preacher some day."
But the prediction was for a later time. By the time he was 14, he was on a different path. He had learned to guzzle down moonshine like a veteran. The square dances that were the major form of Saturday night entertainment in the mountainous region usually ended up in "drunken brawls and bloody fist fights."
He learned to play the guitar and sang the songs the folks loved to hear where he lived. When he was 20 years old (approx. 1926) he visited the city of Baltimore and happened to wander into a large department store. A sign got his attention. "Make a record of your voice. You may win a trip to Europe." Coincidentally, a department store manager happened to be there when Buddy did his 'record.' He was impressed enough that he got Buddy an audition at one of the local radio stations. This was his start in the radio business.
This sudden change in life's fortunes changed his life in other ways. He found his new friends were always ready to buy him a drink if he'd sing them a song. Liquor began to control his life to a point where he would need a couple drinks to do his show on the radio. The life of the radio entertainer was very nomadic in those days, going from one city to another and Buddy did that - North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, DC and then back to Baltimore. Buddy told Mr. Hitt, "I was really going nowhere, except down that awful road to destruction. I never robbed or stole. But I just drank every time and every bit I could. I have driven as far as 500 miles without even knowing I was driving. Sometimes I would wake up in Detroit or Chicago and never remember I had left West Virginia."
He endured a bad automobile wreck in 1941. His car struck a telephone pole. He went to the hospital but he was suffering from his drinking more than his accident. It wasn't long before he was drinking more. But this type of life he was spiraling into came to an end in 1945. The Rev. J. Byrl Sessions, a radio pastor, had a program on the same station in Fairmont (probably WMMN) where Starcher was also working.
Sessions proved to quietly persistent and getting to Buddy. He asked Buddy about his "relationship to Christ." Buddy would try to avoid the subject and push him off. He would even give Sessions money for his bible school to keep him from bringing up the topic. Buddy was quoted by Mr. Hitt, "He never missed a chance to say something to me and without my knowing it, he was winning me over. He didn't argue with me. He didn't try to force anything on me, but even in the face of ridicule from a lot of people who said it couldn't be done, he kept right on trying."
Buddy moved about a half hour south to Clarksburg. But Sessions kept trying to follow up. On a day in July 1948, Mr. Sessions found that Buddy had taken ill and was staying in his hotel room, asking not to be disturbed. But Sessions got the desk clerk to announce his visit to Buddy. Once he was in Buddy's room, they began to talk. About his soul. Prayed together. The next day Buddy seemed to take a 'stand for the Saviour' but did not confess this openly.
Then came a fateful day in December 1948. Buddy and his wife, known to radio audiences as "Pretty Little Mary Ann," decided to go hear Dr. John E. Zoller, a noted evangelist. He was conducting a campaign under the auspices of Christ For America at the Grace Tabernacle in Fairmount. That Sunday afternoon meeting, Buddy and his wife openly confessed the Lord as Saviour.
After that experience, Buddy went to his disk jockey job but he then also appeared on Sessions' program on the same station and gave his testimony. He was mixing religion with entertainment and that upset station management. He was spoken to about it. He was the station's chief mail puller, but tensions continued to rise. That led to Buddy making the decision to leave the station.
Interestingly, one of his sponsors, a Chicago businesswoman, was so upset by Buddy leaving the station in Clarksburg, she offered to buy any 50,000 watt radio station for him.
He then had his own program on radio station WCAU in Philadelphia, PA. He then switched to WIBG. He could be heard for 25 minutes each morning, except Sundays, at 5:05am. That program which included recorded music — folk songs and hymns — reportedly was heard in all 48 states and several foreign countries. It was a very successful program, in spite of the early morning hour time slot.
Mr. Hitt described his meeting with Buddy for lunch and their discussions. He said interviewing Buddy was a pleasant experience, "...has friendly hazel eyes that invite one's confidence. But his personality is revealed most by his voice. While his voice is rich and smooth, it is neither unctuous nor impersonal like so many professional radio people. There's still a trace of the hills in his expressions. But he doesn't overdo it. He is naturally—yes, pleasantly "homespun." "
Mr. Hitt indicated that in his free time, Buddy travels, singing and giving his testimony. One of his songs he recorded for Columbia, is an old hymn that Buddy added some verses and perhaps expressed Buddy's joy from this experience, "Isn't He Wonderful."
Back home in the West Virginia hills, the news of his conversion Mr. Hitt says inspired others to confess Christ as Saviour. When Buddy and his wife Mary Ann went back to be baptized on Labor Day 1949, Buddy went to a radio ranch just outside of Clarksburg and gave his testimony to a large crowd. A man named "Jack Taylor" was the operator of that park and was so inspired by Buddy's talk, he also took a stand for Christ. This "Jack Taylor" may have been Jake Taylor who is known to have become a preacher at some point. Mr. Hitt wrote that Buddy had inspired a 'revival atmosphere' in the West Virginia area.
Buddy took the compliment with humility. When he told Buddy he wanted to write his story for "Power," Buddy told him in a pleading way, "Don't emphasize what I've lost. Stress what I've gained. I haven't really given up anything. I've never been happier in my life."
After that, Starcher and friend Marion Goddard (she also authored the booklet, "Bless Your Little Heart") started a record label called Dixie (no connection with the later Starday subsidiary). They recorded numbers by such figures as the Franklin Brothers, Big Slim - the Lone Cowboy, Rusty Gabbard, Budge and Fudge Mayse, and a friend of Buddy's from his Iowa days Dick Hart. However, they failed to get a distribution system, the label failed, and the records are quite scarce today.
Buddy went back to radio at a new station WPDX in Clarksburg, West Virginia. This station proposed to compete with nearby WMMN and its talent roster included several WMMN veterans. These included Cherokee Sue and Little John Graham, Budge and Fudge, and Cindy Coy. Like WMMN much of their business was derived from P. I. accounts.
A new sponsor, Sunway Vitamins, held a contest, and their top radio salesman would win a new Frazier auto and a job at WCAU (50,000 watt) in Philadelphia. Buddy won the contest and although he was not in Philly all that long, he did sign a contract with Columbia for which he recorded ten sides from 1949 until 1951. The best-known songs to come from his days with them were both sacred, "Isn't He Wonderful" and "I Planted A Rose in the Garden of Prayer."
Following his experiences in Pennsylvania, Starcher moved southward to WMBM in Miami. While in Miami, his new found religious inspiration carried on. In December 1952, he was one of eleven Miami laymen and ministers of varied denominations named to a committee to help arrange for the first appearance of the Billy Graham evangelistic team on January 25, 1953. At the time, Rev. Graham was in Korea. This Miami visit would make use of the Orange Bowl stadium. Various committees were setup. Buddy, then a part of the Christian Businessmen's Committee and Norman Bolles, a Presbyterian layman were to handle the publicity for Mr. Graham's visit.
In early January 1953, Buddy was part of the overall committee that was finalizing arrangements for Rev. Graham's special service that would be held at the Orange Bowl on January 25.
When Sunday January 25 rolled around, Billy Graham's appearance at the Orange Bowl drew over 25,000 people. About 440 people, at the invitation of Rev. Graham, stepped up to dedicate themselves to Christ to pray in front of him. At the same time, Graham's organization was releasing two movies, one touted as the first Christian western, "Mr. Texas" starring Redd Harper and Cindy Walker; the other movie was "Oiltown, USA."
During that period, he recorded a single on the DeLuxe label in 1954. This was followed by short stints in Birmingham, AL (WLBS) Ft. Worth, TX (KCUL), Greenville, South Carolina (WESC), and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (WCBG). Although part of this time spent in station management, he managed to stay a little bit active in music, usually with a quarter-hour show.
Anxious to get back into performing about 1958, he went to WSVA in Harrisonburg again with a group that included fiddler Joe Meadows, steel player Herman Yarbrough, and his wife, Mary Ann. They did both radio and television there and also began to record for Starday.
In 1960, he went back to Charleston for a final time with early morning television at WCHS-TV in Charleston, where Buddy was still pretty well known from his 1930's radio work. Yarbrough, Meadows and Mary Ann accompanied him, and before long his entourage would include autoharp player Wick Craig, Chester "Butch" Lester who sang both newer country and rockabilly, country vocalist Dorsey Ray Parsons, Morris Hamilton, and lead guitarist Norm Chapman.
Herman Yarbrough (aka Rosco Swerps) played steel guitar on the show and on many of the recordings the show's cast made.
He also played a comedic role as Rosco Swerps. He did comedy skits and humorous songs such as "Onions, Onions" and "If Texas Knew What Arkansas, What Did Tennessee." Mr. Tribe wrote in a 2013 article about the reading of letters from an uncle in Texas known as "Doodle D. Squat." Buddy wrote the letters and Edith Yarbrough (Herman's widow) said her husband never knew what the letters would say until he opened and read them on the air.
An example of one of "Doodle D. Squat" that Buddy wrote and Herman read on the air was in an "Old Time Country" article. Read on. But warning, it could be corny!
" Dear Rosco,
Mr. Tribe noted in his 2013 article that for "...most of its run, The Buddy Starcher Show boasted higher ratings than the "Today" show on NBC rival WSAZ-TV in Huntington, WV. In addition, it ranked third behind only two prime-time programs, one of which was "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Mr. Tribe also made note of Buddy's role on the show. "Starcher never dominated the program and would usually only sing one or two numbers per show. As Herman Yarbrough once explained, Buddy was "one of those rare people who knew how to program a show. He did not feature himself [very much] but built up the talented people around him. He was the straight man."
As some of these regulars later left, WMMN-WWVA veterans from earlier days Sleepy Jeffers and the Davis Twins (most recently of WTIP Charleston) came aboard about 1963. Another veteran vocalist Harry Griffith joined the cast and toward the end young (9 or 10 year old) gospel singer Lori Lee Bowles became a regular. Even after Starcher left the show in 1966 Yarbrough, Jeffers, the Davis Twins, Griffith, and Bowles plus a couple of others stayed on until the program terminated in 1973. Yarbrough points that only he was a regular for the whole thirteen-year run.
Buddy continued recording for Starday including an album in 1962, Buddy Starcher & His Mountain Guitar (SLP 211). He also had a label B. E. S., mostly for members of the show cast. Known for recitations, he did a whole album on the Benson-affiliated Heart Warming label.
Starcher also recorded a single on the Boone label, one side of which was a recitation titled "History Repeats Itself." The recitation was a comparison of similarities in the lives of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. It became a surprise hit and Buddy suddenly found himself more than a local celebrity. The recitation song climbed to number two on the country charts and even cracked the pop Top Forty. In all "History Repeats Itself" spent fifteen weeks on the charts and inspired a comic parody "Great Men Repeat Themselves" by Sheb Wooley's alter ego "Ben Colder."
After a brief move to WHTN-TV in Huntington, he went to Nashville and signed a contract with Decca, doing another album of recitations. While two follow up numbers "Day of Decision" and "A Taxpayer's Letter" showed promise, neither came anywhere near the success of "History Repeats Itself."
Finding out that Nashville success can be "here today and gone tomorrow," even at the age of sixty and with over thirty years of radio experience, Buddy turned to a sometime prior occupation, radio station management. His main job was to turn failing stations around which he did at three stations in Florida, one in Baytown, Texas (KWBA) and finally Albany, New York (WHAZ) around 1978.
He kept active in recording, doing one for Bluebonnet (later re-released on Old Homestead with new liner notes by yours truly) and another on Bear Family in Germany. He retired in 1976 to the village of Craigsville near his old Nicholas County home.
In retirement he worked part-time as a car salesman and did some reunion appearances. One was a re-creation of the Old Farm Hour in 1979 at the Culture Center in Charleston (with my replacing Frank Welling as emcee), along with other West Virginia radio veterans including Rex and Eleanor Parker, Doc and Chickie Williams, the Bailes Brothers (Walter and Kyle), Silver Yodelin' Bill Jones, Slim Clere, and Shot Jackson and Donna Darlene.
According to my (Ivan Tribe's) wife (Deanna), in the audience, Buddy drew the most applause even though he was a little nervous. He also appeared at the revitalized "Sagebrush Roundup" held on Bunner's Ridge near Fairmont and even drove to Shenandoah, Iowa for a reunion of radio veterans from the Corn Belt.
During his brief experience in Nashville, Buddy made friends with a fan and neighbor who apparently aspired to become a biographer. Robert H. "Bob" Cagle remained in close touch and about the time his subject hit age 80, came out with Buddy Starcher Biography (1986).
Although it contained some good information and was clearly a labor of love, it fell woefully short of a credible work and could at the very least have benefitted from a careful proofreading that would have eliminated the misspelled words. A highlight may have been the fine pencil sketch of Buddy by John Hartford on the cover.
Late in the research process, a self-penned article by Buddy about his career was found in a magazine called "Old Time Country." He told the story behind a song called "You'll Still Be In My Heart." He had collaborated with Ted West when the two of them were at radio station KMA in Shenandoah, IA. That tune was recorded by T. Texas Tyler in September of 1945. The tune can be heard on youtube. When one listens to it, one will recognize the melody, even though it is sung in a faster beat than the more famous tune it became. A fellow named Hank Williams took the melody and wrote a song to fit the melody that became a hit - "Cold, Cold Heart." Tony Bennett's recording helped give his career a boost. But Buddy's publisher sued Acuff-Rose over Hank's tune and eventually the suit was resolved. Buddy said, "We had several thousand dollars tied up at one time in litigation. ... That was a big song Cold, Cold, Heart, and eventually they paid off and, yes, they agreed that the song belonged to someone else! I didn't get much of the money, but it sure felt good." Colin Escott also touched on the case in his biography of Hank Williams.
In a 1946 fan club newsletter, readers learned about Buddy and his guitar(s). When Buddy got his start on the radio, he was playing a $25.00 Beltone guitar. But after a short while, he found that a Martin guitar was more suitable to him. Buddy swore by Martin guitars because "...they have a more perfect soft and mellow tone for singing voice. A lot of the other brand guitars are better suited for swing music as they have sharper tones. In 1946, fans were hearing him over the air with a $225.00 Martin guitar he had bought while in Harrisonburg, VA around 1942. It was their best guitar at the time. It was made of polished rosewood and had Buddy's name in large letters on the neckpiece. There was a narrow strip of pearl inlaid around the guitar's edge.
Finally at age 92, Starcher moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia to be closer to better medical facilities. He died there three years later. Mary Ann survived him for two more years. No obituary could be found in the online newspaper archives as of July 2023.
Many of his older recordings have been reissued on Cattle and BACM in Europe.
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