About The Artist
James Gilbert "Goober" Buchanan, known as the "South's Favorite Nut," had a long and varied musical career, but is perhaps best remembered as a comedian. Buchanan was born in the back room of his father's general store in Hillsdale, Kentucky. His father also owned and operated a blacksmith shop and tobacco farm after selling the grocery. His father played fiddle at local dances until he died in 1918. Speaking of his childhood, "Goober" said "I was the teacher's pet [as] she couldn't afford a dog."
Once grown to adulthood, James and his first wife Lillie May Perry moved to Salem, Illinois where he clerked in an A & P Store and Lillie clerked in a 5 & 10-cent store. For Christmas they bought each other musical instruments and played with other local entertainers.
About 1936, a WLS field staff person came to town to organize a talent show that promoted the station in which locals imitated National Barn Dance stars. As his group won, they performed on WDZ in Tuscola. Bitten by the show biz bug, the Buchanan's organized a band and began promoting shows themselves.
Sidenote by Ivan Tribe: about 1950 I was part of such a show myself at age ten called "Uncle Ezra's Hayloft Jamboree." I played one of several "quiz kids" while other locals played characters such as Lulu Belle and Scotty).
The Buchanan's followed this trade until 1938 when they went independent of WLS and went to WDOD in Chattanooga. This was when James attained the nickname "Goober" that he would retain for life.
For the better part of the next two decades Goober and his group, the Kentuckians (sometimes Bar-X Cowboys), switched their radio base frequently. Somewhere along the line, his marriage to Lillie disintegrated. He subsequently married in Charleston, MO, Iola Mae "Dixie Belle" Moore on November 9, 1941, who worked with him in Grand Ole Opry tent shows where Dixie was a duet partner with Sally Ann Forrester.
After a brief hitch in the army (ca. 1942-1943), he came to WSIX in Nashville where he remained for about five years, apparently in a variety of roles which may have included entertaining, deejaying, time salesman, etc. He then went to WVLN in Olney, Illinois where he may have worked similarly and then experienced a brief stint at WLAC.
Working with various tent show companies in the early fifties, Goober's duties included driving tent stakes to playing dramatic roles in various plays. In the fall of 1955 he came back to Nashville and WSIX where he had a Thursday evening half-hour show for a year with some of his old Kentuckian band members; he also sold commercial time. Buchanan did comedy work with both Benny Martin and Porter Wagoner (this mostly preceded Porter's syndicated TV show).
When not working with them he did tours for other country stars when they needed a comedian, such as Elton Britt, Billy Grammer, Jimmy Newman, Ray Price, Jim Reeves, and Ernest Tubb. In about 1962, he decided to get out of entertainment and took a position as a furniture store manager for H. Brown and Co. He worked there for eleven years, but still did weekend comedy work on demand.
Goober was nearing retirement age, but still fulfilled demands. By then he had married again to ragtime piano player Lila Mae Stinson (July 6, 1977) who sometimes worked with him. Buchanan also worked often in Renfro Valley and in the fall of 1983 re-created a medicine show for an off-Broadway show.
Author Wayne Daniel wrote an article about him in Old Time Country (Winter 1993-94).
Old age showed little sign of slowing him down. Even after entering a retirement village in Bowling Green, Kentucky in the 1990's, he continued entertaining. Lila died about 2002, but Goober remained quite busy and wrote a memoir, The Original Goober: The Life and Times of James G. Buchanan with Ruth White (Madison, TN, 2006). The same year he went to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to accept an award at the Uncle Dave Macon Days. Back in Bowling Green, he died a day short of his 101st birthday.
Credits & Sources
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