About The Artist
Buddy Mason Griffin is a notable West Virginia banjo and fiddle player who has exhibited his talents on stages extending from Jamboree U S A to the Grand Ole Opry. He is not to be confused with musician Marion Oliver "Buddy" Griffin, the brother of Rex Griffin, the noted singer and songwriter of the 1930's and 1940's.
The West Virginia Buddy was born in Richwood and grew up in a family devoted to traditional bluegrass music and the songs of the original Carter Family. Buddy quickly fell in line with the family group and learned to play several instruments, with the five string banjo being his instrument of choice although he has become best known for his fiddle work. The family band led by parents Richard and Erma Griffin had radio programs as a part-time group at locations ranging from Oak Hill to Weston, and appeared as guests on regional TV programs such as those of Red Smiley at WOAY-TV in Oak Hill to Buddy Starcher's in Charleston.
In 1966 Buddy entered college at Glenville State College in his home state. He was graduated in 1971 and subsequently taught English and History for several years at the junior high level. He also remained active in music, working with the family as time permitted and with friend George Ward. Joining the staff band at Wheeling's Jamboree U S A, he recorded with such WWVA regulars as the Heckels and Slim Lehart. Buddy and Ward also backed southern West Virginia fiddler Joe Meadows who was making a comeback in 1973.
Buddy left WWVA to work in Cincinnati clubs with Landon Williams who also was a Jamboree U S A member. While there he met Katie Laur who would also later have her own bluegrass band in the Queen City. When school was out in the spring of 1975, he joined the Goins Brothers, an eastern Kentucky bluegrass outfit, as a full time fiddler. They generally worked festivals in summers and worked clubs and schools in the colder months. While with the Goins Brothers, Buddy played fiddle on several albums, mostly on the Rebel label. He also worked and made recordings with the Katie Laur Band, and did session work with other artists chiefly on bluegrass recordings made at Rusty York's Jewel Studio including Mac Wiseman and Earl Taylor.
In 1979, Buddy returned to the classroom as a full-time social studies instructor in the middle school at Gassaway, West Virginia where he remained until 1982, still playing a little now and then. That summer he got a call from Johnny Russell who needed a fiddler for a series of engagements in Las Vegas. Buddy had known Russell when they both worked at Jamboree U S A in the early 1970's and worked with him on and off for some time. He also worked off and on with the Doug Dillard Band.
Buddy joined the cast of the Ozark Mountain Hoedown in Eureka Springs, Arkansas by night and worked with various groups — most notably Christy Lane and Al Brumley — in Branson, Missouri by day. With Brumley he also did a bit of comedy with another comedian known as "Chester Drawers." At the time, Buddy planned to remain in the Ozark region, but circumstances soon called him back to West Virginia.
The declining health of his parents led Griffin back to the Mountain State and he also picked up his musical work there. He soon found himself filling in with the Goins Bothers as younger brother Ray Goins had health problems. Eventually Ray had to retire leaving older brother Melvin Goins to lead the band. In the mid-1990's, Buddy also joined Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys at the Grand Ole Opry and worked with them, continuing after Jim's death.
Keeping busy during weekdays, Buddy also began to work as an adjunct in teaching string music classes at Glenville State College. Looking back, this may have been his key accomplishment in music as his work and leadership there eventually developed into a full-fledged degree program in bluegrass music. He continued working on weekends at the Opry with the slowing-down but remaining semi-active Jesse McReynolds.
Retiring from Glenville State College in 2011, Buddy moved to Nashville for a time, still working some with Jesse McReynolds, but more often with the more active on the road Bobby Osborne and the Rocky-Top X-Press. In 2014, he was part of Bobby's "Celebration Tour: 50th Anniversary on the Grand Ole Opry."
In between times he worked some with an airplane pilot named Ashley Messenger with whom he recorded three compact discs of Don Reno and Red Smiley songs, under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym of "Retro and Smiling." Finally, Buddy retired from this work in 2018, but remaining on-call and semi-active today.
Although Buddy never recorded single records in his own name, he did record compact discs. The first came out in 1988 as a cassette credited to The Buddy Griffin Band in which he played all the instruments on his own Braxton label. In 2008, he placed it in a compact disc as the 20th Anniversary Edition with eight additional numbers.
In 2012, he did a fifteen-number fiddle album labeled Buddy Griffin plays Hank Williams. His latest to date is from 2017, a bluegrass album with his successor in the Glenville State program Miss Megan with Buddy Griffin. Considering the large volume of session work and work with a variety of bands as well as his work with the Goins Brothers, Katie Laur and others, he has earned a place among the legends. For a fiddler who actually prefers banjo, this is quite a legacy.
Credits & Sources
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