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Nashville pop pioneer Buzz Cason walks by

By meerna Jun18,2024
Nashville pop pioneer Buzz Cason walks by

Buzz Cason. Photo: Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Buzz Casona key figure in Nashville’s emergence as a music center, died on Sunday, June 16 at the age of 84.

He became famous as a studio owner, music publisher, artist, songwriter, session vocalist, record producer and industry leader. Cason formed Nashville’s first rock & roll band, co-wrote the pop evergreen “Everstanding Love,” was a hit recording artist, founded the Creative Workshop studio, sang national advertising jingles and was a civil rights advocate for Nashville music.

Born James E. Cason, he was a Nashville native who formed The Casuals as a high school student in 1956. They were the first rock & roll band from Nashville. In 1957, the group had a regional hit with “My Love Song for You” and then became the backup group to the world’s first pop star, Brenda Lee, from 1958-70. Throughout the 1960s, The Casuals continued to record their own singles for Monument, Mainstream, Kem, Sound Stage 7, Minaret, Scarlet and other labels.

In addition to recording with The Casuals, he formed a doo-wop harmony group called The Statutes. In 1960, the group entered the charts with the song “Blue Velvet”. Cason’s solo pop hit was the 1960s song “Look For a Star,” released under the pseudonym “Garry Miles.” The Casuals continued to tour with Lee, but Cason left the group in 1962. He briefly moved to Los Angeles, where he co-produced The Crickets with Leon Russell. He then toured with the group in 1964, producing artists for Liberty Records.

Cason returned to Nashville in 1965 and became a member of Ronny & The Daytonas. He co-wrote the group’s 1965 hit ballad “Sandy.” He then formed a duet with “Ronny”, aka Bucky Wilkin. They recorded as “Buzz & Bucky” for the Amy and Monument labels. During this same period, Cason also recorded as a solo artist for Caprice, Janus, DJM, Mega, Warners and Capricorn, among others. He spent Buzz as an LP in 1977.

Two years later his came Suck in your sleep collection. By then, he had become known as a hit songwriter. In addition to “Sandy”, Cason also created “Tennessee” (1962, Jan and Dean), “Soldier of Love” (1963, The Beatles), “Lopsicle” (1966, Jan and Dean), “Rainbow Valley” (1968, Love Affair ), “Ann Don’t Go Runnin'” (1972, Tommy Overstreet), “Love at the Mountaintop” (1973, Robert Knight) and “The Other Woman” (1975, TG Sheppard).

Cason also became a businessman. In 1966, he founded a song publishing company with fellow songwriter Bobby Russell. Their credits included “Honey” (Bobby Goldsboro), “The Joker Went Wild” (Bryan Hyland), “Little Green Apples” (Roger Miller, OC Smith), “Sure Gonna Miss Her” (Gary Lewis & The Playboys), “ Bluer than Blue (Michael Johnson), She Believes in Me (Kenny Rogers) and more. He discovered Jimmy Buffett, collaborated with the future star and published his early songs. In 1984, Buffett brought his entire hit Coral Reefer catalog to Cason for publishing administration.

In 1970, Cason built a creative workshop in Berry Hill. Thanks to this, the suburb became an alternative entertainment district to Music Row. Currently, there are over 40 registration facilities in the area. Those who have recorded at Creative Workshop include The Faces with Rod Stewart, Olivia Newton-John, The Judds, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, The Doobie Brothers, Leon Russell, Melanie and Dolly Parton.

As a studio vocalist, Cason has sung advertising jingles for such national brands as RC Cola, Schlitz, Ford, Tab, Pabst, Burger King, Mountain Dew, HBO and 7-Up. He was a backup vocalist on albums by Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Kris Kristofferson, Roy Orbison, Janie Fricke, BW Stevenson, Donna Fargo, Willie Nelson and Conway Twitty. He was the voice of “Alvin” on several Chipmunks records. As a producer, he collaborated with Freddy Weller, Dickey Lee, The Glaser Brothers, Buddy Knox and Mac Garden. Cason produced “She Shot a Hole in My Soul” for Clifford Curry in 1967. Released on Cason’s Elf label, it became a Carolina “beach music” classic.

He and Gayden co-wrote “Everstanding Love.” Nashville soul singer Robert Knight introduced the song in 1967 on Cason’s Rising Sons label. It was later followed by the success of Carl Carlton (1974), Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet (1981), and Gloria Estefan (1995). According to BMI, the song already has over five million plays.

Songwriting success continued with films such as “Bar Wars” (1978, Freddy Weller), “Fantasy Island” (1979, Freddy Weller), “A Million Old Goodbyes” (1981, Mel Tillis) and “Timeless and True Love” (The McCarter Sisters, Jeannie Kendall and Alan Jackson). His songs have also been recorded by Charley Pride, Arthur Alexander, Marshall Crenshaw, U2, Pearl Jam, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jerry Reed, Dolly Parton, Rick Nelson, Bobby Vee, Gene Watson, The Fleetwoods, Freddy Cannon, Placido Domingo , The Derailers, Tommy Roe, Hanson, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and David Essex.

Meanwhile, Cason continued recording himself. In the 1980s he founded the neo-rockabilly band BC & The Dartz. He founded the production company I’m In Video to create the group’s music videos. Cason was also a racing driver who competed through the International Motor Sports Association. He founded a team called Music City Racing.

He remained musically active until the new millennium. Cason and Tom Douglas co-wrote “Love’s the Only House”, which became a top 10 hit for Martina McBride in 2000. In 2004, Cason published his memoirs: Living the rock n roll dream. His solo albums from this period included: Hats off to Hank (2008), A bus full of love (2009), Surf and Turf (2012), Troubadour’s Heart (2014), Recording machine (2015), Passion (2017) and his collaboration with Billy Swan, Billy and Buzz are singing, buddy (2018). He released an album with his children Taylor and Parker Buzz Cason and Sons 2020. In 2019, the 2019 Nashville Film Festival featured the documentary Berry Hill: From Creative Workshop and Beyond, chronicling his career.

Cason’s death was announced yesterday (June 16) by The Country Music Hall of Fame. The museum honored him in 2014 in its “Poets and Prophets” series. No funeral details were provided.

Robert K. Oermann
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