By Warren Kurtz
BUZZ CASON and fellow songwriter Mac Gayden hold the record for a Top 40 hit in the most consecutive decades by different performers. 50 years ago, in 1967, Nashville singer Robert Knight achieved his one hit with “Everlasting Love,” which reached number 13. In 1972, Carl Carlton’s cover reached number 6. In 1981, the song was turned into a duet by Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet, which reached number 32. In 1995, Gloria Estefan brought the song to number 27. Goldmine spoke with Buzz Cason about this hit song, his early days in Tennessee with Elvis Presley, compositions for Jan & Dean, Ronny & the Daytonas, and Martina McBride, studio work including Beatles covers, his publishing success, and his new CD “Passion.”
GOLDMINE: On Saturday, September 27, 2003, we saw Robert Knight perform “Everlasting Love” at the Vanderbilt halftime show in Nashville. Our daughter Brianna got to play the high trumpet parts at the end. She and her band mates were amazed at rehearsal after hearing Robert. They exclaimed, “That’s the voice from the record.”
Buzz Cason: I was at the halftime show too. What a rare performance we caught. Robert was an assistant in the chemistry department and then a groundskeeper at Vanderbilt. He knew band director Dr. Sagen. It was good to hear all the instruments at the show too, including Bob Babbitt as a guest on bass. On the original record Norbert Putnam played bass and he later produced “Margaritaville” with David Briggs. On congas and drums we had Kenny Buttrey, who also later recorded with Jimmy Buffett, but prior to that was known for his work on “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Carol Montgomery and I were on background vocals, all at Foster Studio in downtown Nashville.
GM: The flip side, “Somebody’s Baby,” has a gospel feel like “People Get Ready.” Robert delivered upper range emotion, like Smokey Robinson in the song.
BC: It was strictly a flip side, something easy to sing. I wrote both sides of the single with Mac Gayden, who later went on to the groups Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry. A few of our compositions were recorded by the Love Affair in England, who had a hit there with “Everlasting Love.”
GM: “Everlasting Love” became a hit three more times in the U.S. over the next three decades. Congratulations.
BC: Thank you. Carl’s version in the ‘70s was recorded at my studio, Creative Workship, in Berry Hill, Tennessee. Bergen White did the strings and I sang background vocals with Bergen. For the ‘80s version, I was in New York when they mixed that duet. What was nice is the that it also was on two different albums, both Rex’s and Rachel’s. Then, what a break we got in the ‘90s when Gloria recorded it, as it went international in the Latin market too. In the Estefan’s Broadway musical, “On Your Feet,” there is a young girl who sings it. I’d sign her in a minute if I still had a record company. As a surprise, from friends of mine, I got to meet the cast.
GM: You had two record labels, both with Top 100 singles in 1967, that I still hear on beach music and oldies shows.
BC: Yes, in addition to Robert’s “Everlasting Love” on our Rising Sons label we had the Elf label with Clifford Curry’s “She Shot a Whole in My Soul” that year.
GM: Elf was with Bobby Russell. I really enjoyed your and Bobby’s song “Popsicle” for Jan & Dean, their final Top 40 single, after Jan’s car accident. It was fun to hear on the radio in the summer of 1966.
BC: We had that one in the can for quite a while, going back to the “Drag City” album days. We also wrote “Tennessee” for them, which came out in 1962, my first year associated with Liberty records in California, there through 1964.
GM: Speaking of 1964, in your “Rock ‘n Roll Dream” book I read about your work on one of my favorite Beatles covers, “She Loves You,” which made their “Greatest Hits” album versus the single “All My Loving” / “Do You Want to Know a Secret.”
BC: I stayed in the studio for more that twelve hours straight with the other singers for “The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles.” We cut the songs note for note at half the speed and when we sped them up, it made the high-pitched Chipmunk sound. I returned in the ‘80s for “Urban Chipmunk” too.
GM: I was pleased to read about my musical mentor Steve Popovich and his role in your publishing success.
BC: After Roger Miller cut Bobby Russell’s “Little Green Apples” composition, it quickly became covered by others including O.C. Smith on Columbia. A Detroit disc jockey played that album cut, which led to a high volume of phone requests. The DJ contacted Steve, who was the head of promotion at Columbia, and told him that “Little Green Apples” could be a hit. Steve pushed for it to be a single, which won the Grammy Song of the Year for our Russell-Cason Music publishing company.
GM: Also, the photo of you with Elvis Presley, from the book is certainly a classic.
BC: I was with my group, Nashville’s first rock and roll band, the Casuals in 1957. Elvis had just bought a house in Memphis which he wanted to show us, which became Graceland. I also jammed at his house in Bel Air, California in 1959. Those times were just so surreal.
GM: Here in Daytona Beach, based on the band’s name and subject, we have a fondness for Ronny & the Daytona’s and their hit song “GTO.” You co-wrote a beautiful second Top 40 single for the group, “Sandy,” sounding more like the Beach Boys’ flip side “The Warmth of the Sun” or Chad & Jeremy’s “Distant Shores.”
BC: Bucky Wilkin, who was also known as “Ronny” for the group, and I did a whole album within a week at Bill Justis’ tiny studio. Bergen White added strings for the “Sandy” album, which is definitely worth checking out.
GM: At the Daytona Speedway this year was the second annual Country 500 three day festival and Martina McBride was one of the performers. She opened with “Love’s the Only House.” A couple of my favorite lines are, “Teenagers walkin’ around in a culture of darkness” and “I’ll come down and get my hands dirty and together we’ll make a stand.”
BC: Tom Douglas and I inserted that bridge, thinking if we could speed it up, we could get it cut. It was originally going to be for his singer-songwriter album. Paul Worley, the producer, considered it for Tim McGraw and Collin Raye, but Martina cut, did a great job, and made it a hit. On singer-songwriter nights in Nashville, I can never get all those words right.
GM: Speaking of country females, thank you for helping to bring the Judds to all of us.
BC: Well, Brent Maher was their producer and engineer. His daughter was in the hospital after an accident. One of her nurses was Naomi Judd. Brent and Naomi were talking about their daughters and Naomi said, “My daughter is quite a singer.” I provided them with a studio and that began the Judds.
GM: You sing about the studio on your new CD “Passion” with the song “The Ballad of Berry Hill.”
BC: My studio, Creative Workshop in Berry Hill started in 1970, and was the only one. Now there are over forty studios in a one square mile radius. I am working on a documentary entitled “Berry Hill from Creative Workshop and Beyond.”
GM: “Passion” has such a strong variety in its eleven songs. My favorite is one you wrote with your son Parker, “Walkin’,” where your background vocals remind me of what Flo and Eddie brought to T. Rex.
BC: Parker is now thirty years old and has been playing with me most of his life. After getting a music business degree at Belmont he spent time in the band Colorfeels for two years, searching for a major label deal. The footsteps you hear in “Walkin’” were recorded in the historic Hermitage Hotel on 6th Avenue in Nashville, using the tile floor in the rest room.
GM: Two Goldmine readers will win a copy of “Passion” in our Goldmine Giveaway. Thank you for the CDs, your music over the decades, and congratulations on the 50th anniversary of “Everlasting Love.”
BC: Thank you for covering the old and the new songs. It is always good to learn what songs people like.
Buzz Cason’s eleven song CD of new compositions begins with the title tune “Passion.” He is joined by members of his band, the Love Notes, with Colin Whinnery on electric guitar, Bryan Grassmeyer on bass and Jim Thistle on drums.
“Like a Dog,” the Nashville songwriter calls, “A good rockin’ cut. We had a good time with this one. I am a dog lover with a big love for golden retrievers. We had two west highland terriers in recent years too.”
On “Fear” Buzz Cason plays organ, with a key line being, “Don’t let them throw you under the bus.” His son Parker Cason joins him on the rocker, “Walkin’,” as co-writer, along with playing electric guitar, piano, and synthesizer. Wanda Vick’s violin shines on country tale “The Ballad of Berry Hill.”
The CD concludes with outstanding electric guitar playing by Colin Whinnery on the powerful “We Soldiered On.” “This finale is autobiographical,” Buzz Cason discloses, “dealing with how tough things can be and encouragement to push onward.”
To enter, submit your email address in the box below by September 30, 11:59 p.m. You will be immediately entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive Goldmine’s informative weekly eNewsletter (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. We have two signed CDs to give away, so your chances are doubled.