By Warren Kurtz
We remember the 60th anniversary this month of the February 3, 1959 plane crash which took the lives of The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly with a new 11 song Buddy Holly tribute CD, Billy & Buzz Sing Buddy. Goldmine spoke with Billy Swan and Buzz Cason about the new recording and a 45 reaching its 45th anniversary this year.
Win Billy & Buzz Sing Buddy from Nashville’s Arena Recordings, see details below.
Part One: Billy Swan Interview
GOLDMINE: 2019 is the 45th anniversary of our magazine. It is also the 45th anniversary of your 45 which reached No. 1 on the Monument label, “I Can Help,” which spent two weeks in that position around Thanksgiving of 1974. At that time, Monument was manufactured and distributed by CBS Records. Four years later I was walking around Peaches Records & Tapes, where I worked, on a Saturday night in Cleveland with label executive Steve Popovich, near his home office for Cleveland International Records. He was checking on the weekly status of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell sales. Then he walked to the country aisle, reflected on his CBS years, and asked, "Do you know what I think the best record we made is?" He pulled out your I Can Help album, produced by Chip Young and you, and pointed to your composition "I Can Help" on the song list.
BILLY SWAN: Wow. I worked with Chip Young, a great session guitar player in Nashville, besides being one of the finest people I’ve ever known, when I recorded “I Can Help.” Chip worked with me to produce three of my albums. He played the now famous guitar solo on “I Can Help.” Chip and Buzz were actually the first people to ever produce a record for me, three 45s as a matter of fact on Monument in the 60’s. When Chip and I recorded “I Can Help” it was at his studio behind his house in the country outside of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It was an old log cabin he converted into a studio. It was a small but great place to record. The musicians loved to come out there. It was so quiet and peaceful, and the fridge was full of Bud.
GM:I also enjoy the flip side of “I Can Help,” which is included on the album, "Ways of a Woman in Love." I like the lyrical trick to the title with the unexpected line and your exaggerated hesitation in your delivery, "You've got the ways of a woman in love...with another man."
BS: “Ways of a Woman in Love” was always one of my favorite songs by Johnny Cash during his Sun records years, and it was written by two of my favorite people, Bill Justis and Charlie Rich. For some reason, still unknown to me, when I sang the line, “You’ve got the ways of a woman in love…with another man” just came out with that hesitation and Chip liked it so we kept it. Bill Justis wrote a wonderful string arrangement. Bill and Charlie made some money from it too since it was the flip side of the “I Can Help” gold single. I loved that. I thought it would be the A side.
GM:You introduced me to a new Buddy Holly favorite on this CD, "Crying, Waiting, Hoping." Your harmonies remind me of The Everly Brothers. Where did you learn this wonderful non-single?
BS: First, to say our voices reminded you of The Everly Brothers tripped me out because I’ve always been a fan of Phil and Don, as Buzz has too. I don’t think that two people singing together has ever gotten any better, so to come close is good. I had the pleasure of knowing Phil fairly well and Don somewhat, both fine gentlemen. I appreciate you saying that, and I know that Buzz does too. Thank you. Anyway, after “I Can Help” came out and did well in Europe, CBS sent me to a lot of places in Europe to do interviews and TV shows. I was in Holland and went to a record store I heard about called Rockhouse. Their specialty was albums from older artists. In fact, I couldn’t believe it, they had many artists I remembered as a kid from the ‘50s and ‘60s including Warren Smith, Narvel Felts, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Feathers, Johnny and The Hurricanes and so much more. They had the first bootlegs I ever saw on some artists. They even had The Million Dollar Quartet. I loved it. This was 1975. I found a Buddy Holly album there that had what looked to be everything he had ever recorded. “Learning the Game” was on that album and it was new to me along with “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.” I became a Buddy Holly fan the first time I heard “That’ll Be the Day” and I always loved the background parts on his records. The Crickets’ Jerry I. Allison, Joe B. Mauldin and Buddy together were my heroes for sure. What great songs Buddy had.
GM:You and Buzz certainly captured the Buddy Holly style in the composition the two of you wrote as the finale, "Thank You Buddy." There is no doubt that you both were fans from the beginning.
BS: Since we were doing an album of Buddy Holly songs Buzz said that we should write a song about him for the album. Buzz came to my house one day to write and said he had a couple lines, maybe for a song about Buddy. I thought that the lines were perfect. They were, “Thank you Buddy for the music you gave the world. You were there when my favorite girl cuddled up with me and we sang along with you, ‘ah whoo whoo.’” We went on from there, but those lines still knock me out. I love it.
GM:Thank you for looking back with us on your ‘70s music and for bringing these enjoyable new versions of ‘50s music from Buddy Holly to our Goldmine readers.
BS: I am very happy to hear that you are enjoying our Billy and Buzz sing Buddy album. I love Goldmine and for years I was buying records through Goldmine, since I love older music and records. The articles about the artists really interest me too, so thank you.
Part Two: Buzz Cason Interview – 4 Flip Sides
GM:Buddy Holly’s first Top 40 single was “That’ll Be the Day,” which went all the way to No. 1, with the rockabilly song “I’m Looking for Someone to Love” as its flip side.
BUZZ CASON:“I’m Looking for Someone to Love” features Billy Swan at his best, with natural rocking vocals plus outstanding boogie woogie, Jerry Lee style, piano and guitar solos from one of Nashville’s best, Colin Whinnery.
GM:One of my favorite Buddy Holly pairings on 45 are “Peggy Sue” / “Everyday.” You begin the new CD with this flip side.
BC: “Everyday” was a delight to sing as a duet with Billy. We also incorporated the “Peggy Sue” drumbeat with drummer Matt Crouse on board, at Creative Workshop, where this track was recorded.
GM:Whether it is The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead or you, everyone seems to bring a unique interpretation to “Not Fade Away,” which was originally the flip side of Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy.”
BC: “Not Fade Away” has a haunting treatment to it and features a sax sounding riff throughout. It is very different from The Crickets’ original recording, but we kept the ‘oop bops’ in it.
GM:Another of my favorite Buddy Holly pairings on 45 are “Heartbeat” / “Well….All Right.”
BC: “Well….All Right” was really fun to record and what put the icing on the cake was original co-writer and Crickets drummer Jerry Allison on stick tambourine. He is our good friend and my fellow Cricket when I played with them in 1964.
GM:Thank you and Billy for sharing your stories and music with me and our Goldmine readers and giveaway contest winners.
BC: All in all, thanks to Billy Swan’s creative genius coupled with cool musicians, it was a thrill to revisit the great Buddy Holly songs and shed new light on them.
To win the Billy & Buzz Sing Buddy CD, all you have to do is put your email and address in the boxes below by February 15, 11:59 p.m. You will immediately be entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive our informative weekly eNewsletter from Goldmine (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. Arena Recordings has supplied us with two copies of this new Buddy Holly tribute CD, so your chances are doubled.