Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

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Buddy Knox’s Bigfoot Song

How can you not love Muddy Waters for his brilliant observation, “The blues had a baby, and they called it rock ‘n’ roll”?  And thank you, Jerry Wexler, for coining the term “rhythm & blues” as an alternative to the more 19th-century-sounding “race music.”

The Grand Ol’ Opry would famously ban percussion from its stages until the forces of modernity could no longer be held back, and it was around this time when country music was increasingly being played with a backbeat that the term “rhythm” started to bubble up into popular consciousness.

            Jimmy Bowen & Buddy Knox would go their separate ways – even on Roulette

Jimmy Bowen EP (edited)Buddy Knox 45

Producer and music industry heavyweight, Jimmy Bowen, has a great story in his excellent memoir (and insider account) Rough Mix about the word “rhythm” and its unexpected appearance (more like forced entrance) during his first professional encounter with the music biz, as he and his partner, Buddy Knox, were recording their first 45 for none other than Morris Levy, the music mogul (and owner of Birdland) who would be convicted in 1990 for extortion:

“To say we had trouble finding our groove puts it mildly.  Whether it was the big-city pressure or his bad syncopation, Buddy froze up behind the mike and could not get it right.  You could count it out for Buddy all day long–a-one, anna-two, anna-three, anna-four–but he couldn’t find a-one and never came in right.  Another problem:  the studio was directly over a subway.  Every time a train rumbled by, you could hear it on the tape, so a bunch of good takes had to be redone.  This just made Buddy more nervous.”

I had to step in and sing both B-sides–‘My Baby’s Gone’ for ‘Party Doll’ and ‘Ever-Lovin’ Fingers’ for ‘I’m Stickin’ with You.’  [George] Goldner pumped the echo to it so high on my voice that you could hardly tell it wasn’t Buddy, though my voice was deeper and less twangy.  When the session was over, Morris [Levy] realized he hated the group’s name–Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, and the Orchids–and told us it would have to change.  ‘You kids go on back to Texas,’ Morris said, ‘and we’ll take care of that.’

When they mailed us our records, I couldn’t believe it.  ‘I’m Stickin’ with You’ was now by Jimmy Bowen with the Rhythm Orchids [!]  The shock wore off, though, and it was a real kick to be on a New York label with our records going out all over the country [as well as the UK, Canada & Germany].  ‘Stickin’ with You’ was Roulette 4001, the label’s debut release.  ‘Party Doll’ was Roulette 4002, by Buddy Knox with the Rhythm Orchids.”

Buddy Knox & His Rhythm Orchids posterThe Rhythm Orchids would eventually disband, and Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen would find their own musical paths.  For Buddy Knox, that path would one day lead to Bigfoot:

“Bigfoot Song”     Buddy Knox     197?

We learn from another YouTube clip that this surprisingly effective Bigfoot song is an unreleased demo “that no one had heard until 2005 when it was shared from an acetate demo that friends in Canada obtained from Buddy late in his life.”

Buddy Knox & His Rhythm OrchidsWe also learn from Greg Long’s The Making of Bigfoot:  The Inside Story that Buddy Knox is connected to renowned Bigfoot videographer, Roger Patterson, through his guitarist, Jerry Merritt, and that the three of them would once go on a Bigfoot finding expedition:

“One time [Jerry Merritt] picked grapes with Patterson, and Patterson made juice from the grapes to treat his cancer.  Another time, Merritt and Buddy Knox, a famous rockabilly star, who recorded ‘Party Doll,’ traveled with Merritt, Patterson, and [Bob] Gimlin in Patterson’s van out into the hills.”

Fascinating to discover from Buddy Knox’s discography on that these 1950s recordings with Jimmy Bowen would continue to sell into the 1960s, 70s, 80, 90s & beyond.  Kinda spooky.


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