Buzz’s collaborative album with fellow songwriter Billy Swan was released on August 17 by ArenA Recordings. Billy & Buzz Sing Buddy is their tribute to Buddy Holly’s music and features their fresh takes on ten of Holly’s classic songs plus their original song “Thank You Buddy”. The album was recorded at the legendary Creative Workshop recording studio in the Berry Hill area of Nashville and features a guest appearance by original Crickets drummer Jerry Allison.
Buzz produced the Crickets’ 1964 British hit “They Call Her LaBamba” on Liberty Records and performed with them that year on a thirty day tour of the UK including a show at the Royal Albert Hall.
“The first song I played in the summer of 1957, on my first tour with the Casuals, was ‘That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and they were on my musical radar from then on! Their music was far reaching and touched the hearts of listeners all over the world.” – Buzz Cason
Billy Swan has been through just about every area of the music business, gaining experience, paying his dues and inching his way up with every step. He’s written songs, swept up recording studios, played with 3-piece combos in local beer joints, produced albums and toured with some top performers.
Now Swan has established himself as a recording artist with far reaching international appeal. His initial hit single “I Can Help” sold over one-million copies in Europe and over two million worldwide. Swan’s debut Monument album was also entitled “I Can Help” received outstanding critical acclaim internationally along with the single.
“I try to keep my options open for all kinds of music,” says Billy. “I just get a groove going and don’t worry about any particular style.”
On his way up, Billy has been exposed to some very good music. When Bob Dylan was recording his classic “Blonde On Blond” album in Nashville, Billy was working in the same recording studio, emptying the ashtrays. He made his debut as a record producer with Tony Joe White, cutting “Polk Salad Annie,” and he was an original member of Kris Kristofferson’s band.
Billy Swan was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a small town on the banks of the Mississippi River, on May 12. An interest in music was kindled by Hank Williams on the radio, by an uncle who played the saxophone, and by singing cowboy Gene Autry in the movies.
“The rock & roll of Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly made me want to start playing it myself,” says Billy, who took up the drums at age 14 and hitchhiked to gigs in local beer joints. He later taught himself to play electric piano, rhythm guitar and organ.
Some friends who had a group went to Memphis to record with Bill Black, so Billy tagged along. Black liked one of Billy’s songs, “Lover Please”. The group recorded it but it wasn’t until much later, when Clyde McPhatter cut his version of the song that it became a hit. While he was in memphis, Billy lived with Elvis Presley’s uncle.
Billy joined the group that did “Lover Please” originally. Mirt Mirly and The Rhythm Steppers, and worked with them for two years.
When he turned twenty-one, Billy moved to Nashville and quit playing music temporarily. He toured as a road manager for singer Mel Tillis and for the Masters of Music Festival, which featured Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, and Floyd Cramer.
Most people have heard about Kris Kristofferson’s early days in Nashville when he swept floors and moved microphones around the Columbia Recording Studios. But Billy has the dubious distinction of holding that job first, and he gave it to his friend Kris when he left.
Billy and Kris, back when they were both total unknowns scuffling around the edges of the music business, were charter members of what is now referred to as the Nashville underground. Fred Foster, President of Monument Records, and Bob Beckham, head of Combine Music publishing firm, were among the first people to encourage these talented newcomers. They gave Billy his first opportunity to produce records. He worked on three Tony Joe White albums for Monument.
When Kris Kristofferson’s first LP was released, he needed a backup band in a hurry, so Billy offered to help. In fact, Billy had just three days to learn how to play bass before the band’s debut at the Troubador in Los Angeles. Billy later brought his friend Donnie Fritts into the group on piano. For a year and a half, they all stumbled and laughed across America together.
Then Billy toured briefly as a sideman with Kinky Friedman and with Billy Joe Shaver before returning to Nashville. He went back into the recording studios for Monument Records, but this time he was making his debut as an artist. Billy was ready.
Through his “I Can Help” album, he completed two highly successful European tours and scored with his second Monument album entitled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Moon”, featuring Swan’s second hit single “Everything’s The Same (Ain’t Nothing Changed).”
Well-known in music circles since the early 1960’s as a top songwriter, sideman and producer, Swan’s songs have been covered successfully by Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and many others; one of the first he wrote, “Lover Please,” was a #7 hit for Clyde McPhatter in 1962, and landed a Grammy for Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge in 1975.
As a first-time producer Swan notched the Top Ten in 1969, with Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie.” Swan articulates a passionate range of influence from Hank Williams to Buddy Holly to Jerry Lee Lewis.
Swan’s artistic talents have also branched into motion pictures and the stage. As an actor/singer, Swan appears in David Lynch’s “Wild At Heart” and in “Songwriter” with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Behind the camera, he worked with T. Bone Burnett as Assistant Music Director on “Great Balls Of Fire” starring Dennis Quaid as Jerry lee Lewis. Using William Shakespeare’s words as lyrics, Swan wrote a poetic music score and performed the role of the singing minstrel, with critical acclaim, in Director Tony Richardson’s stage production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” starring Stockard Channing and Bruce Davison.
Billy Swan’s new solo album was recorded with skillful musicians in Memphis at the legendary Sun Record Studio, Promising to explore new avenues in original compositions, the music of Billy Swan is a welcome back for the ’90s. It is a collection of songs Elvis recorded which have been rearranged somewhat and Billy says he’s very happy with the end result. They are thinking of calling it “The E Project” or “Like Elvis Used To Do”. It will be available on 706 records and he hopes all Elvis and Rockabilly fans like it.
Alamo Jones of Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country and others have called Buzz Cason the Father of Nashville rock. In a carreer spanning six decades, Buzz Cason has been living the rock & roll dream. He formed Nashville’s first rock & roll band “The Casuals” in the mid 50s which became a successful touring act and Brenda Lee’s backing band. He then started a solo career with the hit “Look For A Star” under the name Garry Miles.
Buzz is also a successful songwriter. His most well-known song is the classic “Everlasting Love” (co-written by Mac Gayden) that was recorded by Carl Carlton, Gloria Estefan, U2 and many others. Another one of Buzz’s songs, “Soldier of Love” (co-written by Tony Moon), was recorded by Arthur Alexander, Pearl Jam and the Beatles. He also wrote a Country #1 hit for Tommy Overstreet (“Ann, Don’t Go Runnin’”) and songs for Martina McBride, Brenda Lee, Dolly Parton, Placido Domingo, Mel Tillis, T.G. Shephard, the McCarters, Oak Ridge Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others.
Buzz produced Clifford Curry’s beach music classic “She Shot A Hold In My Soul” and Van & Titus’ r&b classic “Cry Baby Cry” that was recently covered by Christine Ohlman and Dion and albums by The Derailers and Sugarcane Jane. He also helped start Jimmy Buffett’s career with the albums Down to Earth and High Cumberland Jubilee for which he also co-wrote several songs.
Buzz has also been doing a lot of session work for other artists and sang on records by Elvis, Kenny Rogers, Kris Kristofferson, Ronnie Hawkins, Roy Orbison, Mickey Newbury, Levon Helm, John Denver and he was the voice of Alvin on several Chipmunks records.
Buzz is also the founder and owner of the legendary Creative Workshop recording studio that was built in 1970 and is still going strong. Jimmy Buffett, Roy Orbison, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, the Doobie Brothers, The Faces, Elvis and Kevin Costner have recorded there. He is currently working on a documentary about the studio and the recording scene in the Berry Hill neighborhood of Nashville that evolved from it.
In 2006, Buzz released his autobiography Living The Rock & Roll Dream and in 2014, he was honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame as part of their Poets & Prophets series. Buzz is also a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Recently, Buzz has been releasing a string of critically acclaimed Americana albums of original material including Troubadour Heart (2014) and Record Machine (2015), both on Plowboy Records, and his latest album, 2017’s Passion on ArenA Recordings. In 2018, Buzz released the album Billy & Buzz Sing Buddy, a tribute to Buddy Holly, with fellow songwriter Billy Swan.