Saturday, November 18, 2006
Buddy Killen: 1932 -2006
Buddy Killen, born Nov 13th 1932, Florence, Alabama; died Nov 1st 2006.
William Doyce Killen, born in Florence, not far from Muscle Shoals, moved to Nashville in 1950 aged 18 to start a career as a double bass player in the country music capital. It was here that he became involved in Tree Music, a song publishing company. In 1953, the manager of the radio station, Jack Stapp, asked him to work at his new publishing company. He would assess would-be songwriters and offer potential hits to performers. Buddy proved to be a great success.
In 1956 he was captivated when a schoolteacher, Mae Boren Axton showed him a song, Heartbreak Hotel, which he considered suitable for Elvis Presley. It established Tree Music as a major player and a grateful Stapp made Killen an executive vice-president. In the early 1960s, he discovered and recorded 15 year old Dolly Parton, before letting her leave her contract in 1964.
Killen was also a successful songwriter. In 1960, Killen wrote the US Top Ten hit Forever for the Little Dippers (an offshoot of the Anita Kerr Singers), and his compositions would include several country hits: Open Up Your Heart (for Buck Owens, 1966), I Can't Wait Any Longer (Bill Anderson, 1978), I May Never Get to Heaven (Conway Twitty, 1979), Watchin' the Girls Go By (Ronnie McDowell, 1981) and All Tied Up (Ronnie McDowell, 1986).
In 1960 he was introduced to Joe Tex. Buddy decided to move into rhythm and blues music. He admitted that he knew nothing about it when he made the decision, but it was his belief in the talent of Joe which confirmed his choice. Buddy Killen formed Dial Records in 1963, to promote Joe Tex as a recording artist. Four years of struggling to come up with a hit formula led Killen to look towards his Alabama home, and to book the Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals, to work with Rick Hall and his band. The session produced Hold What You've Got, which after Buddy had taken the reels for splicing and post-production, started a trail of hits up until Joe's retirment in 1970. They remained close friends up until Joe's death. Buddy Killen wrote Joe's comeback disco hit Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman) in 1977.
Buddy and Tree Music continued to thrive, becoming the President and owner on Stapp's death in 1980. Eventually, in 1989, he sold the company, and set up his own agency called Killen Enterprises. He continued to work successfully with new artists such as OutKast up until his death.
Buddy Killen & Bill Anderson - I May Never Get To Heaven (Sample)