L: Buzz you started your career at the local talent show "White
Chrismas" which was a Noel Ball Saturday Showcase. Did you think
that this would be your first step to the big business? And how did
it happen that you went to this talent show, which aired on WSIX-TV?
Did you perform?
C: I got invited to go on the show by Jim Seymore who was a fellow
art student. He said how would you like to go do a production
lip syncing White Christmas by Bing Crosby? A bunch of kids from
our school and a bunch of other schools were gonna be in this
production, that's not my thing. I was more interested in art
at the time. Well there will be a lot of girls...I said I'll do
it! I'll tell you what when I saw the lights in the T.V. studio
for the first time I really liked the atmosphere and Jim and I
went on to do a few sets then I started lip syncing my own solo
records and that led to meeting the band.
L: You met with musicians at the Television station and formed Nashville's
first Rock -n- Roll band The Casuals tell us about that part of your
C: While I was working at the T. V. station I met Richard Williams,
Chester Power, Johnny McCrary and Bill Smith part of Richard Williams
and his trio and I had never seen live music on that level. I
had seen it at a church or the Grand Ole Opry or something like
that but I had never seen a little amateur band like that so I
eventually worked my way into the band by leaving my records at
home. I showed up at Lebanon Tn. March 16, 1956 without any records.
The manager had said leave those records at home and you'll have
to sing. I did, they were very nice and let me sit in I did Blue
Suede Shoes for my first song I ever did on stage as a solo and
it went over well so the band accepted me and then I would later
on name them The Casuals.
L: You wrote your first song "My Love Song For You" with
Richard Williams. Who brought the story to the song and the melodies?
And what's the story behind this song, which was placed on your first
album with your band The Casuals?
C: As well as I recall I wrote most of the lyrics and Richard
kind of helped me, he was more the musician. I could just barely
play guitar or piano at the time I had piano lessons as a kid
but I couldn't improvise well at that time. I wrote most of the
lyrics and Richard helped the most with the harmonies and with
the melody part of it.
L: Tell us about your collaboration with Bobby Russell and what he
meant to your career.
C: I met Bobby in about 58' in a little studio that was above
what is now Tootsies Orchid Lounge. The café was called
Mom's. I met Bobby who went to Hillsboro High School and I went
to Litton. I was from East Nashville and he was from the West
End so we were kind of rivals in football and schools and everything.
He asked if I wrote songs, I said yes though I had only written
one. He said do you want to write? I said yeah. We wrote Tennessee
which we put out under the name The Todd's and it got covered
by Jan and Dean. Then we wrote another one called Popsicle that
also got covered by The Todd's and it was the beginning of a life
long friendship. I guess Bobby would be the single most influential
person in my musical career, at least the writing end of it.
L: You seem to have worn every hat in the business, is there any job
you haven't done?
C: I haven't directed a movie yet I haven't gotten into that field
yet; I've probably tried to do too much. I spread myself too thin
but it has been an adventure it's been fun and I would really
love to work on a film project as a script writer or something
like that. That along with art was what I had originally set out
to do, I set out to do some sort of dramatic thing, which I never
really did except for piddling around with some videos but I have
tried a little bit of all of it.
L: You've recorded with several different groups and also under the
name Gary Miles how many names or groups have you recorded under,
and have you ever recorded under your own name?
C: A lot of them are very obscure names, my first record was
out as The Casuals on New Sound records and then Dot records
and then I did a record under the name of 'The Statues' with
Hugh Jarrett and Richard Williams and actually Mary John Wilkin
was background part of that for Liberty records. We had a chart
breaker called 'Blue Velvet' on Liberty and later on in the
60's when I went to work for Liberty records in California in
62. In about 63 and 64 I was part of The Crickets I produced
them I was just some little bit of background for them mainly.
The Crickets sang their own stuff then.
I moved back to Nashville I was part of Ron and The Daytona's
when the Sandy record came out. I actually sang on the Sandy
album I did sing on GTO which was their big hit and then I was
a Chipmunk in 1964, I played the part of Alvin for The Chipmunks,
"Sing the Beatles." When Larry Butler co-produced
'Urban Chipmunk' I was in that.
I also did a television show that was kind of a funny little
deal, then I did put out a record. I had one record on Warner
Bros under Buzz Cason, this was after the Gary Miles thing.
I had a couple of releases on Liberty. 'Look for a Star' was
the top 20 record out of that. Then I put out a couple of records
under my own name. I put out one under the name BC and the Darts
which was a Rockabillie record in 1986 and that's about it up
to know. I do have a record called 'East of Nashville' which
is on the Rena recordings which is one of our labels and that
came out in 2000 and then I have this Six Pack that is an acoustic
album that sort of goes with the book.
L: You have had a long and successful career as a songwriter how are
the songs you write today different than the ones you wrote earlier
in your career?
C: I'd like to say maybe they are a little better, I don't know
if they are different or not. It's kind of hard to change with
the times, I've been blessed with some great co-writers. "Loves
the Only House" was the last big song co-written with Tom
Douglas who's a genius of a writer, a great writer and singer
himself. In fact we started out writing that song for him as
kind of a little writer project. Then this last year 03 and
part of 04 we had a pretty good secondary record with the Oak
Ridge Boys called Glory Bound which was written with a very
talented writer named Anthony Crawford who's now a member of
L: Can you remember how many #1 hits you wrote and how it felt when
you heard for the first time you had a #1 hit?
C: I'm not sure as far as writing if I've had but a couple of
number one's I had one called Ann Don't Go Running for Tommy
Overstreet back in the 70's. Everlasting Love went number one
as a dance record then went number one for Gloria Estafon in
Easy Listening charts. I have published several songs that have
been number one and actually Martina's got to number two. The
video went to number one but "Love's the Only House"
got to number two. Yesterday I was making a long drive 600 hundred
miles from Myrtle Beach to Nashville I had just been on the
phone talking to my co-writer Matt Gayden who co-wrote Everlasting
Love then the 1974 version came on the radio and it's still
a thrill. I remember guys like us would do anything to get a
record on the air. They ask us now why'd you sign such a bad
contract? We were not worried about the contract we wanted to
hear our self on the radio.
L: You're the owner of Creative Workshop Studios in Nashville. Please
tell more about the studios and how you got the idea for it.
C: The studio was started in 1970 here in Berry Hill, Tn., which
is now a studio community, we were the first business here actually.
My partner Bobby Russell and I were one block over on Bransford
in about 69 it was just an office, we planned a studio. Then
he married Vicky Lawrence from the Carol Burnett show and moved
to the coast, and we split the partnership up. I moved here
on Azalea Place and built Creative Work Shop in 1970 and Travis
Turk was my engineer we had co-discovered Jimmy Buffet so we
recorded Jimmy Buffet's second album here at Work Shop when
it was an eight track studio. It went from eight to sixteen
and now digital. It's really been fun, we've had everybody from
the Doobie Bros. and Leon Russell to Meryl Haggard, Roy Orbison
and just a slue of country stars. The number one record "Bluer
that Blue" by Michael Johnson. Just When I Needed You Most
by Randy Van Morimer. Ol,ivia Newton Johns 1976 album "Don't
Stop Believing." Jimmy Buffet part of his "Havana
Daydreaming" as well as High Cumberland Jubilee just a
lot of records have been cut here a lot of great artists have
come through these doors it's been fun.
L: T.G. Sheppard,Martina McBride, U2, Pearl Jam are only some of your
clients. Is there a time where clients are friends? And are there
some that are really good friends and is there an story behind it?
C: Martina's our neighbor in the studio next door and I would
say she's a friend. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Gloria
Estaphan Pearl Jam or U2. I met one of the Beatles I met Ringo.
A lot of times you are just a little name in fine print not
really a part of their career other than just providing a song
I mean I'm a friend with some artists but not necessarily the
one's who have cut my songs.
L: Living The Rock'n Roll Dream, is not a song from you, it's a book.
What inspired you to write a book? And what can the interested reader
C: People would ask me why don't you write a book when we would
be sitting around telling stories. Finally Bill Lloyd of Foster
and Lloyd asked me one night man why don't you write a book?
Your about the upteenth person to ask me that I think I'll go
do it, so I had already started it. I just complied all these
stories to see what would happen. I was fortunate enough to
have a lot of pictures and a lot of photographs gathered together
and just did an outline of my career. I didn't want it to get
too complicated or be a history book of the music business or
a reference book but more of a story a fun trip from a guy starting
out from humble beginnings and a little Rock n Roll band traveling
all over kind of achieving his goals and dreams. It's about
the people I've met. I had someone tell me they really weren't
looking forward to reading it until they got into it then they
realized it was all about everybody else. I have a little part
in the middle called celebrity snap shots it just has little
paragraphs about meeting interesting people Martin Luther King
Jr. Frank Sinatra, Kris Kristopherson just different people
like that. It's kind of a collection of memories.
L: How did it happen that Brenda Lee wrote the foreword for the book?
first worked together in the late 50's maybe as 12 years old.
The Casuals backed her up and became her back up for many years
after that, her manager had a vision of a teenage band backing
his teenage artist and he tried us out in Rockford, Il. in about
58' and it worked out well. We traveled all 50 states with her,
the band became a big part of her show, and she was having one
hit right after the other. She had just tons of hits in a row
and we were with her during all that. We remained friends and
she was kind enough to write this forward. I was honored to
be part of her book when she did her biography a couple of years
ago and Robert Orman and her daughter Julie interviewed me for
that. It was really a nice thing, she and her husband Ronnie
had been friends with my family for years.
L: You begin one chapter with Hello Elvis. What's the story about
you and Elvis?
C: We first met Elvis when we were promoting a record "The
Hotel Chizka" for Duey Phillips who was the first disc jockey
to ever play an Elvis record. We had been tipped off by Wink Martindale
and George Cline who hosted T. V. shows that if we went to The
Chizka at about 9 at night we'd get a chance to meet Elvis sure
enough we pulled up in front and there was a black Cadillac pulling
off he was dressed in black and shoed the kids off the back off
the car and he took off. I said well we saw Elvis but when we
got inside Duey Phillips kept saying Elvis will be back so we
went in and did our interview and sure enough right when we came
out of the studio and turned the corner we ran smack into Elvis.
I happened to have my camera with me and that's were I got the
shot we used in the book. He had just purchased Graceland and
tell Uncle Vester to let ya'll on the front porch and clown around
and make some pictures we did and then later on we partied with
him in California during one of his movie shooting sessions, we
jammed, we sat at the piano and played. We sang for hours it was
really fun then after he had passed away I sang background on
some of his songs that were country cuts. His last track Way on
Down which was his last hit before he passed away the tracks were
cut here. They couldn't get his vocals on here but the tracks
were cut here at Creative Work Shop.
L: You wrote in the book about the meeting with Chubby Checker in
1960 as Gary Miles. Did he know the secret about you? And how was
it to meet Chubby Checker?
C: You mean the name, I guess he did, we worked a long tour with
him in 1960. Show of stars featured Chubby and many headliners
were on the show. Then we did a Hawaiian tour with him, when we
arrived my record was above Chubby and above Brenda and that was
kind of neat. I'm sure he knew the story that they had covered
the name that the original was Gary Mills and that I came out
under the name of Gary Miles what's ironic about that is Liberty
records wound up owning both versions. Not long after that Liberty
purchased Imperial records which had the Gary Mills record on
it.It was kind of a point of embarrassment for me covering a guys
name it would never happen again it was an amazing quirk in Rock
history for something like that.
L: It looks like that everything came from your hand turned to gold.
How is the book going?
C: I was just informed a couple of weeks ago we are going into
a second printing which is a good sign. I've been so busy promoting
I don't know whether it's selling or not.I know we sell a few
when we go out to the book signings. We leave here and June 15th
will be in Milwaukee June 17 th Chicago. Then kind of a gulf event
in the Bahamas. We are going to do a West coast swing after that.
We've been to Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Washington and
Myrtle Beach last month.
L: The book is just only in English. Do you plan to publish in different
C: If there are I don't know. I understand the book is coming
out in England July 15th I don't know how that end of it works
but now that you mention that I will definitely bring that up
with the publisher to see if it is going to be in other languages.
L: Can you tell us something about your new project or is it a secret?
C: I'm working on a book deal which I can't announce yet but it
involves another old Rock - n - Roller and stories about the older
days and of course I'm always writing songs always producing so
I've got some things up my sleeve for that pretty soon.
L: After all you have achieved in your life are there any mountains
left to climb?
C: There's been some talk about this book Living the Rock - n-
Roll dream being a little movie about us. I visualize it 50's
60's feature length video using all the records from that era.
The Chubby Checker, Brenda Lee, Fats Domino, Little Richard thrown
in with some of the stuff I had something to do with. I'd like
to be involved with that. That would be one goal that I would
be involved with the filming of something and if not just to see
my younger son get started in business or both my son's interested
in the music business, Taylor and Parker they are kind of wanting
to move on into it and I'm hoping to help launch their careers.
L. Thank you for this interview.
more information on this incredible artist please visit www.rockabillyhall.com