There are some local music names that are known the world over. One of those names is Buddy Blue. Sadly, I must tell you that Buddy is no longer with us.
On the afternoon of April 2, 2006, Buddy died of a heart attack. He had a history of heart trouble, but this news has still come as a shock to our community. As news trickles out to the global music community, you can bet that many will come forward with stories about a man who could be both the life of the party as well as quite introverted.
He was probably best-known for his time spent with the Beat Farmers, but that wasn’t the only aspect of his music career. Far from it. Whether you experienced the Rockin’ Roulettes, the Jacks, the Flying Putos, the Farmers (Beat Farmers revival, of sorts), the Buddy Blue Band, or his contributions on albums from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (seriously!), a Tom Waits project (where he played guitar behind Floyd Dixon), the Rugburns (Morning Wood, on which Buddy played guitar, sang background vocals, and produced), Earl Thomas, Mike Keneally, Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs, among others, Buddy was everywhere and able to do just about anything. Radio, TV, film – he made his mark there, too.
Buddy began his real music career in San Diego with Texan-turned-San Diegan bluesman Tomcat Courtney. It was with Tomcat that he learned to play slide guitar and, according to his website, “fry catfish and dislike white people.”
For a young man who’d appeared in Fiddler on the Roof, the blues might have seemed like a strange passion. But the blues were a part of every fiber of his being. Signs of the blues were evident in his music, regardless of whatever else you heard in a particular song. And it was the blues where he was particularly well-schooled. Local talent buyers sought his opinion when obscure acts were headed in this direction. One word from Buddy was all that was needed for the act to be booked. One column on an artist was enough to draw in the masses.
The last time I saw Buddy was at a concert at Acoustic Music San Diego, a small but mighty presence in the local music community. Carey Driscoll, the man behind the vision, occasionally sought Buddy’s input. And, it always proved accurate.
There is no doubt in my mind that Buddy’s death will have a huge impact on the music community. His columns for the San Diego Union-Tribune were pure gold. They were, quite simply, the best. Who else could combine high-brow music lingo with down-home charm, add a generous dollop of heart and wit, and a heaping teaspoon of curmudgeonly wisdom to create something so readable or enjoyable? That was 100% Buddy.
I regret not having many heartwarming personal tales of him to share. Our emails and the occasional phone calls over this past year were often silly, sometimes serious, and always insightful. I will miss that connection more than I can say. And, I’ll never be able to tell him he was wrong about “Gun Sale At The Church”, which he claimed was horribly produced on the Beat Farmers’ Van Go album. Considering how many folks I know who cite this as one of their favorite songs, especially for road trips, the production didn’t seem to matter because the material stood on its own.
I’ll never be able to tell him my Country Dick Montana story, that could well have been our first personal encounter. For whatever reason, our emails had nothing to do with the Beat Farmers. I don’t know how, but we’d start off on one train of thought and then he’d distract me with a story or some sort of music trivia. One email from him would send me off on a search of “Holy Grail!” proportions. And for that, and much more, I am truly grateful.
Buddy Blue, you will be missed.
December 30, 1957 – April 2, 2006
Update: The San Diego Union-Tribune has an obituary for Buddy with more information.
(Photos of Buddy Blue were obtained from his website.)