Portrait by Ronald McDowell

Buddy Killen

Born: Florence, AL (Nov. 13, 1932-Nov. 1, 2006)
1985 Inductee Alabama Music Hall of Fame (Lifework Award)

Long before he helped shape Nashville into a powerhouse of publishing and recording, aspiring country musician Buddy Killen left his hometown of Florence and moved to Music City less than twenty-four hours after his high school graduation.

Arriving in Nashville in 1951, Killen was hired to play upright bass for Jam Up and Honey, two black-faced comedians on the Grand Ole Opry.  He later went to work as a freelance musician, performing with top-name country acts ranging from Hank Williams, Jim Reeves and George Morgan to Cowboy Copas, Moon Mullican and Ray Price.

In 1953, Killen went to work as a song plugger for Tree Publishing, earning the princely sum of $35 a week.  The Nashville publishing company charted its first international pop success three years later, when Elvis Presley scored his first million-selling No. 1 hit with the Mae Boren Axton composition “Heartbreak Hotel” – a Tree song pitched to Presley by Killen.

Four years after that musical milestone, Tree would claim seven of the Top 10 hits on the country charts. Killen went on to bring future superstars Roger Miller, Dottie West, Dolly Parton and many others into the Tree music family.  As Killen rose to the top ranks of leadership, the company would publish some of the most memorable country classics of the 1960s, including Miller’s “King of the Road” and Curly Putman’s “Green, Green Grass of Home,” a song that became a country hit for Porter Wagoner and a pop smash for Tom Jones.

As a songwriter, Killen contributed a number of major hits to the Tree catalog, including the standard “Forever” (a hit for the Little Dippers in 1960), “Losing Your Love” (No. 2 for Jim Reeves in 1962), “Sugar Lips” (No. 3 for Dixieland jazz trumpeter Al Hirt that same year), “Open Up Your Heart” (No. 1 for Buck Owens in 1966), “I Can’t Wait Any Longer” (No. 4 for Bill Anderson in 1978), “I May Never Get to Heaven” (No. 1 for Conway Twitty in 1979) and “Watchin’ Girls Go By” (No. 4 for Ronnie McDowell in 1982).

In 1964 – Tree’s first million-dollar year – Killen extended his musical conquests into the realm of rhythm-and-blues when he brought dynamic, Texas-born singer-songwriter Joe Tex to FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals to record Tex’s first major hit, “Hold What You’ve Got.”  A year later, Killen founded his own Nashville-based label, Dial Records, as a showcase for Tex and other Southern soul and R&B acts.  He and Tex would go on to produce the high-voltage R&B hits “Show Me,” “I Gotcha,” “Skinny Legs and All” and “I Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman),” an R&B/disco dance hit which Killen co-wrote.

In addition to Tex, West, McDowell, Anderson and Parton, Killen’s work as a studio producer included recordings with the country acts Exile, T.G. Sheppard, Doug Kershaw, Louise Mandrell, Clarence “Frogman” Henry and Gunilla Hutton.  He also worked with former Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney and produced Nashville recordings by Hollywood celebrities Burt Reynolds, Dinah Shore, Jim Nabors and Jack Palance.

Killen became president of Tree in 1975, then purchased sole ownership of the company five years later.  Under his leadership, Tree International evolved into the largest country music publishing house in the world.  Killen continued to serve as the company’s chief executive officer until 1989, when he sold Tree to CBS/Sony for a reported $30 million. Two years later, he established Buddy Killen Enterprises and the Killen Music Group.  Simon & Schuster published Killen’s autobiography, By the Seat of My Pants: My Life in Country Music (co-written with Tom Carter), in 1993.

Killen’s other interests included ownership of Nashville’s Sound Shop recording studio and Music City’s legendary Stock-Yard Restaurant.  He also raised Arabian horses and helped generate millions of charitable dollars for Easter Seals.  In 2000, Killen recorded Mixed Emotions, an album of pop, jazz and country standards.  He died in Nashville of liver and pancreatic cancer at the age of 73.  At the time of his death, Killen was enjoying newfound triumphs in a fresh and different musical genre when the popular hip-hop group Outkast recorded songs from the Killen Music Group publishing catalog for the Idlewild movie soundtrack.

Chart Songs as a Songwriter


Song Title Recording Artist Chart* Year
I May Never Get To Heaven Conway Twitty 1 1979
Open Up Your Heart Buck Owens 1 1966
Losing Your Love Jim Reeves 2 1962
Sugar Lips Al Hirt 3 1964
I Can't Wait Any Longer Bill Anderson 4 1978
Watchin' Girls Go By Ronnie McDowell 4 1982
All Tied Up Ronnie McDowell 6 1986
Best Of Strangers Barbara Mandrell 6 1980
Ain't Gonna Bump No More Joe Tex 7 1977
It's Too Late Jeanne Pruett 9 1980
Ballad Of Two Brothers Autry Inman 14 1968
It's All Over Now John Anderson 15 1985
Sleep Baby Sleep Connie Hall 20 1961
Walkin' In The Rain Ronettes 23 1964
Can I Come Home To You Bill Anderson 24 1974
Never Seen A Mountain So High Ronnie McDowell 29 1980
Double $ Bill Anderson 30 1978
Lovin' A Livin' Dream Ronnie McDowell 37 1980
One That Got Away Mel Tillis 37 1982

*Chart position is based on Billboard Magazine Pop, Country, R&B, & A/C Charts. Other music industry charts may have shown higher chart positions.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Buddy Killen

William Doyce “Buddy” Killen[1] (born November 13, 1932 Florence, Alabama - November 1, 2006) was a record producer and music publisher, and a former owner of Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the largest country music publishing business, before he sold it in 1989. He was also the owner of Killen Music Group, involved with more diverse genres of music, such as pop and rap.

Killen was a bass player in the Grand Ole Opry before he was hired, in 1953, to listen to new songs in a new business started by Jack Stapp, the manager of the Grand Ole Opry. When Stapp died in 1980, Killen became the sole owner of what would become Tree International. During his early career he worked with artists such as Dolly Parton, Dottie West, Exile, Roger Miller, Joe Tex, Ronnie McDowell and T. G. Sheppard.

With his Killen Music Group, Killen published some songs on the soundtrack to the film Idlewild. He also co-published the popular "Me and My Gang" by Rascal Flatts and worked with artists such as Faith Hill, Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire and Bill Anderson.

 

Killen died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee on November 1, 2006. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

References

1^ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/buddy-killen-427363.html

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_Killen

 

 

Obituary: W.D. "Buddy" Killen, the music publisher, songwriter, record producer and musician who became one of the most influential figures in the Nashville entertainment business, has died at the age of 73. He was recently diagnosed with liver and pancreatic cancer.

'Buddy Killen will live in my heart and memory like a classic song,' Dolly Parton said in a statement. Parton said she was 15 when Killen produced her for Mercury Records - and even played bass on it. 'He was one of the very first people to see my dream. And not only did he see it, he tried to help make it come true,' she said. Referring to one of her most famous songs, Parton said, 'Buddy, I will always love you.'

Buddy Killen had a long music business career that covered both the creative and business aspects. His name is connected with hits by Elvis Presley, Joe Tex and Roger Miller, among many others. Killen began playing bass for a comedy group that appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. After the group broke up, he became a staff bassist with the Opry while playing on recording sessions and singing on music publishing demos. In 1953, Killen came to the attention of Tree Publishing founder Jack Stapp, who asked him to produce some songs on a young girl singer. Happy with the results, Stapp gave Killen a job with the then up-and-coming Tree that paid $35 a week. The music publishing company didn't have offices back then, so Killen worked out of his home, doing business at the familiar hangouts of the myriad songwriters, publishers, bookers, and others involved in the vibrant country music industry. Tree's first office was a small room Killen shared with a friend; the next was in the Old Hill building at the corner of 7th and Church, between the offices of radio station WSM on 7th and the Ryman Auditorium on 5th.

Killen was a song-plugger - he'd try to interest recording artists in covering songs from the Tree catalog. His first success came the next year in 1954 when "By The Law Of My Heart" was recorded by Mercury Records bluegrass singer Benny Martin. The first big break for Tree came in January 1956 when a young singer just signed to RCA came to Nashville to record four songs at Methodist Publishing Studios. At this session, produced by Chet Atkins, Elvis Presley recorded "Heartbreak Hotel", a song written by Mae Boren Axton and published by Tree. During spring 1956, "Heartbreak Hotel" went platinum, was a hit on country and Billboard's R&B (No.3) and pop (No.1 for eight weeks) music charts. The success of this song allowed Tree to move into new offices in the Cumberland Lodge Building in downtown Nashville.

In 1957, Stapp's friend and fellow owner of Tree, Lou Cowan, had been named head of CBS Television and had to divest his outside interests. Stapp bought Tree from Cowan and another partner Harry Fleishman. Stapp gave Killen 30 percent of the company and made him vice president. That same year, Killen was playing pinball at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge when he met a young man and his wife. He claimed to be a songwriter but was broke so Killen lent him $5 and told him to come by the office and play some of his songs. Roger Miller's songs were soon hits for a number of top acts: "Invitation To The Blues" for Ray Price, "Home" and "Billy Bayou" for Jim Reeves and "When Two Worlds Collide" for Bill Anderson. In March 1964, Roger Miller went into the studio to record his wacky, off-the-wall songs for Smash Records. His first single "Dang Me" was a No.1 country hit and peaked at No.7 on the pop charts in summer 1964. The follow-up "Chug-A-Lug" went to No.1 country and No.9 pop in fall 1964.

Another Tree staff writer Curly Putman wrote the classic "Green Green Grass Of Home", a No.4 country hit for Porter Wagoner in 1965. The song was a 1966 No.11 pop hit for Tom Jones. Putman would write other great hits: "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" for Tammy Wynette; "My Elusive Dreams" for Marty Robbins, Bobby Vinton, Charlie Rich, Roger Miller and George Jones; and "I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again" for T. Graham Brown.

1964 is the year Tree moved out of the Cumberland Lodge Building and onto Music Row. "Music Row" was the name given to the area on 16th and 17th Avenues between Division Street and Edgehill where Owen Bradley had set up a studio in his Quonset Hut in 1955. Tree purchased a building at 905 16th Avenue South, about a block from Bradley's studio.

While honeymooning in Daytona Beach, Killen received a call from his assistant Jerry Crutchfield, who excitedly explained that he'd met this great singer named Joe Tex. When he returned to Nashville, Killen met Tex and could see that he was a phenomenal talent. When record labels passed on Tex, Killen formed Dial Records, a subsidiary of Tree Publishing and began recording the singer. After a few unsuccessful singles, Tex wanted out of the deal, but Killen convinced him to let him produce one more session. One of the results of that session was a song called "Hold What You've Got". Killen re-edited the track and Dial got a distribution deal with Atlantic Records. "Hold What You've Got" went to No.2 R&B and No.5 pop in early 1965. It was quickly followed up by the double-sided hit "You Got What It Takes" (No.10 R&B) b/w "You Better Get It" (No.15 R&B). Tex went on to have 33 R&B charting singles, 28 pop charting singles, including three No.1 R&B hits. Killen produced all Tex's self-written hits. The gleeful, energetic singer died of a heart attack on August 13, 1982. Not only did Killen miss his great talent, but also his friendship.

In 1968, Tree became an international company when it opened 13 overseas offices. This move was pioneered by Jack Stapp and Tree's New York attorney Lee Eastman who set up business relationships outside the United States to help Tree get exposure throughout the world with its songs.

Tree's next major growth occurred when it purchased the Pamper Music Publishing Company, which included songs by writers like Willie Nelson, Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. They had penned such standards as "Crazy", "Hello Walls", "Make The World Go Away", "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" and "Funny How Time Slips Away". With this purchase, for $1.6 million, the country catalogue doubled in size and overnight Tree became the largest music publisher in Nashville and the largest country music publisher in the world. Tree's next physical move occurred in 1972 when they acquired the Lucky Moeller Talent Agency. Also in 1972, Tree was named country music's number one publishing company for the first time.

After 1974, Jack Stapp became Tree's Chief Executive Officer and Board Chairman, while Killen became president retaining responsible for the creative activities of the company. Stapp died on December 20, 1980, at the age of 67. At this point, Buddy Killen exercised a buy/sell agreement he and Stapp had made earlier and purchased the company and assumed sole ownership. Throughout the 1970s and '80s, Tree acquired a number of publishing companies, including those of Conway Twitty, Jim Ed Norman and the Blue Book catalogue owned by Buck Owens, which contained many of the songs from the Bakersfield group including Merle Haggard, Jim Reeves, Nat Stucky and Jerry Chesnut. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame awarded Killen the Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement in 1985.

In 1989, a new chapter in the history of Tree began when Sony/CBS purchased the publishing company from Buddy Killen for $30 million. After the sale of Tree to Sony/CBS, Buddy Killen remained head of the company but by the end of the year had stepped down to pursue other interests. During fall 1999, Killen released his own CD, "Mixed Emotions", and his autobiography, "By The Seat Of My Pants", co-written with Tom Carter and published by Simon and Schuster.

Survivors include his wife, two daughters, a stepson, two grandsons and five sisters.

(Adapted from an entry by Ed Hogan at All Music Guide)

W.D. "Buddy" Killen, music publisher, songwriter and producer:

born November 13th, 1932 - died November 1st, 2006

Source: http://www.spectropop.com/remembers/BuddyKillen.htm

More info: http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1544585/nashville-music-pioneer-buddy-killen-dies.jhtml

View Mixed Emotions by Buddy KillenLost SoulMixed EmotionsProduct DetailsProduct Details

Listen: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/buddy-killen/id184928

Listen: http://www.amazon.com/Buddy-Killen/e/B001LI87FU

Listen: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_sq_top?ie=UTF8&keywords=%2Fbuddy%20killen%2Fmusic&index=blended&pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0671795406&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0AB13Y68B1QHREHWR5H9

Book: By the Seat of My Pants: My Life in Country Music [Hardcover]: http://www.amazon.com/Seat-My-Pants-Country-Music/dp/0671795406

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgaGyvkoJV0

 

 

 

 

 

 

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