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    White, Buck (13 December 1930 – Present)

    Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter who was born H.S. White in Oklahoma but changed his name to Buck because of his idol, western movie actor, Buck Jones.  He did not follow in his namesake’s footsteps, however, instead mastering an astonishing number of musical instruments, including the banjo, fiddle, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and piano. 


    His incredible versatility and virtuosity made him a valuable musician to established stars like Lefty Frizzell and Hank Snow when they whizzed through town.  He met fellow singer Pat Goza at a live set in Abilene, Texas, and they wed in 1950.  One of his first recordings dates back to 1952, when he played piano on “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” by Slim Willett.  He was also a member of The Blue Sage Boys for a time. 


    In the early 1960s, The Whites pulled up stakes and moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas.  Soon thereafter, they hooked up with another musical family, The Johnstons (Arnold and Peggy) and co-founded The Down Home Folks.  It didn’t pay the bills, though, so Buck spent his non-performing hours as a construction worker. 


    In 1971, The Whites caught a break when they impressed at Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Festival in Bean Blossom, Indiana, and subsequently made the move to Nashville, Tennessee.  The Down Home Folks released a self-titled album the following year.  Occasionally, they are credited as “Buck White and the Down Homers”. 


    In April 1972, Buck was in the studio recording tracks with Kenny Baker, Monroe Fields, Jack Hicks, and Joe Stuart.  He played the mandolin, which would become his signature instrument.  On 17th June 1972, he made a return engagement at the Bean Blossom Festival as a member of James Monroe and the Midnight Ramblers. 


    Pat gave up the music biz in 1973 to concentrate on raising their two youngest daughters.  In the meantime, their two oldest daughters, Cheryl and Sharon, fleshed out the trio which would come to be known as The Whites.  Buck continued to make live appearances with notables such as Hank Williams, Jr., at the Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and as a bandleader of Buck White & The Down-Homers, at the First Golden State Country Bluegrass Festival in San Rafael, California, in 1974. 


    In 1976, he appeared at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas, and played second mandolin on David Grisman’s self-titled album on Rounder Records.  Buck White and the Downhome Folks released the verbosely titled In Person:  Buck White and the Downhome Folks Live at Randy Wood’s Old Time Pickin’ Parlor in 1977.  In 1978, they followed that up with Poor Folks’ Pleasure and took part in The Neptune Plaza Concert Series in Washington, D.C.  There is also apparently a live recording floating around out there entitled Buck & Family Live in Japan, a Japanese release dating from 1979. 


    Back in the States, The Whites officially appeared on their debut album, More Pretty Girls Than One, and Emmylou Harris’s Blue Kentucky Girl.  Harris, whose career was also just taking off, was so impressed with them that she asked them to open for her on the subsequent tour.  Ricky Skaggs was the leader of her Hot Band and quickly fell for Sharon, who married him in the early ‘80s.  These talents reunited for Harris’s follow-up, Roses in the Snow, on which Buck contributed keyboards, piano and vocals. 


    In 1981, The Whites enjoyed a taste of chart success with the single, “Send Me the Pillow You Dream On”, which reached a modest but promising #66 on the U.S. country chart.  More hits would follow, including “Doin’ it by the Book”, “Forever You”, “Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling”, “Hangin’ Around”, “Hometown Gossip”, “I Don’t Want to Get over You”, “If It Ain’t Love (Let’s Leave it Alone)”, “It Should Have Been Easy”, “I Wonder Who’s Holding My Baby Tonight”, “Love Won’t Wait”, “Pins and Needles”, “There Ain’t No Binds”, “When the New Wears off of Our Love” and “You Put the Blue in Me”.  In 1984, The Whites were inducted into The Grand Ole Opry. 


    Buck continued to record, with and without his daughters, throughout the 1980s and into the new millennium.  In 1987, he accompanied The Whites’ dobro player, Jerry Douglas, on the grammatically incorrect but well-received, Everything is Gonna Workout Fine.  Likewise, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band employed his services on the second volume of Will the Circle Be Unbroken, in 1989. 


    In 1990, he appeared on A Collection of Hits by Kathy Mattea and Retrospective by Mark O’Connor.  The Whites released their own Greatest Hits package and Buck played piano on Rhonda Vincent’s New Dreams and Sunshine in 1991.  In 1996, The Whites re-emerged with their first release in several years, called Give a Little Back, and Buck contributed vocals to Eddie Adcock’s Renaissance Man. 


    He was a shoo-in for inclusion in 1999’s Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza, on which his own composition, “Down Home Waltz”, appears.  For their efforts, Buck and Ricky Skaggs snagged an International Bluegrass Music Association award in 2000 for Instrumental Album of the Year. 


    The Whites entered the new millennium with another album, A Lifetime in the Making, but it was their contribution to the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Are Thou? which thrust them back into the national spotlight.  It won Album of the Year at both the Country Music Association awards and Grammy Awards and spawned the popular Down from the Mountain tour which is now available on DVD. 


    On 16th June 2002, Pat White shuffled off this mortal coil after suffering a heart attack.  The remaining Whites, who were still on tour, reunited with her in time to say their goodbyes.  Perhaps there was more than a little symbolism in 2003 repackaging of Will The Circle Be Unbroken and the subsequent Skaggs Family Christmas, which brought the two performing families even closer, and kicked off in December of the same year. 


    In 2004, Buck’s “Down Home Waltz” enjoyed inclusion on Ken Kolodner’s Journey to the Heartland.  Hunter Berry recruited him to play piano on Wow Baby! which was nominated in the category of Recorded Event of the Year at the 18th Annual Bluegrass Music Awards.  In 2007, Ricky Skaggs and The Whites released their first official recording together, Salt of the Earth, which topped the bluegrass chart and garnered a Grammy Award in the category of Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Album in 2008. 


    Other albums on which Buck can be heard include Americana Music Series:  Bluegrass, Bluegrass Spirit:  Twelve Songs of Faith, Gloryland – 30 Bluegrass Gospel Classics, and How Great Thou Art:  Gospel Favorites from the Grand Ole Opry. 


    So respected is Buck White in mandolin circles that an international contest bears his name:  Once a year, budding mandolin players vie for top honors in The Buck White International Mandolin Championship. 



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