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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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