Dothan native found the right songwriting formula to span a successful career
Lance Griffin / email@example.com
April 26, 2006
Dothan native Buddy Buie, who wrote several hit songs in the '70s and '80s and produced several others, is releasing a song called "The Day Bear Bryant Died."
It had to be a moment of intense emotion that inspired most of Dothan native Buddy Buie’s hit songs. It had to be the bliss of a starlit night with a girlfriend, or maybe just stepping out into the Wiregrass woods to breathe in nature.
Legendary songwriters have to write out of emotion, right?
Not Buie. More than 350 of his songs have been published, and most of them simply popped into his head - a word combination here, a melody there.
No magic. No fighting through tears to pen words on a moist sheet of paper. No thumping of the heart. No jumping upright in bed to dive for a pencil and notepad before the inspiration left.
“That’s a big myth,” said Buie, who grew up in Dothan and wrote a lot of songs sitting in a ‘56 Chevrolet, testing out words and melodies on friend John Rainey Adkins, who later went on to play lead guitar for legendary singer Roy Orbison.
“You just get an idea and you form it, sort of like hunting and pecking on a typewriter. You can write a pretty good sentence even if you use one finger.
“Spontaneity usually does not form great songs,” he added. “If it’s not good enough to remember, it’s usually not good enough to keep.”
In fact, Buie couldn’t even read music back then, or play an instrument. He now admits to some rudimentary music-reading skills and calls himself a “guitar owner” instead of a guitar player.
“It was just things that sounded right in my head,” Buie said. “That’s usually how it happens.”
Buie loved writing songs more than anything, but he needed to fund his habit, and he did that by booking bands and promoting shows. He was involved with a local group known as the Webs, who opened for Orbison during a concert at the Houston County Farm Center. Orbison was so fond of Buie and the band that he took them on the road with him. Buie soon became the manager.
“From there, we went to see the world,” Buie said.
What followed was a successful songwriting career that saw many of Buie’s songs hit the charts. Eight of them cracked the top 10 from 1968-1994. He soon ventured into producing and helped form the ‘70s sensation Atlanta Rhythm Section. He is a member of the Alabama and Georgia Music Halls of Fame.
Not bad for someone who kept his lyrics to himself in high school out of fear he would be ridiculed.
Buie looks back on his career with pride, and calls the first 10 years of songwriting his happiest time.
“That was some time. Your eyes are wide open and the world is your oyster,” said Buie, who not only traveled overseas with Orbison, but soon signed a songwriting deal with United Artists for $75 a week, more than decent money for that era.
From 1966 to 1980, Buie enjoyed a hot streak few only dream about. He wrote 10 songs for the group Classics IV that cracked the top 40, eight more for Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Others including BJ Thomas and Wynonna Judd have charted with Buie songs. Songs such as “Spooky”, “Traces”, “So Into You”, “Stormy”, and “Imaginary Lover” are still at the top of the playlists on many oldies radio stations. “Traces” hit No. 2 and No. 3 on the music charts in the same year (1969) by two separate artists (Classics IV and Lettermen). It has been re-recorded more than 70 times by various artists including Mel Torme, Henry Mancini and His Orchestra, Ronnie Milsap and Gloria Estefan.
The onset of music downloading over the Internet has also let Buie know his songs have not been forgotten. He says “Spooky” remains a popular download.
After the success of the ‘70s, Buie hit a valley in the ‘80s with the breakup of the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
“It was traumatic,” he said. “After having hit, after hit, after hit ... I guess it was more of an ego thing because I had already made my (money) by that time.”
Buie continues to write from his home on Lake Eufaula, but says he now writes as a hobby.
He does have one ongoing project, however, and it is one of the few songs he wrote that was born from emotion. More than 23 years ago, Buie watched the almost endless funeral processional of former University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He wrote the song - “The Day Bear Bryant Died” - almost immediately, but knew the song wouldn’t have nationwide appeal. Now, he is in the process of working with the marketing arm of the University of Alabama to make it part of the game day experience for Alabama football. It is also expected to be made available in Movie Gallery stores across the country just prior to football season.
“My goal is for that song to become an anthem for the ‘Bama nation,” Buie said.