Golden Guitar winner Buddy Weston shares lessons from a lifetime of experience
“I’m a howlin’ cattle camp crooner, I’m an old time dinosaur, hey, let me sing where the rafters ring, in an old time country hall.” – Slim Dusty, ‘Old Time Country Hall’
Singer songwriter Buddy Weston has been in the music game for nearly 60 years and shared the stage with some of the biggest names in Australian Country music, including Reg Lindsay, Tex Morton, Buddy Williams, Rick and Thel Carey, Gordon Parsons and Smoky Dawson.
Buddy has won numerous awards over the years, including the coveted CMA Heritage Song of the Year Golden Guitar at Tamworth in 1991 for his song ‘Thistles on the Hillside’.
The song was recorded by travelling show legend, Brian Young after being turned down by Slim Dusty, John Williamson and Eric Bogle.
In 1993 Buddy was inducted into the Tamworth Hands of Fame for his significant contribution to Australian country music.
He is also the member of an exclusive club, which includes octogenarian Chad Morgan, the last survivors of the golden age of travelling performers who toured the highways, byways and backroads of Australia performing wherever a crowd could be gathered.
Today he lives with his wife Beth in Gladstone, Central Queensland, and is still performing, writing and recording music.
Buddy also has some sound advice for anyone hoping to make their mark in the Australian country music industry.
First the Bad News – It’s a young person’s game
“You’ve got to do it while you’re young,” Buddy said.
“Forget it if you’re over 40.
“You’re selling yourself and the buyer wants the image of someone young and good looking, because that’s half the battle, looking pleasant on the album cover and posters.
“It’s all about your image.
“How many bad songs have come out, with a young good looking person on the cover where the picture sells the album.
“We all put pics on our posters that are about 10 or 15 years younger, – no one puts their current picture on their posters, not even the politicians!
“You put your best photo on it, and it might be hanging up in some hall for 20 years.
“Actually, I wrote a song about it, called picture on the poster, about telling how our pictures never get any older.
Now the Good News – You only need one song
“Country music is a style where you can live off one song all your life and still pull people,” Buddy said.
“with most other styles, you have to keep re-inventing yourself.
“Country artists have been living off there one song all their lives.
“If you’ve got a good song and it’s well received, you can use it as your title track and name your album after it.
“Many a time an album has been sold off one good song.
“Slim Dusty’s ‘Lights on the Hill’ came out as a single and when it was put onto an album, it became gold.
“Slim Newton, ‘Redback on the Toilet Seat’, Jimmy Little, ‘Royal Telephone’, Slim Dusty’s, Pub With No Beer are some of the Artists that use one song as a Headliner. Your best song is the one people want to hear.
“If you put an album when you’re just starting, I feel is a waste of money, best to try a single, with your best song and see how it goes.
“Just the one song will do, it can do the trick.”
Writing that ‘One Song’
“If you’re a person who can write poems and not too good at melodies then try and find someone who can play an instrument and help you out.
“Then there are others who can write melodies and try to fit words to it.
“Personally, I like to write a story first.
“For example, ‘Once upon a time a man came over a hill to buy a car.’
“You take off the ‘Once upon a time’ then put in the name for the bloke, and the hill and come up with something like, ‘Bill came over Camron Hill to buy a brand new car’.
“Or in some cases I might see something like the time I was sitting in a café in Charter’s Towers and there was a poem on the wall about some horses and underneath it Kelly Dixon had written, ‘I still prefer some horses to some men.’
“I thought ‘What a great line!’ and that’s how I wrote the song.
“Sometimes a great idea will come to you in a flash, like my song, ‘Bless Those Saddle Years That I Remember’ which resulted in the “Song Wind of Memories”.
Top Tip – Get Some Help
“I was lucky to have Slim record my songs, which gave them a sort of stamp of approval
“Somewhere along the line, all artists have had someone lend them a hand,
“It’s hard to do it on your own.
“Festivals are a good place to start where you can approach top artists tell them you’re a song writer and you’d like their feedback on your songs.
“If it’s only a poem, you’ve just got to hope they like it and put a tune to it”.
Buddy’s advice for songwriters who can’t sing or play?
“If you have a little notebook full of songs, have your work looked at by other people.
“If they feel it has merit perhaps, they’ll record it or recommend someone you can send it to.
“The thing is to try and present your song as professional as you can.
“It makes all the difference when an artist can here the finished product.
“But it’s got to be tidied up, packaged before being sent.”
Buddy’s Final Note on Writing a Country Song – Do your homework
“A lot of today’s song writers haven’t lived or worked on farms,” he said.
“There outback knowledge is mostly limited to saddles and bridles, and there’s so much more to station life than a stockman on his ‘leather clad throne’.
“You must do your homework, for I will tell you there’s plenty of people out there who will quickly tell you if you get it wrong.”
“I had more than one mentor because you can’t just rely on one,” Buddy said.
“From each artist you’ll learn something.
“While I was performing with Buddy Williams, I learned stage craft. How to use a microphone etc
“I’d watch him onstage, how he did his act, but mainly what I learned was how he overcame his downfalls.
“Sometimes he’d walk onto the stage and he wouldn’t be able to hear because his ears would be blocked from a bad cold or something, he’d look at us and ask if his guitar was in tune!
“So, I learned no matter how sick you are, the show must go on.
“Chad Morgan was extremely good on stage too; He’s a master of audience control, you couldn’t help pick up some of the things he did.
“From Slim Dusty I learned to have a show standard.
“Before I’d do something, I’d ask myself, ‘Could I see Slim doing this?’, and if I couldn’t, I wouldn’t do it.
“Slim was a polished artist, a real professional.
“You couldn’t imagine him without a good band, good lights, good costumes and a good tight show.
“So, I’d use him as an example and make my own shows better.”
The Secret – You still need an Agent
“Money” is most important, Buddy said. Without it, it can be a bit of a struggle
“That’s where agent’s come in, they have the contacts, that’s the secret.
“A good agent will advise you on the best songs to preform and how to present yourself
All this is most important if your selling cd’s etc on your shows, with the cost of recording being so expensive
“If your young and still relatively inexperienced they can guide your career
“It might not be you but hang in there, that’s how you get your foot in the door.”
Who is Buddy Tuning into Lately?
“Today I listen to Jeff Brown, he’s got a good sound,” he said.
“Keith Jamieson (Bush Balladeer from Bouldercombe west of Rockhampton) also writes a good song.
“I also appreciate Keith Urban; he deserves everything he’s got because he worked hard.
“I recall how he mowed lawns in Nashville to keep going until he got himself known.”
“I’m still writing and recording, even some up-tempo songs which are a bit ‘rocky’,” Buddy said.
“And I’ve just started putting my songs on YouTube.”