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Buddy Starcher

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Buddy Starcher A radio entertainer who achieved tremendous popularity in his home state of West Virginia and selected other areas, Buddy Starcher enjoyed a long career in Country music. While having only one hit of national consequence, he nonetheless has managed to gain wide respect and influence among both fans and fellow artists. Born near Ripley, West Virginia, Buddy’s parents raised him in a remote section of Nicholas County where his Old-Time fiddler father taught his son to furnish rhythm accompaniment on guitar for square dances at an early age. As a young adult somewhat given to wanderlust, Starcher first played guitar and sang on radio at WFBR Baltimore in the fall of 1928. In 1932, he was in Washington and wrote a parody of Twenty-One Years called Bonus Blues, which chronicled the plight of the Bonus Marchers. Somewhat later he also performed over WSOC in Gastonia, North Carolina. He first attracted a wide radio audience beginning in 1933 at WCHS Charleston and somewhat later at WMMN Fairmont, both in West Virginia. He returned to these locales frequently in his musical travels. From 1937, Buddy generally associated himself with four or five other decent musicians who could provide audiences with a well-rounded variety of wholesome Country entertainment. Some of the more significant figures who worked with him over the next 20 years included guitarist/Dobroist Lee Moore, fiddlers Ted Grant and Georgia Slim Rutland, comedian and yodeler Smiley Sutter and the harmony duet of Budge and Fudge Mayse. Starcher’s wife, Mary Ann Vasas (aka Estes) also worked in his show for several years as featured vocalist on both radio and television. Outside of West Virginia, Buddy did some of his more significant radio broadcasting from such stations as WSVA Harrisonburg, Virginia, KMA Shenandoah, Iowa, and WCAU Philadelphia. Along the way he gained a reputation as an outstanding radio pitchman (salesman) that rivaled his popularity as a singer and skill as a songwriter. From the early 50’s, Buddy Starcher often appeared on television, beginning in Miami, Florida, and later back in Harrisonburg. In January 1960, he returned to Charleston and for six years had a highly rated early morning program on WCHS-TV. In addition to Buddy and Mary Ann, key figures in the show’s success included comedian-vocalist Sleepy Jeffers, the Davis Twins, guitarist Norm Chapman, lovely young Gospel singer Lori Lee Bowles, autoharpist Wick Craig, comedian-steel player Herman Yarbrough and two young singers, Darius Ray Parsons and Chester Lester. This broadcast further contributed to Buddy’s near legendary status in West Virginia and won him a new generation of fans in adjacent states as well. Although he had been popular on radio for many years, Starcher cut no records until 1946, when he did 16 sides for Four Star (14 reissued on Cattle in 1984), including the best known of his early compositions, I’ll Still Write Your Name in the Sand, a Top 10 hit in 1949. He did 10 more numbers for Columbia beginning in 1949, which included his own Pale Welded Flower and had a session for Deluxe in 1954. Buddy had several releases on Starday from the later 50’s and did an album for them in 1962. Early in 1966, he did a recitation for the small Boone Record Company entitled History Repeats Itself. It became something of a surprise hit on both the Country (Top 3) and Pop (Top 40) charts, leading Decca to buy the master and rush an entire Starcher album onto the market. It came as something of a shock to a 60-year-old with nearly 40 years of media experience. Starcher followed this with another recitation album for Heart Warming and a fine album of his appealing but unadorned singing for Bluebonnet, but generally found his experience with national stardom to be otherwise brief and a bit troublesome. By the end of 1967, Starcher returned to radio and managed stations in various locales, including KWBA Baytown, Texas, until he retired in 1976. He returned to Nicholas County and lived quietly for several years near the village of Craigsville, waxing an album for the German firm Bear Family and occasionally yielding to requests for a public appearance. With advancing age, he relocated in 1993 to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where better medical facilities existed. Other than History Repeats Itself, a clever comparison of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, Buddy Starcher has several noted songs to his credit. I’ll Still Write Your Name in the Sand and Fire in My Heart became Bluegrass classics through recordings by Mac Wiseman. Numerous artists have recorded Buddy’s Sweet Thing since the Callahan Brothers first waxed it in 1941 and Love Song of the Waterfall ranks as one of Slim Whitman’s minor classics as does A Faded Rose, A Broken Heart for both Hank Snow and Doc Williams. Starcher was also one of the first Country singers to write an autobiography (in his well printed fan club journal, Starcher’s Buddies, in 1944-1945), to have a published biography, Bless Your Little Heart in 1948 and at the age of 80 to have a second, Buddy Starcher Biography (by Robert Cagle) appear in print. Respected also for Buddy’s help to aspiring newcomers, the late Keith Whitley praised him in one of his last public interviews for the help and encouragement Buddy provided him when he was only 8 years old.

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