When Nashville’s musical history was written there was sure to be debate of what kind of musical town it was. According to Buzz Cason, it was and always will be a Rock-N-Roll town. For Cason, it started on March 16, 1956, when he took the stage for the first time as the lead singer of Nashville’s first ever Rock-N-Roll band soon to be known as The Casuals.
In a career that has spanned the time of six decades, Cason is a classic character whom may not be a household name, but whose fingerprints are written on the pages of Nashville’s rich music history. Cash knew him and Kris Kristofferson has praised him. It proves that you don’t need to be somebody to be somebody. The 75- year old homegrown-musician can still hold his own, and it shows on his newest studio album, Record Machine.
Cason’s first encounter with live music came with a country boy who hailed from Livingston, Tennessee, Lewis Dale. It was Dale’s idea for Cason and a few others to start their own show in his garage; a show like the Opry. Although, Cason had an interest in music, it was a Christmas gift that motivated him the most. “My cousin, who was in the Air Force had given me a pair of headphones one year from a bomber plane and a crystal radio,” Cason says. “My dad hooked it up, and that was when I discovered WLAC. My life was changed when I started hearing people like James Brown, Muddy Waters, and Joe Turner.”
Cason was hooked. He was fronting Nashville’s first rock-n-roll band The Casuals at 16. The Casuals started playing at school dances and worked their way up to playing TV appearances and opening up for household acts like Jerry Lee Lewis, and Brenda Lee.
In the 1960’s, Cason moved into songwriting and producing. He mostly would write R&B and pop tracks like ‘Everlasting Love’ by Robert Knight. “I found out about the Rhythm and Blues Review in 1955 and decided that me and my friend, Aaron Brown had to be there. The show was booked at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville by local legend, Abe Stein. The lineup included Big Joe ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ Turner, Ruth Brown, The Clovers, and Lowell Fulsom”
Cason speaks as he reflects back on the event. “We somehow worked our way behind the curtain, but in a matter of minutes we were drinking screw top wine with The Clovers. The dream had been born and I was hooked. Seeing the live performances of what up until then had been voices on the radio was exciting. Being backstage with the entertainers at such a venue had also been special. The world behind the curtain was where I wanted to be.” So that’s what Cason did. He worked behind the scenes with some of the biggest names in music.
In 1970, Cason opened Creative Workshop, the first ever studio to appear on Berry Hill. This would pin a start to the next four decades of Cason’s career. He continued to write songs, produce, and perform on many recording sessions. He’s worked with Jimmy Buffet, Johnny Cash and the Doobie Brothers, who all became close friends of Cason’s. He’s made many friends in the business, and many respect him for who He is as a music man, and as a friend. “Buzz is one of the most gifted creative artists that I have known. He has made it as a performer, recording artist, writer, producer, and publisher, and he did it all with the grace, good humor, and true humility. It is the reason he remains a relevant player in the music business today. He is living proof that nice guys do just fine, and they have the most fun,” reflects Kris Kristofferson on Cason.
Now, years later, the music man is still going strong. Many people his age are retired and have a home in sunny Florida, but not Cason. He now has 7 albums under his belt. His latest, Record Machine, released under Plowboy Records is his best yet. It’s filled with fun, folkie americana music from the first track to the very last. “Record Machine is special to me and hopefully it will be a positive experience for the listener,” says Buzz. “The record is a slice of my musical life, incorporating emotions and thoughts of recent times as well as just fun times recorded in the studio. Once again I have the support of extremely talented players and writers on this set of songs… [Guitarist] Anthony Crawford plays a key role in the record as well as the guys from my band contributing on several tracks… As the title cut says: From the first time I heard a needle hit vinyl: ‘I’ve been in love with music ever since that day!”
When asked what Cason will do next, he simply states, “I’m just going to keep working and playing. We’ll see what happens. This has never been work. I still love the thrill.”
Kara Johnson is a writer for Examiner and other social media websites. You can keep up to date with her on Twitter @AlotLikeKara