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Col Buster Doss Colonel Buster Doss

Graham Lees talks with one of the most remarkable people behind country music


The celebrated impresario Colonel Buster Doss is a name highly respected as one of the leading independent record producers and the force behind the Stardust International Records label, Nashville. Born B. Marvin Earl Doss, 4 February 1925, Jefferson, Texas, USA., he was nicknamed Buster by his elder brother Benny. At the age of thirteen, Buster ran away to join a touring Old Time Medicine Show, where he soon began to learn about the music and entertainment business from the same people who trained Gene Autry, Bob Wills and Roy Acuff. He also learned conjuring and ventriloquism and in 1942 enlisted in the United States Navy where he started to produce shows to entertain the Armed Forces during World War II.After discharge in 1945, he moved to Hollywood and appeared in b-Westerns as both Bronco Buck Cody and The Cactus Kid. The Cactus Kid

Between 1946 and 1948, he did radio broadcasts from KLRA in Little Rock, Arkansas and KTFS in Texarkana, Texas and recorded for Royalty and Star Talent. In 1948 Buster became a member of the Louisiana Hayride, where he worked with several major stars including Hank Williams and Johnny Horton; he also appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1950, Buster Doss managed his first radio station at Hugo, Oklahoma but later owned seven other stations. From the mid-50s to the early 60s, he owned and operated country music's largest phone promotion unit with over two hundred employees promoting the Grand Ol Opry, the Louisiana Hayride shows, Cody's Helldrivers Thrill Shows and Marvin the Marvellous Magician.

Forming Wizard Records during 1959 in Waco, Texas, Buster Doss relocated to Nashville and was the first major independent record label to establish itself on Music Row in the 1960's. Buster Doss was also one of the founding fathers of the Outlaw movement, which is greatly associated with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. Long before the likes of Alabama, Restless Heart, and The Mavericks, the Colonel formed a band out of Austin, Texas in 1976 called Cooder Browne who led the way for other bands to walk. The Colonel signed them to Willie Nelson's Lone Star and Mercury record labels and secured for them the job of opening Willie's Fourth Of July Picnic in 1979.

One of the Colonel's artistes is Rooster Quantrell who released an excellent album of western swing on the Stardust Nashville label, featuring Buddy Emmons on pedal steel, plus Larry Franklin and Hoot Hester on fiddles, and Rooster playing piano and trumpet. 20 tracks…all written and arranged by Colonel Doss, which can often be heard on Sky Music Choice (digital) in the UK. I believe that Rooster Quantrell is the highly talented musician Donald Bradley, who plays trumpet, piano, guitar and bass and is the piano player in Mark Chesnutt's band.

I contacted Colonel Buster Doss and asked him about his career:

How did you start out in the entertainment business?

"To completely understand me... I came from a musical family and was playing shows and all string instruments by the time I was six years old. When I joined a medicine show at thirteen, I learned to be an actor, magician, comedian, ventriloquist, Master of Ceremonies, etc... so when I went into the Navy, I joined the Air Corp and started putting on shows during boot camp. A lot of the time I was the main performer since I did so many acts. After boot camp, I was put in Special Services because I Buster Doss aged 17knew a lot of the country acts. I brought them to bases in the USA and overseas."

Tell me about your time with the Louisiana Hayride.

"At the time that it started in 1948 I had a western swing band called, "Buster Doss and the Arkansas Playboys". We went down to the Hayride about once a month and performed. The last show that the Louisiana Hayride did at the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport was in 1960, and I was on and off of the show for the entire twelve years."

At one time you had management association with Billy Walker and Billy Grammer. Can you tell me a little about this?

"In 1962,1 built the second largest tent circus in America called "Bronco Buck Cody's Circus and Wild West Show". I hired Billy Grammar as my concert feature on the circus and he talked me into coming to Nashville and manage him when it closed in 1963. Not too long after, Billy Walker recorded one of my songs and asked me to manage him. I also handled Sky King, who was eleven years on the CBS Network."

How and when did you first come to know Willie Nelson?

"In the 60's, my booking agency booked fairs and concert appearances for the Louisiana Hayride acts, and a young Willie Nelson was a guitar picker on the Hayride. I formed the Cooder Browne band in 1976 and got them working with Willie. I also got them on Mercury Records and managed them for three years, but I left because I didn't like the dope scene. The only one of the Cooder Browne band I've kept up with, is the fiddle player Larry Franklin, who went from them to the Asleep At The Wheel band, and is now one of the hottest session players in Nashville, working not only on my Stardust releases, but on the albums of Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, Reba McIntyre, Mark Buster Doss with Cooder Browne BandChesnutt, etc."

You were also involved with Tracy Lawrence's early career. How did that come about?

"Tracy Lawrence came to one of my theatre's in Ashdown, Arkansas when he was about sixteen years old and stayed until he moved to Nashville."

Bluegrass artiste Rhonda Vincent is another performer whose early career you were involved with.

"Rhonda Vincent and her family called the "Sally Mountain Gang" worked for me on my Frontier Jamborees in Missouri and Texas for 5 years"

You established the career of Rooster Quantrell, a western swing artiste on your Stardust label. Why did you decide on the idea and did the name have anything to do with Quantrell's Raiders from the American Civil War history.

"The Rooster Quantrell idea came about because I have always been a fan of John Wayne, and one night I was watching television and saw him when he played a character played "Rooster", and then later that same night he was in a movie called, Quantrell's Raiders."

You have written over 500 songs...Rooster Quantrell and Pap and The Sidemen are just two of the artistes who have more recently recorded your songs, but there has also been several big name artistes who picked up on your songs, who were they?

"I've had songs recorded by Billy Walker, Billy Grammar, Eddie Arnold, Bob Wills, just to name a few."

You have mentioned your Frontier Jamborees, when did you start them?

"I built my first country music theatre in 1970 in Marceline Missouri, where Rhonda Vincent got her start, The second in Harlingen, Texas in 1974, the third in Georgetown Texas in 1976, The fourth in Ashdown Arkansas in 1982 where Tracy Lawerence and Rooster Quantrell got their start, the fifth in Mt. Pleasant Texas in 1985, The sixth in Athens Texas in 1986 and the seventh in Winchester Tennessee in 1990."

What happened with the Frontier Jamboree Theatres and Codyland Village?

"When I turned sixty-five, I sold all of the theatre's and moved to the farm where I still live and turned my concentration on Stardust Records."

Can I ask how you came by the title of Colonel?

"In the '60s, I did shows for the police and I was made a Colonel in the public relations division of the Police organisation. 11 States have bestowed the honour of Colonel on me including Bill Clinton when he was Governor of Arkansas and made me a Colonel on his staff."

Just to finish, I believe that you have received many awards for your work in country music and as a magician, how many have you received?

"I have over a 1000 awards in my offices including Hall Of Fame from the CMAA, LSSMA, ICMA, TCMA, etc. Magician of the Year, Knights of the Golden Wand. PLUS: Producer of the Year, Promoter of the Year. Songwriter of the Year and on and on !!"

Colonel Buster Doss passed away at the age of 81, August 2006.



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