Yesterday And Today
Retrospection in “Blue” Buddy’s Many Hats, Part 2
In last month’s issue–the tenth anniversary of Buddy Blue’s death–we looked at Buddy’s growth as a songwriter and his time with the Rockin’ Roulettes and the Beat Farmers, the latter group earning Buddy an international following. He then celebrated his Syracuse, New York roots when he created the Jacks. At their peak period, the band featured the formidable lineup of keyboardist Mighty Joe Longa, bassist Chris Sullivan, drummer Jack Pinney, and saxophonist (and ex-Rockin’ Roulette) Dana “Kid Tater” Garrett. Buddy was also a studio rat, a side to the musician Sven Erik-Seaholm remembered well. In part two, we look at Buddy’s equally impressive journalism career, his final years as a husband and father, and his enduring legacy.
THE FOURTH ESTATE HAT
Buddy’s way with a creative phrase wasn’t limited to the lyrics of his songs. He was also a prolific journalist and a valid statement could be made that more people read a Buddy Seigal or Buddy Blue article or music review than saw him on stage or heard his recordings. Perhaps the two publications that offered him his largest reading audiences were the alternative O.C. Weekly and the San Diego Union-Tribune, where his “Blue Notes” column elicited either chuckles or profanities at breakfast tables around the county. He was also a fan of pugilism, and he provided insightful commentary on the sport for The Ring magazine, the boxing bible. Buddy’s earliest fan base for his flair with a sharp pen came when he was an editor for The G, the Grossmont College newspaper. “Buddy was an amazing, if gruff, editor,” recalled Barry Benintende, a G staff writer from 1982 to 1985. “He was never afraid to tell you exactly what he thought of an article. Buddy was amazing when it came to grammar, punctuation, stylebook, and keeping you on point. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of music that came in handy when settling staff arguments. An older staffer and I were having a pretty heated discussion about the band Rockpile. I insisted that there was only one Rockpile album and the rest were either Nick Lowe albums or Dave Edmunds’ albums with Terry Williams and Billy Bremner joining in unofficially because of contracts and labels. The other guy insisted it was because Nick and Dave demand total artistic control of their solo stuff. About ten minutes into the two of us arguing minutiae, Buddy looks up from his editing and says, ‘Idiot number one [meaning me] is right. Idiot number two, where’s your feature? I need something to laugh at.’ He was all business when we would discuss the previous week’s issue in staff meetings and during assignments, but afterward, he would lighten up and talk about anything. He held respect in a room full of the hippies and young Republicans that made up our staff. ‘I’d vote for a Democrat if a real one would run,’ he said more than once. One of the guys on staff was a very serious Republican. You could not discuss anything around him without it becoming an opportunity to preach the value of supply-side economics, or the genius Ronald Reagan. He didn’t just dislike Democrats, he was convinced he was put on this Earth to convert every liberal. He would spend hours with Buddy laughing, listening to Dire Straits and be amazed by Mark Knopfler’s playing. Buddy could make a hardcore political junkie his friend. Which is odd, since Buddy lacked most social graces. If you could hold an interesting conversation, he would talk for hours. If you bored him, he was done rather quickly.
“The one thing that kept me sane my freshman year was walking into the G office and seeing him behind his desk. He’d look up and grumble good morning. I’d look at him and ask a different question about writing every time I saw him. I took any assignment they would give me. It didn’t matter if it was covering tennis or interviewing the new counselor who answered every question with one word answers. I didn’t care, I wanted to learn. After a few weeks, Buddy either got used to the idea that this pudgy kid with the electric blue portable typewriter strapped to his back wanted to conquer the journalism world. And I wanted Buddy to teach me how to do it. He was a great teacher, provided you listened and applied his coaching. I showed him I was willing to work, and he was generous with his time and boundless wisdom.”
THE HAT OF LEGACY
There is power in a fan base, and one of the individuals who kept Buddy Blue’s memory alive over the years was fan Lance Richardson. Not surprisingly, Lance’s story comes from Buddy’s home base of San Diego’s East County. “I was still at Grossmont High School when Buddy disbanded the Rockin’ Roulettes to join Dan McClain and Jerry Raney in the Beat Farmers, so while I wasn’t old enough to get into the early Spring Valley Inn or Bodie’s shows, I was lucky enough to catch them at one of the first Street Scene festivals downtown,” said Richardson. “I was blown away and came away thinking that they were obviously going to be the biggest band in the world. I loved everything that the original lineup did, but Buddy’s songs were my favorite. The band I’m currently in covers ‘Gunsale at the Church,’ and we’d happily add several other Buddy songs if we thought we could do them justice. When Buddy left and formed the Jacks with Jack Pinney, Chris Sullivan, Dana Garrett, and Mighty Joe Longa, ‘Sully’ was working at Tower Records in Fletcher Hills, close to where I lived. I bought The Jacks Are Wild at that store, from Chris working behind the counter. I still love that record. I continued to follow Buddy when he started the Buddy Blue Band, still the best of all the jump blues revival acts of the early and mid-nineties.”
Richardson explained that after Buddy’s death, “a bunch of us who frequented the guestbook [Buddy Blue Guest Book, or “BBGB”] at his website bounced around the idea of recording some of his songs as a tribute. There were a lot of good musicians on that guestbook, so what started as some drunken yahoos mourning the loss of a pal evolved into a bona fide recording project involving artists from around the globe. I was probably the least qualified point man for the project, so I was the obvious nominee to produce the thing. I was a producer in name only, as it was really produced by the artists and by Sven-Erik Seaholm, without whom I would never have been able to get the job done. A bit of shameless promotion here… there are still copies available at CD Baby (cdbaby.com/cd/goldminebuddyblue).”
An excerpt from the tribute CD cover notes explained the mission: “Of course, Buddy had a LOT of friends. As charismatic as he was talented, Buddy was invariably the coolest guy in the room. Still, he made each of his friends feel special, as if they were his BEST friend. I know that those who frequented the guestbook at Buddy’s website all felt that way. Fans from across the globe found their way to buddyblue.com and stuck around to engage in banter inane, profane, and profound with Buddy and the international cast of characters he had drawn.
Most of these people would never have the privilege of meeting the man in person, but they all loved him, and he loved them back. On April 2, 2006, Buddy Blue left us far too soon, as none of us was quite done with him.
Following Buddy’s passing, Richie “the Flying Hippo” Evans, a guestbook veteran from Scotland, suggested that the musically inclined members of the guestbook (of which there were many) ought to record covers of Buddy-penned tunes, in tribute to their late friend. What has resulted is a startlingly eclectic album made up mostly of contributions from the folks at the Buddy Blue Guest Book, but with additional tunes from Romy Kaye, the Farmers, and a few others.
“Goldmine…The Songs of Buddy Blue is a tribute to our dear friend, gone but never to be forgotten. Proceeds from record sales will assist in the funding of the education of Lulu, Buddy’s beloved [and excessively cute] daughter. We hope he’s proud of what we’ve done.” –Lance Richardson 9/10/07, El Cajon, California.”
HIS FAVORITE HAT
Finally, there was Buddy’s favorite hat, which served the dual purpose of being husband and father. His world revolved around his wife, Annie, and their three-year-old daughter, Tallulah (Lulu). After a busy day of playing with kids during a birthday party for his wife in their La Mesa home, Buddy retired for a well-earned siesta, only to suffer a fatal heart attack. Readers who woke up the next day to read George Varga’s April 3, 2006 account in the Union-Tribune were stunned.
Forward to 2016: Annie is remarried, and Lulu, now 13, has a full plate as a middle school student. “The last ten years have been amazing, but there have been some hard times,” Lulu revealed. “Yes, my mom did get married to an amazing guy named Gary. I know my dad would have loved him. When I was at the age of nine or ten, that is when I started to understand how my dad passed away. I was almost four years old and when he died, I didn’t understand why. I really miss my dad. I know he is watching me right now. My friends and family help me. There have been times when some people have said mean stuff about me not having a dad, but I don’t let that get to me. I have taken piano and guitar, but right now I prefer playing volleyball, swimming, school, and hanging out with my family. I have two dogs named Bogie and Roscoe that I know my dad would have loved because they are so silly and he loved animals. My mom and grandpa share videos of my dad. I also have looked him up on the internet. Family and friends come over and tell stories about when he was here. We laugh, cry, and listen to music. Gary has a drum set; I have a piano and some guitars. We just goof around with a little music. I do have an interest in my English class and learning new languages such as Spanish Those are my two favorite classes currently in middle school.”
Annie remains amazed by the fan base, especially those who supported the college fund-raising project for Lulu. “The experiences were heartfelt and kind,” said Annie. “It was cathartic for some of the musicians and friends left wondering why Buddy was taken so quickly and at such a great time in his life. Many people liked the benefits as an outlet to express their sorrow and their appreciation for what Buddy stood for and what he contributed to the San Diego music scene. Many San Diego clubs did fund raising for Lulu; it was such a grassroots effort to say goodbye and do it creatively through music.
“The owners of Pete’s Place in La Mesa–Michelle, Johnny, and Scott–really did the most charity events. They officially took the all the proceeds down to a bank to open up a Lulu’s Blue’s College Fund. Pete’s Place was Buddy’s neighborhood bar; it was his getaway, a place to meet friends and have a pint. Pete’s bartender, Sheila, still dedicates a toast at the bar, pouring only Gentleman Jack in honor of Buddy on his birthday and on the day he passed. They always send me love on those days.”