He could use his instrument to summon images of both a "Nervous Breakdown" or a "Nightingale Waltz", and in fact these happen to be the titles of two of Buck Ryan's classic singles for Mercury, cut when that label went on a bluegrass binge in the late '50s. To have such range on the fiddle would have taken oodles of practice, and to play "Orange Blossom Special" the way this fiddler did, leaving the rosin's share of his compatriots back in the sticky dust, would have taken even more. The type of constantly woodshedding fiddler, always seen either carrying or cradling his instrument, often have their names appended with a "fiddlin'" prefix, and that's just the case, as in violin case, with Fiddlin' Buck Ryan, as he is predictably credited on some of his most high-profile gigs.
This fiddler's fiddlin' has been captured on recordings strewn hither and yon across the bluegrass hills and valleys. Ryan was also part of an elite group of bluegrass instrumentalists who were granted extended television exposure on variety shows that featured the genre heavily. Both Ryan and sidekick Roy Clark provided an enjoyable, often amusing visual element to the episodes of the Jimmy Dean Show, more than proving the entertainment potential of bluegrass on the livingroom box. On the live bluegrass circuit, Ryan was most often identified as a member of Bill Harrell and the Virginians. The fiddler was part of this group's premiere line-up in 1960 along with the fine Stoney Edwards on bass. This group cut its first album The Wonderful World of Bluegrass Music in 1963, following it up two years later with the even more successful Ballads and Bluegrass. The Harrell group hosted its own television program out of Harrisonburg, Virginia, toured frequently and began appearing as guests on Dean's network series. Ryan fiddled with Harrell off and on for more nearly 40 years, including many appearances on the Grand Old Opry, WWVA's Jamboree, and The Today Show. While many presidential cabinet members fiddle around, Ryan is the bluegrass artist who has fiddled for the most presidents, and also was requested to give a special performance for the members of the United Nations. Bill Harrell and the Virginians were voted into the Virginia Country, Bluegrass and Folk Music Hall of Fame in 1995. One of the finest examples of Ryan's playing on record is a 1971 bluegrass super session in which former Bill Monroe Bluegrass Boys Vassar Clements and Clarence "Tater "Tate" engage in severe fiddle mayhem with Ryan and Dale Potter. Some of Ryan's speciality numbers include "Lee Highway Blues", "Kentucky Running Dance" and of course "Orange Blossom Special", which was one of his big show-stoppers on the Dean series. In fact, here is a typical TV Guide synopsis for a vintage Dean episode: "Jimmy Dean is joined by Mary Clark, Fiddlin' Buck Ryan, Peter Castle and Quincy Snodgrass. Jimmy leads off show with the classic "Bummin Around". Mary Clark sings "Big Fat Girl Like Me". Fiddlin' Buck Ryan plays "Orange Blossom Special". Ryan also recorded with country and western gentleman Jim Reeves.