Buster Doss

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American country star who has been involved with every aspect of the genre, from business to performing.
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b. Marvin Earl Doss, 4 February 1925, Jefferson, Texas. USA. There can be few people in the entertainment world that have been involved in more aspects of the music than ‘Colonel’ Buster Doss. The Doss family was musical and at the age of six, nicknamed Buster by his elder brother Benny, he was already playing on their shows. At 13, he ran away to join a touring Old Time Medicine Show, where he soon began to learn all about the music and entertainment business from the same people who trained Gene Autry, Bob Wills and Roy Acuff. He studied the acts of other members and soon set up his own Medicine Show. He became adept at all forms of entertainment that such shows promoted including the comedy, which varied from ‘blackface’ comedy to country hayseed characters. He also learned conjuring and ventriloquism and developed the ability to talk to his audiences. In 1942, he enlisted in the US Navy and produced shows to entertain the Armed Forces during World War II. After discharge in 1945, he moved to Hollywood and appeared in B-Western movies as both Bronco Buck Cody and the Cactus Kid. Between 1946 and 1948, he recorded for Royalty and Star Talent. In 1948, he 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.

Doss continued to promote shows and during his career, he has owned no less that seven major Frontier Jamboree shows at Marceline, Missouri; Harlingen. Mount Pleasant and Athens in Texas, Ashdown in Arkansas and Winchester, Tennessee. In 1950, he 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 with over 200 employees promoting the Grand Ole Opry, The Louisiana Hayride, Cody’s Helldrivers and Marvin The Marvellous Magician. During this time with his Brazos Valley Ranch Hands and billed as the Country Magician, he toured internationally presenting his comedy, magic, ventriloquism and straight country music and also appeared as Bronco Buck Cody in The Cactus Kid television series. In 1962, his magic act saw him voted the Number One Magician In The World by the Knights Of The Golden Wand. He also appeared at the World Fair in Seattle and in 1962-63, he extended his business and ran Colonel Buck Cody’s Pioneer Circus And Wild West Show, the world’s second largest Tent Circus. Between 1963 and 1968, he based his operations in Nashville saying ‘it was then a small community where everybody helped each other and a common love of music drew us together. Kris Kristofferson was a janitor, Roger Miller was a bellhop and you could always find Willie Nelson and Tom T. Hall plus a lot of others eating chilli down at Tootsie’s. I never moved back until 1980 and boy had it changed’.

His Wizard label, which he had formed in 1959, became the first major independent label on Nashville’s Music Row (later he also based his Stardust label there). During those years he managed several top Grand Ole Opry stars including Billy Grammer and Billy Walker. He relocated to Missouri in 1969, where he built a radio station and the first of seven Frontier Jamboree Theatres and Codyland Village, which he owned and operated. In 1975, a second theatre opened in Harlingen Texas with a theme park named Six Shooter Junction. In 1976, he settled in Austin, where he became involved with the ‘Outlaw’ movement. He formed the more contemporary group Cooder Browne, which recorded for Lone Star and Mercury Records and worked as opening act for Willie Nelson. In 1979, he organised the Press for Willie Nelson’s Fourth Of July Picnic and has been regularly in demand for lecture tours based on his extensive knowledge of the entertainment business and also lectured on Journalism at the University of Texas. During the 80s, he continued to open his theatres even in 1983 finding time to play the lead in the Vitonka Medicine Show at the American Place theatre on Broadway, New York. Since 1948, he has produced several thousand recordings for numerous artists. In spite of the hectic life, he also found time to write songs; long ago he lost count of the number actually written but maintains that over 500 have been recorded.

In 1988, he returned to Tennessee and set up his home and offices at Billy Goat Hill, Winchester on a bluff near the Elk River stating ‘I am only 88 miles from Nashville but in another world’. In more recent years, the Colonel, as he is affectionately known, has devoted his experience to recording and promoting new talent which includes such fine artists as Rooster Quantrell and Troy Cook Jnr. He is dismissive of the modern country scene saying ‘There are too many Country Music Awards shows now they have diluted its value. I’m expecting them to walk out on television and give an award for the good fried taters served that night’.

In 1990, the German Binge label released an album containing recordings made by the Doss band in 1959 and previously released on the Wizard label. Among the tracks are several vocals by Doss. Other examples of his recordings have appeared from time to time on compilations on the Stardust label. He first acquired the title of Colonel in 1964 when he was honoured by the State and made a Kentucky Colonel for his services. Since then 11 other States have also bestowed the same honour including Arkansas (when Bill Clinton was State Governor). The Buster Doss story is unique in that how one person has managed to fit so much into his life. At the beginning of the new millennium he still maintains a hectic schedule. He once said ‘If you can find anyone in the music business who can come close to my track record - I’ll show you a tree that a bird never lit in’.