Buddy Bishop

Buddy Bishop was born at a little place called Tinonee, near Taree, in the Manning River district of New South Wales, Australia, on 3rd August, 1923.   He lived and worked on his father's dairy farm at Bootoowaa, six miles from Tinonee, until he was seventeen.

Buddy came from a fairly musical family.   His father could play several brass band instruments as well as button accordion and concertina, his mother played the piano and both could read music.  Eldest brother Tom played lap steel guitar, sister Ruby, the piano and brother Walter, the spanish guitar, gum leaf and ukulele.

Buddy was about twelve years old when he began to teach himself to play an old guitar that his brother had given him.  During Buddy's early life he used to sing at just about everything that was going: parties, dances, concerts and boat cruises on the river: even a number or times during the interval at Keever's travelling talking picture shows in order to get a free pass in!

In 1942, Buddy was called up into the army, and as he nearly always had his guitar with him, did many camp concerts.   This often got him into a lot or trouble, as he had a habit of writing songs about his superior officers!   In 1944, whilst still in the army, Buddy was very badly smashed up in a truck accident.   It was thought at first that he would not live, then that he would not walk again, but after many long months in Concord hospital, doctors were able to get him back on his feet.

On 2nd June 1945 he was given leave from his unit to come to Tamworth for his first quarter hour radio broadcast on 2TM. After receiving his army discharge the following year, Buddy married Rae Ham and in 1947 settled down in Tamworth where they conducted a mixed business for the next ten years.

Buddy began to sing country and western songs in 1947, at, of all places, the cycle races on the Tamworth oval on Friday nights.   Later he sang on a fairly regular basis at the local Police boys' club boxing matches and on radio club shows staged every Friday in the town hall.   In 1948, Buddy wrote a silly song that he called "When the City Guy Went to the Farm" (later renamed 'the Farmyard Yodel").

Early the next year he auditioned for Australia's Amateur Hour and was lucky enough to be selected as one of the ten acts to appear.   The big night of the show came on March 17, 1949, and a week later it was announced that he had topped the poll. As a result of this success, Buddy received a number of engagements, including an appearance at Newcastle stadium and a tour or Queensland with the Great Levant Show.   Australia's Amateur Hour advised Buddy that his performance had been judged as one of the best ten acts for 1949 and would be repeated on a special programme in December.   Then the ABC engaged Buddy to sing the theme for a documentary radio show about Tamworth, called "this Town'll Do Me".   The programme was broadcast on 2BL, Sydney in August, 1949.

His next milestone was passed on January 20, 1950, when Buddy made his first commercial recordings for the John Mystery label, thus becoming Tamworth's first recording artist - not only in country music, but in any field of music. 

These recordings were made at The Record Centre, 3rd floor, 251 Pitt Street, Sydney.   The songs were "Spitfire the Outlaw", "When the Roses Bloom in the Garden", "Honeybee, My Honeybee", and "When the City Guy Went to the Farm" (Or "The Farmyard Yodel"). 

The last song was released under both names, and early in March 1950 made its way into the hit parade on 2CA Canberra.   It ran for fourteen weeks, including six weeks on the top of the chart.   Buddy always fondly remembered the night that his song was knocked off the top spot by none other than Bing Crosby singing "Quicksilver".   On that John Mystery recording session, one of the songs had the extra backing or Herbie Marks on piano accordion and Dick Carr on electric guitar.   As electric stringed instruments were just coming into use with country and western music, Buddy believed that he could have been the first c/w artist to record with an electric lead guitar as we know it today.

On May 22, 1950, Buddy took off on a tour of Queensland with "The Great Levant Show".   In those days, as many of the outback roads were very bad, most touring shows travelled by train, and it was not uncommon to see up to five or six shows with all their trucks and equipment loaded on to one long show train.   "Oh, boy!", Buddy used to say, "were they slow!!". Buddy's room mate for most of the Queensland trip was the now celebrated Ron Shand, well remembered as "Herb" in the television series "Number 96".   In November Buddy recorded "The Farmyard Yodel", "I Don't Work for A Living", "I Want to Go Back to the Farm" and "Spitfire the Outlaw" for the Rodeo label.

During that year, Buddy was also kept busy appearing on the 2SM Tim McNamara show and working with Gordon Parsons and Norm Giles doing shows in small country halls each Saturday night.   1951 started for Buddy with his appearing in the Sydney Town Hall as a special guest artist on the Tim McNamara Talent Quest.   This was the show on which Reg Lindsay won both the quest and a recording contract which started his career.

Through the rest of the decade, Buddy divided his time between his business, radio and live shows which were staged in the Tamworth district.   He appeared on the same stages with people like Willie Fennell, Roy Rene (the famous "Mo"), Hal Lashwood, Allan Code and Theo Walters.

During the 1960's, Buddy did little entertaining.   It was not until 1970 that he again started recording, this time for Hadley. The 1970's saw the release of two E.P. Records and an LP.   His daughter Debbie joined Buddy on some of the earlier tracks.   She was only eight years old when she put down her first track, "Ten Little Fingers".   Buddy Bishop always had a devilish sense of humour.   It was obvious when he was writing songs in the army (and getting into trouble for it!) and it retained it's keen edge until the day he died.   Most of the songs he wrote, sang and recorded were done with the Bishop funny bone in full swing.

Buddy died at his home in Tamworth on Thursday, 13th April 1995.

2nd January, 1998