Lost concert footage

I only heard about Buddy Damen because of the Wayland Cross fire. It happened in Nacogdoches, Texas in 1968, when Wayland Cross burned down the old Palace Theater in the center of town. The Palace was a popular stop for musicians heading west, and it was also the town’s first movie theater. When Wayland Cross burned it down, the theater’s collection of film prints went up in smoke, including prints of Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Magnificent Ambersons, and a single print of a concert played a few years before by a songwriter named Buddy Damen. The manager at the Palace had got a 35mm film camera with the hope of making concert films that could be replayed on the movie screen at the theater, but after the fire he stopped filming concerts, heartbroken over the loss of his growing archive.

The old timer who told me about the fire was especially broken up about losing the footage of Buddy Damen in concert, claiming it was the only filmed recording of Buddy Damen anywhere. His albums are so impossible to find that the concert film was, for a few years, the only real proof that Buddy Damen existed, and now it’s gone. What does remain, though, is the memory of what folks around those parts call the “best durn show ever seen”, as Buddy Damen’s one-night-only stop at the Palace lives on in local lore.

No one knows why Wayland Cross burned down the Palace Theater, but that lost concert footage has become Americana music legend, just like Buddy Damen himself.

-Kizzie First, Folk Historian and Documentary Filmmaker 

On Finding Buddy Damen’s Website

This is great! The music, the legend, everything. Alison as she passed by me said, I love that music. Who is that?  Buddy Damen, I said. Oh, I’m from Texas but never heard of him. Well, says I, let me tell you about the legend of Buddy Damen . . .

And as I told her, I suddenly realized I had heard Buddy on the radio during the Vietnam War, I remember a staticky voice announcing Buddy was entertaining the troops somewhere . . . in Saigon . . . and I said, Ma, that’s great stuff, and she said, Turn that thing off and eat your breakfast! And after that I tried every radio station in Salinas but never heard him again.

I also remember a waiter at one of these Asian noodle restaurants in LA, he was a translator for the US in Saigon so he escaped the Viet Cong invasion. Well we got to talkin’ and he said he heard this great music on the US army radio, reminded him of his village music—someone named Baddy Damong and ..I said, not Buddy Damen? and he almost dropped the Ramen noodles and said Yes! But he never heard him sing again.

-Rocky from East LA 

Musical Influences

Buddy Damen grew up in Alabama in a town called Florence. Across the river from the town of Muscle Shoals, home of the renowned recording studio. Just 18 miles or so from the Tennessee border and 125 miles to Nashville.

He grew up listening to Country, Bluegrass, and Blues music. His parents tuned into the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night. While neither one of his parents were musicians, they both loved music of all kinds. The south at that time was rich in blues, jazz and Bluegrass. The influences of Irish, Scottish and African Americans created a melting pot of music in the south. From Thelonious Monk to Robert Johnson to Jimmy Dickens, Buddy loved it all.

Buddy’s father picked up an old beat up guitar at a pawn shop for $3.50 in 1949 for Buddy’s 10th birthday. Buddy taught himself how to play and spent hours playing along to the radio as they didn’t have much money to buy records. In 1951 when Buddy was 12 his Dad took him on a bus trip to Nashville where he surprised Buddy with tickets to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman auditorium. The performers that night were Little Jimmy Dickens, The Jordanaires and Hank Garland.

As Buddy entered his teen years Rock n’ Roll was emerging. As high school began Elvis had hit the scene and Buddy knew what he wanted to do for a living. By 15 he was making money playing in bars, pool halls and on street corners.


-Duke Kostner

My Uncle Buddy

My Uncle Buddy wasn’t around much. My parents said he was traveling from town to town doing his music from an early age.

When he was around he always brought gifts that to us were treasures, but in reality they were small trinkets. Things like beer caps from a beer not sold in the area or a books of matches, chewing gum, leaflets from the shows he did (wish I would have saved some of those). As kids we would always beg him to sing us a song and he would never disappoint. I have memories of him pulling a napkin out of his pocket from a diner with lyrics written on them. He would practice his songs with us as his audience. He was kind and gentle but I always had a sense that he was sad or troubled. He was gone for weeks or months at a time.

Uncle Buddy’s favorite trick when he would come home was to magically make a guitar pick appear from behind our ear. Corny, but a fond memory.

Fun facts about Uncle Buddy: Born on  May 5th 1939. If he is still with us he is 79 years old. Most people, even family, don’t know that Buddy’s real first name is Walker. Family members said that he was called Buddy from an early age and the name stuck.


-Duke Kostner 

I’m in

There was an unspoken understanding when you were with Buddy–it could be sitting on a porch and apparently nothing going on or it could be playing music or it could be anything else–but maybe it’s easiest to talk about when talking about music.

You didn’t have to be a great musician to play with Buddy. Technical skill was like a fancy instrument. It could be flashy, but if you didn’t know how to use it, what use was it? The flash could keep you from going somewhere real. It’s not that technical skill wasn’t important–it was–and if you didn’t acquire some proficiency, there was a commitment you weren’t making.

But there was something more important–a willingness to let go of yourself, to respond to what’s around you and what’s moving through you, to tap into the vulnerability that allows us to connect and can leave us feeling alone.

It’s like there was a question in the air, “Are you in?” And you had to make a decision. Even sitting on a porch, saying nothing, you had to make a decision.


-Poochie Wolcott 

Buddy Blogs

Howdy folks! Welcome to the Buddy Damen & The Last Call blog.  We got lots to chew on! This is a great place to chat with us about your love of music.

We look forward to chattin’ with y’all.

Come pay us a visit at https://www.buddydamen.com/blog


~ Duke Kostner

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