#1190: Three Eyed Man by Buddy Knox

Peak Month: October 1961
7 weeks on CKWX chart
Peak Position #10
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “Three Eyed Man

Buddy Wayne Knox was born in 1933 Happy, Texas, a small farm town in the Texas Panhandle a half hour south of Amarillo. During his youth he learned to play the guitar. He was the first artist of the rock era to write and perform his own number one hit song, “Party Doll”. The song earned Knox a gold record in 1957 and was certified a million seller. Knox was one of the innovators of the southwestern style of rockabilly that became known as “Tex-Mex” music.

Buddy attended Happy High School, graduating in 1950.  The population of Happy, Texas, in 1956 was only 690 people. After high school, Knox attended West Texas State College in Canyon, Texas. While there, Knox met Jimmy Bowen and Don Lanier, who were also students at the college. Together, they formed a group called the Rhythm Orchids, named after their orchid colored shirts. Though they were underaged, the trio played in local clubs for beer and food. But their performances in Canyon, Texas, came to a halt when it was discovered they were minors. Luckily, Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids had developed a fan base. They became the hottest local band around.

Backstage after a show at West Texas State College, with Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings, Knox had a conversation with his Bowen and Lanier. Orbison had told Knox about a recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico. It was there Roy Orbison had recorded some of his earlier songs like “Ooby Dooby”. Shortly after Knox, Bowen and Lanier got themselves to Clovis, New Mexico. They had just $60 in their pockets. For the next three days they recorded three songs that would change rock ‘n roll and their lives forever. Knox recalls, “I don’t think Norman really spotted the potential at the time. I don’t think he was really alert to what was happening in the music business as far as our type of music was concerned.”

Buddy would later look back at that recording at Norman Petty’s studio. “Looking back it’s just something that happened 40 years ago. You try to remember a moment that was so great but in time you forget some of the small details because you didn’t know that would be the one moment in time that would change your life. You have to remember a recording session was a lot different in 1956 than it is today, you had to do everything in one take.”

From that one session Buddy Knox would receive two gold records in 1957, one for “Party Doll” and the other for a song that Jimmy Bowen sang and co-wrote with Knox called “I’m Sticking With You.” “We didn’t know what we had just done,” Knox recalls, ” All we wanted to do was record our music and sell it around the college. This was just a fun trip for us.”

On October 23, 1957, Buddy Knox appeared in concert at the Georgia Auditorium in Vancouver, along with Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Eddie Cochran and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

By the time the year 1957 was over, Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids had 4 million selling singles to their credit. Other hits that year included Knox’s Top Ten single, “Hula Love.” In an interview years later Buddy Knox said “I wrote “Party Doll” and “Hula Love” years before I recorded ’em … way back around 1948, when I was still just a kid.”

In the early 1960s Knox signed with Liberty Records. With this change Knox released several more mainstream pop records, featuring string arrangements and backing vocalists at the suggestion of producer Tommy “Snuff” Garrett. “Lovey Dovey” and “Ling-Ting-Tong” were the only ones that got much airplay. Both of these were much bigger hits in Vancouver than in America. The sound captured on these recordings was a distinct departure from his earlier rockabilly work for Roulette. Knox’s recordings now sounded more similar to other mainstream pop artists of the time, like Johnny Burnette and Bobby Vee.

“Three-Eyed Man” features these production techniques making it one of a number of Knox’s post-rockabilly singles. The song is about a girlfriend who has broken off a dating relationship who now says she wants it back on again. In the song Knox tells her the chances of that happening are as good as having her telling it to a three-eyed man.

Three Eyed Man by Buddy Knox

You left me and you made me cry,
now you’re asking me to give our love a brand new try,
well sugar, honey, tell you what you ought to do:
Go and tell it to a three-eyed man, a garbage can,
a talking tree, and it they agree your love is true,
I promise you that I’ll take you back to me.

You hurt me and you left me alone,
now you come around and tell me that you need me so,
well sugar, honey, tell you what you ought to do:
Go and tell it to a three-eyed man, a garbage can,
a talking tree, and it they agree your love is true,
I promise you that I’ll take you back to me.

You quit me and you made me cry,
now you think you’re gonna get yourself a second try,
well sugar, honey, tell you what you ought to do:
Go and tell it to a three-eyed man, a garbage can,
a talking tree, and it they agree your love is true,
I promise you that I’ll take you back to me.

Buddy Knox was never as successful as Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison. However, his career spanned over four decades. Knox became a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. And “Party Doll” was voted as among The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Living on the road almost all his life, Buddy Knox toured nearly eleven months out of the year. If you saw a Winnebago going down the road it was probably Buddy Knox. Always admired for his kindness and desire to help someone out, Knox was known as one of the “nice guys of rock ’n roll”: a happy man from Happy, Texas.

In May 1969, Buddy Knox appeared at Langley Speedway in the Fraser Valley. Knox was called upon to pass out trophies to winners of each race. Between 1968 and the mid-70’s Knox was involved in several business ventures in Canada. Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot and Buddy Knox teamed up and became owners of a chain of Canadian nightclubs. During this time Buddy Knox moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. On September 22, 1980, Buddy Knox returned to Vancouver to perform at The Cave.

During the nineties he moved to British Columbia, Canada and worked and lived with Vancouver promotor Les Vogt. They put a huge show on for Buddy’s 60th at the Ranch owned by Vogt at the time. Guests included Tommy Sands and Red Robinson.

In 1997 Buddy moved to Washington State. In February 1999, Buddy Knox died of lung cancer in his home of Bremerton, Washington, at the age of 65.

March 13, 2017
Ray McGinnis

Buddy Knox bio, Buddy Knox.com.
April Stevens, “‘Party Doll’ Performer: Knox Trdes in Life on the Road for SK,” Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, WA, October 14, 1998.
Obituary: Buddy Knox,” Independent, UK, February 19, 1999.
John Einarson, “Rockabilly Star Put Down Manitoba Roots,” Winnipeg Free Press, August 20, 2016.
Les Vogt – The Story, Les Vogt.info.
Fabulous Forty,” CKWX 1130 AM, Vancouver, BC, October 7, 1961.

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