Buddy Wayne Knox was born on 20 July 1933 in the tiny farming community of Happy (motto: “The town without a frown”) in the Texan panhandle.
He learned to play the guitar in his youth, and in his teens, he formed a band called The Rhythm Orchids with some high-school friends (taking their name from the purple colour of their matching shirts).
After performing on the same 1956 radio show as fellow Texan Roy Orbison, he was recommended by Orbison to approach record producer Norman Petty, who had a recording in Clovis, New Mexico. Knox later inspired Buddy Holly to record at the same studio.
Knox’s composition Party Doll was released on the Roulette label and went to #2 on the US chart in 1957. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.
After a brief interruption for Knox to fulfil his draft obligations in the US Army, his success was followed by Rock Your Little Baby To Sleep (which he was given leave to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show on the condition that he appeared in his Army uniform), and Hula Love, which he performed in the classic jukebox movie Jamboree (1957) where he had third billing after Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis.
In the early 1960s, Knox signed with Liberty Records and released several more mainstream pop records featuring string arrangements and backing vocalists – a distinct departure from his earlier rockabilly work. Lovey Dovey and Ling-Ting-Tong were the most notable recordings from this era.
Knox moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1968 and honed his traditional rockabilly style more toward the modern country sound of the day. His first album on United Artists earned him the nickname by which he would be known for the remainder of his life – The title song of the album, Gypsy Man.
He continued releasing singles between 1968 and 1974 but was rediscovered by European rockabilly revivalists at a fabled concert with Jack Scott, Warren Smith and Charlie Feathers at London’s Rainbow theatre in 1977.
The show was immortalised on the live album Four Rock ‘n’ Roll Legends and established the market for the plethora of weekenders headlined by 1950s artists that continue to this day.
Aligned with the outlaw country movement in America and the rockabilly revival circuit in Europe, Knox toured constantly but called Canada his home until 1990, when the onset of depression and heavy drinking brought about the end of his third marriage.
He then moved to Port Orchard in Washington State, where he recorded his final album – a compilation called Hard Knocks and Bobby Sox – in 1994.
In January 1999, the singer fell and broke his hip. An examination revealed bone cancer, which had spread throughout his body. He died within a couple of weeks, on 14 February, aged 65.
Buddy Knox was posthumously inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.