Buzz Clifford’s prolific accomplishments as a songwriter belie the fact that he possesses one of pop music’s most distinctive voices, something he proudly demonstrates throughout Golden Pipes, 50 Years Of Buzz Clifford his latest release. The twenty two song package is, in fact, stunning proof that Buzz is both a compelling writer and a distinctive vocalist/guitarist. He was already four years into his career when his catchy “Baby Sittin’ Boogie” became a Top 10 hit on Columbia Records. The Tony Piano produced 1961 record reached #9 on the Billboard Magazine Top 100 Singles Chart, #6 on Cash Box and #3 on Music Reporter. The single was certified gold by the R.I.A.A., but lack of a follow-up hit earned him his release from Columbia and the classification “One Hit Wonder.” It may have been the best thing that ever happened to him.
Buzz wrote prolifically in the early 60s and his single, “No One Loves Me Like You Do,” on Roulette, became a Top 20 UK hit for him in 1962-63. Buzz took advantage of the record’s success touring England with Dion, Del Shannon and Freddy Cannon and learning a lot about the business in the process. When he got back to the U.S., Buzz moved to California in 1965. He worked with several different groups and continued writing, producing a number of independent masters which he sold as singles to various labels. He was able to keep food on the table, but couldn’t quite come up with a hit.
In 1967 Buzz got a job as staff writer for Hastings Music, a BMI publishing company. He was hired by Richard Delvey (who produced the Surfaris’ classic smash hit, “Wipe Out” ) and made the deal look good by writing “Echo Park”, which became a Top 40 hit in 1969 for Epic Records’ Keith Barbour. The success of that single earned Buzz the opportunity to record his own album. See Your Way Clear , which Dot Records released to a flurry of critical acclaim, failed to crack the charts but Buzz took it in stride as he continued honing his writing skills. When his job with Hastings ended, he decided to re-invigorate himself by moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he worked and recorded with some of Leon Russell’s closest associates, some of whom are now members of the highly respected Tractors.
Golden Pipes, 50 Years Of Buzz Clifford picks up the thread of Buzz’ odyssey with the 1973 song “Ain’t That I Don’t Love You”. Blues legend Freddy King cut the song for the last album he made before he died. Produced by his close friends, T-Bone Burnett (“Oh Brother Where Art Thou”) and Darrell Leonard, co-founder of the Texacali Horns. Buzz's cut, recorded in 2003 and produced by Evan Frankfort and Buzz, is a blues classic, with soaring guitar solos and a gritty vocal. It’s easy to understand how Buzz gained a reputation among industry insiders as a highly valued writer, vocalist and guitarist.
Buzz’ original material dominates Golden Pipes, 50 Years Of Buzz Clifford, but he’s also included his take on four songs that reflect the spirit he’s always brought to his music. With Buzz guiding it, J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze” retains more of the author’s flavor than the hit version by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong” is an outright blues tour de force. Buzz is as adept proffering pop classics as he is roots staples and his version of the Beaumont/Rech hit, “Since I Don’t Have You” by the Skyliners, reveals the vocal chops that have had labels drooling over his potential throughout the years. Similarly, his treatment of the Jerry Butler classic, “He Will Break Your Heart”, produced by T Bone Burnett, who also sang the harmony is heartfelt and appropriately understated, with hints of Buzz’ jazzy sensibility.
After his Tulsa experiment, Buzz returned to L.A. in the mid-seventies where he began working with original Beach Boy, singer/guitarist David Marks. He continued writing non-stop and some of the songs from that period are featured on 50 Years, including “Up In Smoke”, “Circles” and “Creation”. Buzz relocated to Portland toward the end of the seventies as he searched relentlessly for the right combination of lyric, melody and attitude. When he returned to the City of Angels several years later, Buzz again hooked up with David Marks, recording the Dave and the Marksman CD under the aegis of producer Daniel Moore (who wrote “My Maria” for Brooks & Dunn and the classic Three Dog Night hit, “Shambala.”
Buzz has collaborated with dozens of musicians over the years, but one of his most memorable highlights came in the mid-90s when he teamed with his sons in a kick ass blues band. Drummer Reese, bassist John,and David Marks joined Buzz for a year’s worth of highly anticipated L.A. club gigs before he departed for Copenhagen to record his CD, Norse Horse with producer James Rasmussen (producer of Keith Barbour’s Echo Park). Back in L.A. in 1999, Buzz was delighted to discover that Beck had used his song “I See I Am” ( from See Your Way Clear) on Midnight Vultures, changing the title to “Milk and Honey” in the process. Beck split the writer’s credit with Buzz and the album was certified Gold.
In September, 2001 Buzz teamed with L.A. based singer/ writer Anna Montgomery for a highly praised series of live shows and recording dates. The studio experience with Montgomery, exposed him to producer Evan Frankfort, for whom Buzz has the highest regard. If Buzz has learned anything over the course of five decades in the business it’s that his life is a work in progress and “overnight success” is merely one song away from becoming reality. As if to emphasize how timeless the songwriting process really is, Buzz closes the two CD set with his 1957 gem, Pididdle”, which he recorded at the age of 16 for Bow Records. It’s a classic 50s rock-a-billy/doo-wop rave-up, and in it's way, serves as a fitting bookend to a marvelous career that shows no sign of ending.