Buddy Johnson's kids – Kitty, Pat and John – eagerly agree that living in Beulah, between 1953-1962, were some of the greatest times in their young lives. “I can’t think of a better place to grow up, than in Beulah,” John Johnson offers sincerely. Parents, William A. “Buddy” Johnson who grew up on Colorado's eastern plains and Matilda “Tillie” (Trabucco) Johnson, who grew up in Canon City, knew Beulah was a good fit for the family. In time, the picturesque mountain backdrop would also become the spot (Gayway/Songbird) for memorable and historical music performances, all envisioned by a man who knew how to make indelible impressions.
A born entertainer, Johnson was known late in life to read the local phone book and have people in stitches," his son recalls, “he was a hell of a salesman." Buddy had a popular radio show in the late 40’s ”The Buddy Johnson show” first on KGHF, then on KDZA and finally on KCSJ radio every day featuring western music. One evening a week Buddy Johnson and his band the Colorado Rangers performed live music in the KCSJ radio studio. In 1953 a brand new studio was built on Pueblo’s ‘Big Hill’ called KCSJ-TV was lining up talent and easily aligned with Buddy Johnson. A group of local radio talents moved over to the new medium of TV where they worked tirelessly to produce numerous radio and TV shows. Buddy's shows ran the range from the children’s afternoon “Buddy Johnson's Adventure Club” show on afternoons, to evenings when he and his band performed live music on shows like the "Colorado Hayride” or the "Barn Dance” while on a different night Buddy hosted Western movies on the “Western Star Theater".
When Johnson's band weren’t in a studio they were traveling, covering areas east from Tribune, KS on the east all way to Montrose, CO; and south from Raton, NM stretching north to Parker, CO. In the small towns, Buddy was greeted by big crowds, because of his celebrity on TV and radio. Far from glamorous, it was not unusual at these regional events for his day to start out with a parade in the morning, a rodeo in the afternoon, and then capping it off with a dance at night. When Johnson hosted Saturday weekly dances at Gayway, the next day he would offer a Sunday afternoon “Gayway Jamboree". Johnson’s wife, Tillie was in charge of the restaurant, and loved running it. He was the singer and drummer for his band and occasionally played the bass. “Dad loved Bob Wills Western Swing music". A number of his band members like Duke Farrin, Red Fanning, Russ Hayes played with the Rangers for decades. He gave budding performers like Jim Ed Brown, some of whom were stationed at nearby ‘Camp Carson’, a venue to showcase their talent. At the recent Beulah Reunion, many reminisced, and jotted down their fondest memories – Saturday Night dances came up most often. Buddy Johnson had everything to do with bringing the talent, and drawing the crowd to create a memorable ‘heyday’ that is fondly recalled 56 years later!
If you were a Pueblo area kid in the 1950’s, one of your first TV memories was probably that of The Adventure Club with Buddy Johnson. Viewers made reservations six months ahead of time to schedule their child to attend a live ‘kiddy show’. Johnson’s western-themed show was packed with stories, antics, games and music. Princess Columbine, played by Jada Willard, would assist – lining up children, ready with props, coaching young game contestants, elevating the drama with her bright native costuming; and there were the puppets ‘Koko’ the clown and ‘Pierre the Chef’. Most kids in the area thought Buddy actually rode his horse to Pueblo from Beulah for every show. Why? The filmed introduction of the show featured Buddy riding his horse into Pueblo with the Wet mountains behind him, and then tying Chubby up outside the studio. When the show was done, Buddy would stride out of the studio, where the pre-filmed footage would show him riding back toward Beulah, again.
An inductee of the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame, Buddy Johnson's career spanned a remarkable 41 years (1945 - 1986), a testimony to his talent, dedication, creativity and the ability to generate a darn good time.
With gratitude to John Johnson for his taking the time to talk to this paper, as well as proofing the accuracy of the content.
The Pueblo Barn Dance was hosted by our resident cowboy Buddy Johnson who also played the drums in his own band. Country and Western artists who played local night clubs welcomed the opportunity to promote themselves on local TV. Jim Reeves, Hank Thompson, Lefty Frizzell, Patsy Cline, Jim Edward and Bonnie Brown appeared, to name a few.
We had a local version of "Your Hit Parade" until Bill Haley and the Comets with his "Rock-Around-the-Clock” and Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill" hit the music popularity charts. Our local band could not play “Rock-a-Billy" or "Rhythm and Blues" at the time.
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