Here we are Monday again, and as I was digging through a pile of records, I realized I had this one on ice and hadn’t reviewed it. It’s kind of an odd ball record that I picked up a few years ago for less than a buck. It looked interesting, and it also had a cover of “Son of a Preacher Man” as well as “Oh Calcutta”. Let’s get into some straight up Easy Listening Funk with Buddy Merrill and “Funky” on Accent Records from 1970.
Imagine my surprise when I did the research on this artist and found out he was the guitarist from the Lawrence Welk Show! The show I was tortured with as a kid both by my grandparents and great-grandparents. Between spinning plates, dancing dogs, and bubbles, I had enough of that show to last a lifetime. Born Leslie Merrill Behunin Jr. in Torrey, Utah in 1936, Merrill was introduced to the guitar as an instrument at age 8, where he quickly mastered it and became a member of his father’s band The Fremont River Rangers. His first love was the steel guitar, and Buddy became quite the player on steel, as well as a six string electric guitar. As fate would have it, Buddy’s family moved from Utah to Los Angeles, CA while Buddy was still in high school. As his guitar playing improved, it was his mother that would send his own reel to reel recordings he had made (unbeknownst to Buddy) to Lawrence Welk, who played for a local dance contest each Friday night close to them and was holding a contest for a new guitar player. He won the contest, and a young buck like Merrill drove the teens wild, even though the show was aimed at “older folks”. When Buddy got drafted, he was assured a place back in the orchestra when he returned. When he returned from his service to Uncle Sam, he went right back to the Lawrence Welk Show. Buddy Merrill was an early proponent of the recording “sound on sound” technique using two tape machines, different guitars, and tape-generated effects in a one room studio. Similar to his early recording he used to practice with (a la Les Paul), it wasn’t long before his recording library grew. Unfortunately though, a dam burst and Merrill lost a good portion of this library and equipment in 1963. He rebuilt the house and studio and continued to be a member of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra until 1974 where he then retired and became the solo artist. His body of work stretches from 1956 up until 1995, and ranges in genre from Easy Listening to Country to Latin to Pop to Rock and beyond. Why wouldn’t he include something funky in his quiver of songs? Buddy also made music for TV and radio while also keeping his solo music career alive, proving he wasn’t just a player under the Welk orchestra, but a solid Musician on his own. I read a bunch about Buddy Merrill, and although I don’t want to focus on his personal life besides the music, there are some scathing and salacious articles written on the internet (on sites such as Rip Off Report) you can peruse and form your own opinion.
Sounding like something Morricone might use in one of his Spaghetti Westerns, you can hear Merrill trying to break out of his shell and leave behind the bubble filled stage and dancing families as he makes moves on “Funky”. One of the few originals on this record, he and long time collaborator Scott Seely hit it right on the head with this one. I’d love to find out who the drummer was on this track. In the pocket and I definitely dig it. A little bit of 70’s cheese never hurt anyone. If you know who the drummer is, feel free to hit me up. Just a little something for an unusually humid funky Monday morning at FMF. Keep Diggin’!