Rockabilly guitar star Buddy Knox performs at Bingen, Washington, on January 30, 1957.

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 2/03/2012
  • Essay 10025

On January 30, 1957, Buddy Knox (1933-1999) and the Rhythm Orchids play for a teenage dance at the Eagles Hall in the tiny town of Bingen in Klickitat County. The early Texas-based rockabilly band -- which also included bassist Jimmy Bowen (b. 1937), lead guitarist Don Lanier, and drummer David Alldred, are enjoying their very first road tour.

The Rhythm Orchids were on their debut tour pushing their new recordings, Knox’s "Party Doll" and Bowen’s "I’m Sticking With You." "Party Doll" entered Billboard magazine’s charts in February (and ended up a national No.1 hit), while "I'm Sticking with You" simultaneously charted, rising to No. 17. The musicians were contemporaries of two other noteworthy Texas-based teen combos, Roy Orbison (1936-1988) and the Teen Kings, and Buddy Holly (1936-1959) and the Crickets.

The Pacific Northwest’s pioneering rock 'n' roll promoter Pat Mason (1907-2001) brought the Rhythm Orchids to this region where they played many gigs all across Washington and Oregon. Over the following years, Mason typically arranged to have local bands -- including the Yakima Valley’s Checkers -- open the shows, and at times local musicians even filled in as substitutes backing Knox.

By decade’s end Knox had gone solo, eventually recording both country and pop tunes, including a cover of 1959’s "Come Softly To Me," the No. 1 hit by Olympia, Washington’s Fleetwoods. Many years later Knox, a longtime smoker, died of lung cancer in Bremerton, Washington. By the early 1960s Bowen had gone on to a career as a big-time record producer. 

Sources: Peter Blecha interviews with Pat Mason (July 18, 1984, etc.); Joel Whitburn, Top Pop: 1955–1982 (Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, 1983); and Peter Blecha's Northwest Music Archives.

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