The Rock Star Who Chose Family Over Fame

Tommy Davis, one of the members of The Orchids, a high school rock band I was part of, said he heard of a wild and crazy guy in the next town who could sing his brains out. Shortly thereafter, Bruce Buono had his orchid pink tuxedo with the flower monogram on the breast pocket.

Over the next four or so years, on most every weekend, we’d play in assorted sleazy bars, tough bars, gay bars, fancy clubs, church and high school dances, snooty country clubs, and even snootier resorts in the mountains. Bruce could sing Bo Diddley and drive the guys into Dionysian fits of dance while the next moment he’d sing “The Twelfth Of Never,” a ballad by Johnny Mathis, and make the girls cry. He was truly a star, everybody could see his ascent to  stardom, yet he always remained humble, friendly and accessible to audiences.  

With his trademark song and record “Hey Little One,” we got to play a twelve day rock n’ roll revue with really big name stars like Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Wilson, The Coasters, Dion and other current rock stars. Truly, there was nobody like Bruce. Dion (some of his hits: Teenager in Love, Runaround Sue, Abraham, Martin and John), on a national radio interview, compared Bruce to Elvis Presley.

While playing at the Peppermint Lounge or the Wagon Wheel in New York City, a Canadian rock star by he name of Ronnie Hawkins introduced himself and invited us up to Canada to play with The Hawks, his band, soon to become known as THE BAND.

That was a pivotal time for us. I chose to go to university. Bruce went to Canada and became an original member of the Band.

But there was always something more important than music for Bruce; his devotion to Betty Jane, his sweetheart and eventually his wife. Yes, he could have stayed in Canada and achieved stardom with The Band, but Bruce saw the bigger picture, marrying Betty Jane (BJ) and eventually raising four remarkable children; Jason, Jonathan, Kristen and Meredith.

Fact: music is a bunch of notes that please the ear. Bruce made great music, no question, but the true measure of a man is his vision, integrity, generosity and goodness. That was and always will be Bruce. His legacy as a husband, father, grandfather and friend, stands before us, forever shining and enduring. Bruce Buono made the world a better place.

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