Gary James' Interview With Jerry Hludzik Of
The Buoys

They are perhaps best known for their recording of a Rupert Holmes song called "Timothy". That record reached number 17 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. and number 9 in Canada. The group we are referring to is The Buoys. Jerry Hludzik talked with us about The Buoys and that song, "Timothy".

Q - Jerry, you've had quite a musical career. People would be surprised to know how much you've done outside of The Buoys.

A - Well, I guess. I did it because this is what I wanted to do. I remember coming home from school. We were on a bus in that era and I could not wait to get home fast enough to run into the house and turn on my mother's stereo. I ripped "Meet The Beatles" to shreds. I took that cover off so fast that I just about wet myself. From then on, as I said, this what I want to do.

Q - Who did you want to be in The Beatles?

A - George was kind of half asleep at the time. They were idols to me then. George was kind of like along for the ride. I'm glad they changed Pete Best to Ringo. It was very obvious that it was John and Paul's band. They just called it The Beatles, but it was Lennon / McCartney. That was it. That's what they should have called the band. (laughs)

Q - I'm glad they didn't. I consider every guy in The Beatles a genius.

A - Yeah, in their own right. Ringo, great drummer. He laid it down. He didn't try to do tricks or play out of time or be a whiner. "I want to play a solo." He was right there for them. George too. Maybe I should take back what I just said as far as each one of 'em. Paul and John were just... it was genius. It was sort of like, and don't take this the wrong way, like Kelly (The Buoys lead singer) and I. We just fit. It was very obvious that this was the fit because we went on then to do two albums on CBS with Danny Seraphine (of Chicago) producing. Then we moved to MCA and did the "Runaway" album with Danny. We just traveled and traveled and traveled and traveled. You get used to it. In the beginning your accommodations aren't quite up to snuff, but it didn't matter because I was gonna go play my guitar that day.

Q - You were in a group called Dakota that opened for Queen on their The Game tour. How'd you get that gig? Who was Michael Stahl?

A - Michael Stahl was my Yoda. We lived in the same location and watched our kids grow up. He worked for Claire Bros. Audio. He was the head engineer at Claire Bros. for quite a long time. He was Chicago's 'live' mixer. Nobody else did them. He was like "the man." We got to be friends, his family, my family and the we became best friends. Maybe it was in the Carolinas he was testing the system. He was the sound mixer for Chicago. Danny would come out before the show and make sure his drums were tuned. Michael would play our sound check tape. Michael would turn up the system loud and finally one day out of the two days Chicago was playing, once again Michael had it cranked and Danny said, "Alright. Who are these friggin' guys?" Mike said, "They're some friends of mine from back home. I think you should sign them." Within three days the paper wasn't even wet. We were signed to his publishing company and then he parlayed that into the album which on Epic / CBS. Jerry Kelly Band. That's what we went under, which was kind of a lame name, but then we rolled that out and were in the studio again doing what would have been the next record. John Robinson, the most sought after drummer in the world, he recorded our first album, "Jerry Kelly". It seemed like two albums later there he was again and we weren't complaining because he's a mother fucker.

Q - How good of a job did CBS do for Dakota?

A - They did nothing 'cause it was the time Chicago was in the driver's seat with CBS and CBS didn't like it. Somebody screwed up. Chicago was pretty much in the driver's seat as for the next move. There were a couple of, and I won't name their names, three executives that thought that their shit didn't stink. They thought that they were gonna butt heads in the whole thing. What happened is they waited so long that Full Moon came around and Irving Azhoff, his era, turned it around and he signed Chicago. So they were stuck with their finger up their ass. So Danny was in a position to do this switch with us and go over to Irving Azhoff's camp and The Eagles. What had happened was Danny said, "Just be patient. We got contracts with Full Moon which is Irving Ashoff and The Eagles." It sounded good to us, but we had to wait seven months before we did the album. We were getting a little impatient. What are you going to do? So, we did that Jerry Kelly album and then after that we were with Full Moon and Irving Azhoff. I never expected that to happen in a million years. But he said once, "When I get the Eagles settled we'll work on you guys." Well, in the meantime I don't know what happened over in their camp, but we ended up on Full Moon. Then we went into, I don't know why or how, but when I opened my eyes the next day we were all of a sudden on MCA. We ended up on a label so it didn't matter to me. So we started working on the next album, which we went to Warren Heights in Canada, Les Studio. Rush did a couple of albums up there. I think Deep Purple did a couple of albums up there.

Q - What was "Last Man Standing"?

A - A song I wrote with the Oak Ridge Boys. I was in a very fertile place at that time. (laughs)

Q - Yeah, the songs kept coming, didn't they?

A - Yeah. I'm at a point now where I think a lot of times I'm hard on myself. I'm stubborn. I want to make sure that... I always go into making a record or a disc or a single song with if I get something that I feels works as far as the content or the melodic structure, then I kind of know that I did my job. I'll do this probably until they put dirt on my head. I hope that's not sooner than later, because this is what I do. I try to do the best work I can do. It's a situation where I'm pretty hard on myself, but I'm also hard on when the actual song comes to fruition. I'll look at it sideways and upside down, whatever. If it's something I think I would listen to, I kind of let it fly. You can't please everybody. You can please a cross-section of people who like your band or like the drummer in the band or whatever. I just feel when I do my best I will go right to the wall with it. There's really nothing else you can do. You just hope your fans understand that this song is about this. I'm more than welcome to have somebody ask me what this song is about or that song is about. It's all about the fans.

Q - Before The Buoys were you in a band or were they your first band?

A - I was in just a little pick-up band. I taught myself how to play guitar. I bought an old junker guitar and that was it. I also played Little League baseball. They were my two passions, baseball and music.

Q - How good of a baseball player were you?

A - I was pretty good. I still play in a softball league. I won't tell you how old I am, but twice a week.

Q - You became a professional guitarist. Could you have become a professional ball player?

A - Well, they're both very, very hard things to crack, but yes, if I chose one or the other I probably would have been just as happy. But that's not the way it worked out and I'm happy this way.

Q - Why did Rupert Holmes select The Buoys to record "Timothy"? How did you happen to record that song?

A - He and our producer, Michael Wright, kind of dreamed up this situation of three little boys playing in a mine and all of a sudden one fell down and they never hear from him again and then the rumors start flying as far as "Was it cannibalism?" When a kid is twelve or thirteen or fourteen and you tell him not to listen to something like this, they're gonna listen. They're not gonna listen to their parents. They're gonna listen to this song that's disgusting, but it's cool man. That's how it happened and Bill, I call him Kelly, had quite a voice and still has. He can still hit those high notes. Even those couple of guys they have in Journey now, he can go toe to toe with them any day of the week. When we tell a kid don't listen to that, that's horrible, they're gonna turn the lights on and listen to it. And it just took off. I think it got to number 40.

Q - How many takes did you guys do on that song?

A - Well, Kelly was mostly the one that did that. Actually, him and Rupert did a thing where Kelly broke a string and it takes time to get that string back into place. So what Rupert had to do is he had to peg and just kind of had Kelly do that chuck-a-chuck-a-chuck thing and make sure it didn't slip out and he had to do it by hand 'cause that was the only way we were gonna do it. (laughs) We couldn't use a lot of time in the studio. So that's how that was done.

Q - How did the success of that song change your life?

A - It just re-enforced, for me anyway, that this is what I want to do. This is way cool. We played festivals for 300,000 people We did this one in Oregon. It rained for three days. It was just a mess. But Delaney And Bonnie were there. This is just when Clapton kind of got off the wagon. He played. We got on because they wanted more music and we didn't have any more. We only had about eight or nine songs for the LP. So while we were tightening up our chops, playing our high school dances, we really enjoyed the music of Crosby, Stills And Nash. When we would do the high school dances we would do a lot of Crosby, Stills And Nash because we were a vocal band. Basically we got called back after, I forget what song we did, but we had no more material left. So the crowd wanted more. The only thing we had to give 'em was Crosby, Stills And Nash. We were written up in Rolling Stone a couple of weeks later and it said, "A band by the name of The Buoys did a near flawless imitation of Crosby, Stills And Nash. We did "Suite Judy Blue Eyes". I'll take it! (laughs) In front of 300,000 people and they were cheering. They could've cared less if it was us or Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Q - Were Crosby, Stills And Nash on that bill?

A - No, they weren't.

Q - Did you do road work?

A - No. Back then you were just an opening act and told to do your eight songs and go sit down. (laughs) We rode in the back of a truck to keep warm and were drinking wine, but we loved it. This is what we were doing. And we had a hit record on top of it. We got ripped off. We were the ones out there freezing in the back of a truck, if we needed to, sleeping in sleazy hotels on Sunset Strip, but that's what we did in hopes that we would go further. Let's just keep this together. Keep it movin'.

Q - That song "Timothy" was a hit in what year?

A - I believe it was 1971.

Q - Would you have rubbed shoulders with anyone like Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix?

A - No. We never had that happen. Delaney, Bonnie And Friends a couple of times. He was a character. Kelly is friends with Bonnie's daughter because she lives in Nashville also.

Q - Did you perform in theatres, auditoriums?

A - Yeah. We'd do a lot of college dates across the country. We just played and played and played. Then all of a sudden the other guys in the band said, "This is bull shit. I think I'm out of here." Kelly and I were waiting for this to happen anyway because it was just that way. We wanted more. They wanted less. We hooked up with one of the sound engineers from Chicago, Michael Stahl, who as I said, in that sound check he would play our cassette. That's how long ago this was, cassettes. (laughs) Danny would say, "Alright. Who the fuck are these guys? Who are you playing on the sound system?" "They're some friends of mine." "Tell him to play that again." Within a half hour it was pretty much "You're my little puppy now." Danny kind of groomed us into being the Jerry Kelly Band and after that the MCA band.

Q - I know you didn't write "Timothy", but did you ever receive royalties on it?

A - No. We didn't make any money. If fact, I have check stubs down in my studio just to give myself a laugh every once in a awhile. It was all a crazy experience, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Q - You're recording a new album, or are you about to release a new album?

A - It's been released.

Q - What's the name of it?

A - It's called "Long Road Home".

Q - Is that on your own label?

A - Yes. We almost signed a deal with a label in Italy, but they're cut throats. When you sign they'll throw you a couple of bucks and then you can kiss your ass goodbye. That's how it works over there. But we did fairly well.

Q - What will you be doing to promote this newest record of yours?

A - Well, we're soon to be putting it on i-tunes and just with some shows that we're doing. We've been doing this a long time. I don't want to say we're hanging on by a thread, but by the time you get to this stage it's only then that you realize that this is special. This is what we've done.

Q - You have lived the history of Rock 'n' Roll. You've seen it from its earliest days and here you are!

A - Yeah. Not dead yet. (laughs)

Q - You're still out there kickin'!

A - I wouldn't have it any other way. If it wasn't music it would've been out of baseball. Maybe I would've been out of baseball a lot quicker 'cause there's a swinging door with that, but I was a pretty good player. I think, "either or," but I chose this path of music. I know The Beatles and music made me a better person. I did say we're in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, didn't I?

Q - In Cleveland?

A - Yes. We are one of the One Hit Wonders. About six months ago some friends of ours went to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and supposedly two weeks before that they put in another category and it was called One Hit Wonders and I wouldn't have known and my buddy and his wife wouldn't have known because the section was in alphabetical order, so they were just about at the end of their tour. Just because we were in the B's, they looked for The Buoys. He walked by and saw The Buoys. Under the B's are The Buoys and here we are.

Q - What do you get out of it? A statue? A certificate?

A - No. Hey, being in there is enough. I can say I'm in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Q - Nothing wrong with that.

A - Hell, no. I got the key and could turn the lock on my career if I wanted to. That's the top of your game.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.