By Brian M. Howle
We southerners are a unique breed, in all humbleness and honesty. And the way we are perceived is often multi-layered and complex, for a geographically and stereotypically pigeonholed group of folks. Sometimes it’s disarmingly charming, sometimes it’s laden with humor, and sometimes it’s brutally honest. But then again, so is life.
And if it happened in music, in the genre of Southern Rock, and more particularly, thru the eyes of a southern renaissance man – it was probably performed, covered, experienced, and written about by Michael “Buffalo” Smith.
Smith is an author, music journalist and musician living in Greenville, SC. He grew up down the road in Spartanburg during the heat of the seventies Southern Rock boom at a time when his hometown heroes The Marshall Tucker Band were at the top of their game. Even then Buffalo was sowing the seeds that would one day find him referred to as the “Ambassador of Southern Rock.”
Buffalo worked many jobs as newspaper editor, features writer, columnist, sports reporter, layout and more. He also logged several years as a radio air personality while singing and playing his own music and recording five albums that featured many of his high school era heroes, including Bonnie Bramlett, Pete Carr, George McCorkle, Tommy Crain and Tommy Talton.
In 1998, Buffalo founded the online magazine GRITZ and began a ride that lasted over 13 years, including three years as a glossy print magazine. During the GRITZ years, Buffalo conducted countless interviews and wrote hundreds of features, reviews and columns/blogs. When CMT needed a Southern Rock authority to appear on their Outlaw Country and Southern Rock special, they enlisted Buffalo. He would later appear on the documentary section of the Shout! Factory release Live from the Garden State by The Marshall Tucker Band.
In 1997 Buffalo’s first book was published by Marshall Tucker Entertainment of Beverly Hills, CA. Carolina Dreams: The Musical Legacy of Upstate SC was a history of the MTB and all the other great music that came from the region. The book includes lots of great photos and history on The Marshall Tucker Band (and all the bands that they had prior to MTB), Garfeel Ruff (featuring the amazing Rickey Godfrey), Artimus Pyle, Hank Sugarfoot Garland, Esquerita, Marshall Chapman, David Ball, Don Reno, Aaron Tippin and many more… Star tributes to both Toy and Tommy Caldwell, many one on one interviews. Foreword written by Charlie Daniels and an introduction by Marshall Tucker’s Doug Gray.
His second book, 2006’s Outlaws, Rebels & Renegades, was drawn from over seven years worth of published interviews, “Outlaws” includes some of the best interviews conducted by Smith for GRITZ Magazine (as well as other publications like Goldmine and Hittin The Note) with members of The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band and many more.
His most recent release is The Brown Box: Remembering Greenville Memorial Auditorium. This is the history a S.C. venue that, although it was closed and imploded in the early ’90s, still holds a lot of happy memories for many people. It was the home of Monday night wrestling and the site of many outstanding concerts including the final performance by the original Lynyrd Skynyrd band. The fans, the stars and the employees were interviewed for this little labor of love.
He currently has a memoir book in line for publication called Prisoner of Southern Rock with a foreword by Billy Bob Thornton, which will be published by Mercer University Press in September, 2012.
And for current interviews with the legends of Southern Rock and more, tune in his online radio show – The Buffalo Radio Show, Sundays at 7 p.m. at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/michaelbuffalo.
More than a musician, writer and historian, Michael is a cherished treasure for those who grew up with music as an integral part of their lives. He is a damn fine man, an even finer friend – and we are all the better for his presence.
For more on Michael or to order one or all of his books and other merchandise, check out http://www.universalmusictribe.com
This article was also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine, Vol. XXVI No. 9, Jan. 26 – Feb. 9, 2012.