25 March 1923 (age 95)
Seattle, King County, Washington, United States
Along with Patsy Cline, Bonnie Guitar developed the Country-Pop crossover trend that would later be associated with other female Country singers in the years to come, like Skeeter Davis, Lynn Anderson, Crystal Gayle, and Jeannie C. Riley.
Bonnie Guitar's real name was Bonnie Buckingham, and she was born in 1923 in Seattle, Washington. As a teenager, she took up playing the guitar. This is how she later got her stage name Bonnie Guitar. As a teenager, she also started songwriting. Through much of the 1950s, Bonnie worked as session guitarist at quite a few record labels. She worked for small labels, like Abbot, Fabor, and also Radio labels. Working at these places got Guitar noticed as a professional guitarist. She played on sessions for well-known singers, like Jim Reeves, Dorsey Burnette, Ned Miller, and the Decastro Sisters. However, after working with singers, she aspired to be a singer on her own, and make her very own recording career in the process. She heard the song "Dark Moon", and found it was really for one of the singers she worked with as a session guitarist for, Ned Miller. However, Guitar liked "Dark Moon" so much she decided to wave her royalty rights, but if she would be allowed to record it instead. It was then decided that Guitar would record the song instead of Ned Miller. The song was issued under Fabor Records in 1956. "Dark Moon" was then issued over to Dot Records. By the Spring of 1957, "Dark Moon" hit the Pop Top 10 list and went into the Country Top 15 list. Guitar officially had a hit.
When Bonnie's song "Dark Moon" was a hit on the Country and Pop charts, it got her name noticed. Not only was she one of the few female Country singers in Country Music at the time, but she was also one of the few Country singers that had a hit on the Country and Pop charts.
Only one other female Country singer was achieving this crossover success Guitar was having at the time, which was Patsy Cline, when her single "Walkin' After Midnight" was a #2 Country hit and a #12 Pop hit. "Dark Moon" brought Guitar a wide audience, and she was soon appearing on quite a few Pop Music programs. Like Patsy Cline couldn't follow-up her crossover success, neither could Guitar.
Her follow-up to "Dark Moon" called "Mister Fire Eyes" failed to make a substantial impact on the Pop charts, making it only to #71 there. On the Country charts though, it was again a Top 15 hit. Because she couldn't follow-up her crossover success, her contract soon ended with Dot Records, and Guitar returned back to Washington.
Guitar however decided she would form her very own record label called Dolphin Records. She co-founded it with refrigerator salesman Bob Reisdorff. However, the two decided to re-name the label Dolton Records. The label soon released a lot Guitar's singles like "Candy Apple Red" and "Born to Be With You". However, her recording career was superseded by that of a high school trio called The Fleetwoods. The trio was signed to the Dolton label and soon had major Pop Music hits in 1959, with two #1 hits, "Come Softly to Me" and "Mr. Blue". Guitar was soon credited as one of the people who helped launch The Fleetwoods into major music stardom.
Soon another group called The Ventures were signed to Bonnie's Dolton label. They too had a monster hit called "Walk Don't Run". However, Bonnie thought it was time she would get her own music career back on foot, and she soon left Dolton, and went back to Dot Records. This time, Bonnie was positioned more towards the Country charts. Guitar recorded a series of albums for the Dot label.
It was in 1966, that she scored her next major hit with "I'm Living In Two Worlds". The song was Guitar's first Top 10 Country hit. It even entered the Pop charts, but just about made the Hot 100. In 1967, she scored an even bigger Country hit, with the Top 5 hit "A Woman In Love", which reached #6 on the Country charts. That same year, she won the Academy of Country Music's "Top Female Vocalist" award, and became the second person to win that award. In 1968, "I Believe in Love" was another Top 10 hit. In 1969, Guitar teamed up with Buddy Killen, and together they had a hit duet with "A True Lover You'll Never Find (Than Mine)". After 1969, Guitar's chart success faded away rapidly.
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