David "Buck" Wheat

b. March 21, 1922 in San Antonio, TX

d. 1985 / Los Angeles, CA

Musician (Bass): 1958-1961


David "Buck" Wheat Dave Guard and the Whiskeyhill Singers from LIFE magazine (SPOTLIGHT) of MArch 9, 1962.

Posted by Richard on 5/6/2000, 1:34 pm

I was waxing philosophically this morning while tilling the garden, and began to think a little about the role that Buck Wheat played with the Kingston Trio. I don't think it would be an understatement to say that Buck Wheat was, at least until 1961, the fourth "on stage" member of the Kingston Trio. He added so much to the humor, the music, the instrumentation, and yes, even to the songs themselves ("Coo-Coo U" and "Last Authentic Playboys"). I am speculating that the Davids (Wheat and Guard) were very close in terms of producing the music that the group performed. He appears to have be well rehearsed in the onstage routine, adding a bass bowing every once and awhile. Of course everyone knows about his appearance on the cover of "Going Places", and his eventual defection into the "Whiskey Hill Singers" . Can anyone enlighten me further about the work of Buck Wheat? What did he do after the "Whiskey Hill's" collapsed? Why didn't he return to the Trio for more than the occasional concert?

It's really rather interesting how the K3 has included it's bass players into the group, good men all, and all getting recognition in the passing. Buck Wheat, Dean "Mad Dog" Reilly", Stan Kaess, Paul Gabrielson, and Ben Schubert, all lions of their art. I'm sure I've forgotten somebody, but not meaning to overlook them.

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Posted by Tom Lamb on 5/6/2000, 3:00 pm , in reply to "David "Buck" Wheat"

I join you in your praise of Buck Wheat. He added copious amounts of panache to the Trio's music. He was a Texan from San Antonio and played guitar before playing bass. After the Whiskey Hill experience he played bass and arranged for Bud & Travis. He made drums which were used in many (including rock) recordings in the L.A. area. He lived in East L.A. in a subterranean apartment. Wooden jewelry was another product he got into. Sarah Vaughn was the recipient of one of his necklaces. He was well known in the jazz circles made a record with Chet Baker ( in '57 I think) as guitar accompanist. Some other jazz friends included John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Supposedly the drums used in "South Wind" were called LuJon, after John Lewis. As a bassist aboard South Pacific tour boats he brought back bamboo from the Philippines with which he later made drums such as the boo-bams on O Ken Karanga. His bass playing, I think, was unique and had the perfect personality to enhance the Trio's singing and playing. Dave Guard responded to me once when I asked, "Was Buck Wheat a beatnik?" by sayin, "He knew where to get it."

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Posted by Ken Laing on 5/6/2000, 9:57 pm , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

I also join with you in praise of David "Buck" Wheat!

"Buck" Wheat's bass-lines, from my personal listening perspective, were off-the-wall and helped give the Dave Guard-era Kingston Trio a distinct sound: warm and colorful. Was the early Kingston Trio's music "folk-jazz?" Hmmm? We should probably ask some music-marketing analyst about that I guess. I've never heard of this music label before and probably never will--I just made it up!

Good music is Good music no matter what label anyone may try to pin on it! And, The Kingston Trio, no matter what era, is Good Music!

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Posted by Mr. Roadie on 5/6/2000, 11:54 pm , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

I couldn't have posted a better composition re; David. He was a magician when it came to rhythm and percussion. Toward the end of his career, he lived and worked in a shop behind the Drum Works on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. He was very adept at building the so-called Bo-Bams. he had built several drums sets to the chromatic scale, he was known for that.

For the most part he was understated but, that was part of his strength.

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Posted by Norm on 5/7/2000, 12:48 am , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

"Folk-jazz" eh? Wait 'til the Grammys get a hold of that one. I have to second (and third) all the nominations for "Buck" being a truly un-sung (no pun intended) hero of the early Trio, and slightly into John's era. The more we learn about David Wheat, the more we suspect a heckuva lot more of the Trio arrangements, creative instrumentality and verve stood behind a five-foot fretless piece of sculpted wood. I'll propose a really off-the-wall theory here: I think one Mr. David Guard was more than a friend to/with Buck. I believe, in many ways, he was mentored by Buck. I think he saw in Buck the musical expertise, technical proficiency and "genius" he so much wanted to emulate, and be himself in his own right. I suspect in collaborating, he saw himself as he MIGHT be, or become, and appreciated the complete musician Buck was. I'll bet in many ways, Buck was a mentor-figure for Dave, and he strove to raise himself, and his compatriots, to a level he never imagined existed before, until under Frank Werber's guidance, all three were sent to vocal coaches, and began to realize music well-played needs musicians. Dave aspired to this, and Buck Inspired him, either intentionally or by circumstance, to shoot higher. While I suspect the "seeds" of Dave's ultimate parting were his own to sow, I'll bet a lot of the ground they sprouted in was plowed by Buck's inestimable talent. My four-cents. Whaddya think, "Roadie?"

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Posted by Mr. Roadie on 5/7/2000, 1:58 am , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

You're so close it makes me sweat.
Buck Wheat was an enigma, ahead of his time.
He found his unsung nitch .
Buck wasn't interested in the success of the Trio, he was
interested in doing and having a good time. He wasn't the
flame, he was the pilot light and boy did he do what he wanted to.
As you know, the Trio were not musicians. The early structure of
Trio music was that of the fun loving nature of the living room band.
The structure of the enigma (Buck Wheat) and his import was
criteria in the beginning. I truly believe this to be true.
It's important to know, I still don't have dots on the fret board of my guitar.

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Posted by Richard on 5/7/2000, 9:44 am , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

Yes, I am virtually sure this is on target. In listening to the Newport Concert CD, Bob announces "David Wheat!" , and then Dave Guard uses the line "the greatest" and some additional praise. I think that Dave was solidly molded by the excellence he saw in Wheat, an all around master of guitar, bass, music theory, and musicology. I could see where the Dave's might have hung out together to soak up each other's strengths. It's kind of curious that Buck Wheat did not continue to secure regular employment with Bob and Nick after his modest entrance in the Stewart era. I wonder how close he remained with Dave Guard after the Whiskey Hill Singers fell apart?

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Posted by Norm on 5/8/2000, 12:14 am , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

Well, thanks for the confirmation of a "theory." As an observer of behavior, so to speak, it just kinda fits with the two Daves. I also believe Dave Guard would have sold his soul to see to it that "Buck" was a part of the Whiskey Hill Singers." I think Dave needed Buck to be an integral part of whatever musical project he moved on to. The mentor would become the proud papa of the mentoree, and see that his influence was paying off, so to speak. I would agree that "Buck" was less interested in the group-project than the final result of integrity-filled music; to have been relegated BACK to the bass-guy with the new Trio configuration would have separated him from his new "Jedi-Knight," one Dave Guard. Ahead of his time? For sure. I suspect Buck would gladly align himself with any new, musically creative force, forging into uncharted territory. I suspect the failure of the Whiskey Hill group was a terrible loss to him in multitudes of ways. I suspect it was likewise to Dave, who, essentially exiled himself to Australia during the "Stewart era." Only once that was past-history, did reproachment with Bob occur; only once that was history, did Dave Guard unleash himself once again. It is a tragic shame that Buck did not live to see the "Kingston Trio & Friends" reunion at Magic Mountain. It brought so many things full-circle, only to be broken again by Dave's untimely loss to lymphoma. Shouldda, wouldda, couldda . . .

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Posted by Mr. Roadie on 5/8/2000, 1:40 am , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

Thank you for responding in an appropriate manner. I'm usually attacked for knowing something about KT. As for your response, Nice Conjecture. In an earlier post I mentioned, part of the success of KT, was this kind of presentation had never been done before. There is always a fine line between true creativity and luck. A lot of the ground covered by Whiskey Hill had been covered by other groups. I think Dave G was overwhelmed by his success with KT and didn't think about the luck aspect. As I mentioned before, Buck Wheat, was truly an enigma. I the early 70s, I would visit him in a garage environment behind the Drum store on Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. I was trying to get him to build me a drum set for a Japanese group (they had learned English and to play from Kinston Trio Albums), I was working with. I'm sorry I lost touch with him, I guess I didn't take him seriously either other than his ability to build me a drum!

You also have hit on a nerve. Bob S. didn't take himself serious. He was and is truly gifted with a unique voice. So good it was the overall sound of the Trio There were so many parties we would go to where Bob would just start singing and capture the whole room. Then when everyone was listening to him, he would slip off into some parody of the song he was singing and that was the end of the perf. You reminded me of the Magic Mountain Perf. It was truly KT and Friends Even now I remember the moment was truly Magic!!! I had insisted the services of Bill Hansard to create the rear screen projection. Many of the pictures you see of the occasion were photos taken by me with a camera given to Bob Shane in Japan by the Nikon Co. Another person in the audience was John Phillips, from the Mas and Pas. We could have written a book just about that weekend. Sorry about the long post/response. Harold Payne just go back from Phoenix where he was in attendance for a Limelighter Perf. Alex sez Hi. B & B also were there for Harolds Perf., where Bob sang "Johnson Party of four" with him.

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Posted by Tom Lamb on 5/8/2000, 11:10 pm , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

The saddest part is "Buck" Wheat was alive during the Reunion in 1981. He died in 1985. Also he lived in the general area So. Cal. Perhaps his health was none too good at the time. I talked to Bill Loughborough and he said Buck had gained considerable weight in his later years. The Kingston Trio ALWAYS played in tune and I think much of that was Mr. Wheat's charge and concern. Dave G. taught himself to read music but I'd bet Buck guided him. Dave G. was interested in doing things in the proper way...musically. He never wanted to appear uninformed or not musically saavy. Norm mentioned folk-jazz. I don't know this but I believe since Buck would come up with jazz-like harmonies for them to sing e.g. "Come All Ye Fair and Tender....." I'll bet he encouraged Cyrus Faryar in the Modern Folk Quartet's Four Freshmen-manque harmonies too.

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Posted by Norm on 5/8/2000, 11:25 pm , in reply to "Re: David "Buck" Wheat"

Didn't know Buck was alive in '81--I lost track of his obit, and made a false assumption. That aside, more good points about his influence. BTW, mentioning the Modern Folk Quartet, I wondered if any of you know of a source to get their debut CD, or any others: Folk Era once offered a Japanese pressing of an MFQ CD that they wanted something like $35.00 for, since it was an "import." Anyone out there know where one might find MFQ CD's--or if they exist? And...at a more reasonable price! I checked "Rediscover," and no MFQ material seems to be out there. Thanks for any help in advance.

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Songs Credited to
David "Buck" Wheat
Song Title
1. Better Than Anything (with Bill Loughborough) - B.M.I.
2. Brady And Duncan (with Dave Guard, Judy Henske and Cyrus Faryar) - B.M.I.
3. Coo-Coo-U (with Bill Loughborough) - B.M.I.
4. Goin' To California (with Bill Loughborough) - B.M.I.
5. Gotta a Bet With Myself - B.M.I.
6. Isa Lei (with Dave Guard, Judy Henske and Cyrus Faryar) - B.M.I.
7. Ox Driver (with Dave Guard, Judy Henske and Cyrus Faryar) - B.M.I.
8. Ride On Railroad Bill (with Dave Guard, Judy Henske and Cyrus Faryar) - B.M.I.
9. Salomila (with Dave Guard, Judy Henske and Cyrus Faryar) - B.M.I.
10. Soy Libre (with Dave Guard, Judy Henske and Cyrus Faryar) - B.M.I.
11. Worlds Last Authentic Playboys (with Bill Loughborough) - B.M.I.


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Last revised: February 23, 2006.