Watcher - Buck Trail
“It made the charts in a lot of places, but there was no money to back it up,” said Buck Killette of his original 1957 version of “Girl Watcher.” Killette, who played sax, guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, said he recorded the song twice. He used the stage name Buck Trail and the band was the Trail (or Traile) Brothers, consisting of three brothers, a cousin, and Killette. “We were traveling and playing in hotels and selling a few of them here and there. It was a fun thing. We weren’t trying to sell records. We had a radio show on WMVM in Miami Beach. Played clubs all over Florida, Shreveport, Pennsylvania, Chicago, New York, Cleveland, New Orleans. We didn’t care if we made any money as long as we didn’t starve. We were all single, having a good time, chasing girls. I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”
Killette said a Newark company was using “Girl Watcher” to advertise summertime beachwear. A producer took Pat Parker to Nashville to do the song as “Boy Watcher, which came out on Skyland. Killette said that version was done wrong, so he re-recorded it with Parker at Arthur Smith’s studio in Charlotte, NC. This was apparently the one released on Heartland, possibly involving an Ed Cottler in Philadelphia. Killette had apparently connected with Parker in Wilmington, NC, but he said, “She was from everywhere. Her father was in the penitentiary and her mother was a bum, but the kid could sing. She lived in about 15 places. 15-16 yrs old. She was in Faceton, NC in the 80’s.” Regarding the Way-Mates, her backing band, he said, “They was just a loose, teen-age band. I booked them once in Florida in the early 60’s and they caused all kind of problems. We called their parents to come and get them.”
Killette worked overseas as land surveyor and came back to the states as a civil engineer. That’s when he met the O’Kaysions. “We decided to turn “Girl Watcher” into soul music,” he said. “That thing took off so fast in March and April 1968, every big record company was calling me. Bill Lowrey got me a contract with ABC. The black stations thought we were black, and the white stations were playing soul music.”
Killette said the North State label was his company, but a 2011 wikipedia article makes no mention of Killette and references a John Whitfield as the producer of the O’Kaysions record, stating that it was recorded at Pitt Sound Studio in Greenville, NC. The Bill Lowrey mention is interesting because the O’Kaysions’ version of the song was also covered as “Boy Watcher” by Ginger Thomson on 1-2-3, which was Lowrey’s label, but the band track is very weaker, giving the impression that it might have been thrown together hurriedly when the O’K’s record started to take off.
“I had a deal with them,” said Killette of the O’Kaysions. “I told them ‘If you all will help me arrange this song and we get the right sound and I put it out, if it does anything, I will split the song writers royalties with the band for five years.’ That was a stupid thing I did, but I thought they were nice guys. But there were too many names to go on the record, ‘so we’ll use one of you guys. I will pay him and he can share the money.’ Now he never gave them any money. They broke their contract with me. They got tied up with two brothers who formed a corporation, and they got ripped off. I told them they would. Three of them were decent guys. They quit the band; they wouldn’t desert me. The other three left. They had Margaret Auger, a fictitious person, signing my name. He (apparently their attorney) got us for a couple hundred thousand.Around the early 90’s Killette sued to get the song back solely in his name. The song that became a hit for the O’Kaysions bears almost no similarity to either version of the song recorded by Pat Parker and, according to O’Kaysions lead singer Donny Weaver, their guitarist Bill Pittman is responsible for the changeover. Despite that, Killette reportedly won the lawsuit, apparently depriving Pittman of everything he should have had coming from that point forward.
© 2011 by Gary E. Myers/MusicGem, PO
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