The Silver Sage Buckaroos, a New Introduction to Detroit Country-Western

Newspaper clipping: "Bob" and his Silver Sage BuckaroosThe torn, yellowed and undated newspaper clipping, still attached to a piece of vintage scrapbook page, shows Detroit’s Silver Sage Buckaroos. During the late 1930s and 1940s, the group performed cowboy music on WEXL radio Royal Oak. Around 1941 they cut a record for the Hot Wax label, produced by the Mellow Record Company based in the east side of Detroit, with vocalist Billy Casteel. (We don’t know whether Casteel is in this image.) Casteel and the Buckaroos recorded “Hollywood Mama,” a rewrite of the York Brothers’ 1939 hit “Hamtramck Mama,” along with “Wayne County Blues:”

Oh the judge and the jury, they are nice
They sent us up here for collecting graft on crooked dice
People pay their taxes on their homes
Just to give us money to gamble on

I’ve got the Wayne County blues

Listen to: Billy Casteel & Silver Sage Buckaroos – Wayne County Blues

The hand-written note “Slivers” refers to the smiling devil at right. He led a group called the Oregon Buckaroos at WCAR radio Pontiac before World War II.

Alabama native Bob Norton (seated at center) moved to Detroit before the war. After military service, he joined the Radio Rangers in Detroit. Led by Eddie Sosby, the band moved to KFAB Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1946. (See the December 1946 edition of Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder for a feature on an early lineup of the Radio Rangers, who worked at KFAB with a young Johnny Carson a couple of years later.) Norton returned to Detroit in 1947, working in country-western bars as a bassist and singer until his untimely death around 1952. He worked with Chief Redbird, Hal Clark, and led his own groups. His musical expertise and friendship influenced musicians such as Eddie Jackson, and Arizona Weston, whose grandson recovered the picture above from the bottom of an old box of papers.

You wouldn’t think something as vigorous as Detroit’s 20th century C&W scene would require such lucky turns of fate to rediscover. But it has several times during the last twenty years, as my friends and I sought to recover a forgotten jewel in Detroit’s crown of musical achievements.


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