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Here in the Alvin J. Huss Archives you’ll find numerous stories of foresters and loggers from years past. Even among these legends, though, some figures still stand just a bit taller. As we continue to dig through the vinyl collection at FHS we find a set of records by one such figure: the one and only Buzz Martin. At ease both in the woods with a chainsaw and on the stage with a guitar, Buzz Martin was a unique and legendary figure among loggers during the 1960s and 1970s. During a time of lumber industry decline Buzz Martin was able to find success as a country music singer. Known as “The Singing Logger,” he wrote emotional, personal, and humorous tunes about the working logger. Martin ultimately released six albums, and while his singing career was relatively short his music presents a unique audio snapshot of logging work of this era.

Buzz Martin

Buzz Martin at work in the woods.

Buzz Martin was born in Coon Hollow, Oregon, in 1928. As a kid he began to lose his eyesight and at thirteen was sent to the Oregon School for the Blind. It was during this time that Martin began to play the guitar. He received a corneal transplant and regained his sight while at the school, but tragedy immediately struck again—both his parents died prematurely. Martin was then sent to live with his sister and her husband, a musician and amateur instrument-maker named Bill Woosley. They lived in Five Rivers, a tiny community at the midway point between the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast. Martin was encouraged by his sister to sing.

Martin entered the logging world as a whistle punk at eighteen, operating a loud, steam-powered whistle used by loggers to communicate with each other. He quickly ascended up the logging jobs ladder, from cutting timber to high climbing. He began singing to his fellow loggers as camp entertainment in his twenties. After landing a meeting with Buddy Simmons, music director at radio station KRDR in Gresham, Oregon, Martin was able to cut his first record, Where There Walks a Logger, There Walks a Man. His 1968 debut on Ripcord Records was followed by subsequent logger classics like A Logger Finds an Opening and The Old Time Logger, A Vanishing Breed of Man.

Buzz Martin cover

Martin’s biggest hit was probably the song “Butterin’ Up Biscuit” which he actually played in person for his hero Johnny Cash backstage after one of Cash’s concerts in Oregon in 1969. This led to Martin eventually appearing on The Johnny Cash Show on ABC in 1971. This may have been the peak of Martin’s career though. Unable to find mainstream success, he refocused on logging work, moving to Alaska in 1979. Unfortunately tragedy struck again. In 1983 he died in a freak accident in the Alaska woods while scouting out a hunting trip.

Buzz Martin records

A selection of Buzz Martin records available at FHS.

Martin’s final resting place is at Lone Oak Cemetery in Stayton, Oregon. His headstone is inscribed with a pine tree and title: “The Singing Logger.” Martin’s music lives on and is well worth a listen. His catalog is available online via Amazon and iTunes. Enjoy a short clip from one of his songs below.

Buzz Martin

Audio clip from “Hoot Owlin Again” – by Buzz Martin off his album Where There Walks a Logger There Walks a Man:

**This blog post draws from “Out of the Woods” by Casey Jarman, which appeared in The Believer (July/August 2013).

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Here at Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters we occasionally like to get our fingers a little dusty by digging through the vinyl record collection in the FHS archives. Our collection may be modest, but it’s full of vintage forest-related audio treasures. One of our favorite items from the collection is undoubtedly the self-titled album from Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers Band. Everyone who sees the album gets a kick out the band’s name as well as the photos inside the record sleeve. But who were these guys?

Lousy Loggers Band album cover

The Lousy Loggers were a band made up of members all with connections to forest industries. Here’s how the group was described by the Western Conservation Journal: “The story of the barkclad bards who keep the loggers dancing is an inspiring example of men dedicated to a rewarding purpose. Each Lousy Logger earns his bread in a job related to bringing in the trees. Each donates his time and pays his entire expenses — instruments, travel, convention board and room; everything. As a group, they give and ask nothing back except that their friends, the loggers, swing their partners.”

The band was led by the legendary Anton “Tony” Lausmann (1889-1978), founder of KOGAP Lumber Industries in Medford, Oregon. Lausmann was certainly a character. He could easily be spotted by either the ever-present cigar in his mouth, or the concertina in his hands — and oftentimes with both at the same time.  In addition to founding KOGAP, Lausmann’s long forest industry career included serving as director of the Oregon Forestry Center, the Industrial Forestry Association, and the National Lumber Manufacturers Association. But what brought him the most joy (and fame) was his concertina — or “squeeze-box” — which he was said to have carried with him just about everywhere since he was a kid.

Tony Lausmann

It was Lausmann’s commitment to carrying his concertina that led to the Lousy Loggers name. In 1958 he was on a voyage by ship to Hawaii with a group of Shriners. Asked to entertain the passengers with his concertina, Lausmann was eventually joined by other “musicians” on board playing the harmonica, tin cans, and other improvised instruments. A fellow passenger asked what the name of the group was, and another one of the Shriners yelled out “Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers.” The name stuck.

Lousy Loggers Band

That same year Lausmann was invited to play at the Pacific Logging Congress Annual Convention. He recruited some forest industry musician friends and the official Lousy Loggers Band was born. Following a successful debut at the 1958 Pacific Logging Congress, the group performed for much of the next two decades at various conferences and conventions, mainly in the Pacific Northwest. The band recorded their one and only album in 1972. At the time of this recording, the band included Lowell Jones on the keys; Gene Pickett on trumpet and trombone; three men on sax and clarinet — Clifton Crothers, Bill Preuss, and Vince Bousquet; Jack Bennett on drums; Dave Totton on bass; and Rex Stevens on vibes. Other past members of the group included Howard Smith, Jim Bigelow, Stu Norton, Clyde Lees, Ed Pease, Phil English, Gene Duysen, and Tony’s son Jerry Lausmann.

Lausmann's Lousy Loggers

The group officially disbanded in 1976 and Tony Lausmann passed away two years later. In his obituary he was remembered as “best known and revered for his leadership in organizing the west coast’s well known and popular Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers Band.” For a sampling of the group’s work, enjoy the audio slideshow below created by librarian extraordinaire Jason Howard. And for more on the unique character that was Tony Lausmann, we recommend the book Swivel-Chair Logger: The Life and Work of Anton A. “Tony” Lausmann, which can be found in the FHS Library.

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