60s Music

Bonnie Guitar and Her Hit “Dark Moon”

Introduction to Bonnie Guitar

Bonnie Guitar
Bonnie Guitar. (Source: Wikipedia)

Bonnie Guitar (born Bonnie Buckingham in 1923 in Seattle, Washington) is a country/pop singer, guitarist and former record producer whose claim to prominence rested in her 1957 crossover hit “Dark Moon.” At that time she was one of the few country singers (male or female) to have had hits on both pop and country chart. Guitar’s feat was only equaled by another country star Patsy Cline, whose “Walking After Midnight” also became a big pop and country hit. She started her professional career as a session guitarist for small labels Abbot, Fabor and Radio Recorders, thus earning the stage moniker. As her prowess on the instrument became more known, she also started to play for other artists such as Jim Reeves, Dorsey Burnette, Ned Miller, and the DeCastro Sisters. She also aspired to be a recording artist, and so her dream would be realized the moment Guitar heard the demo of “Dark Moon” which was meant to be recorded by Burnette. Guitar loved the song so much that she was willing to sacrifice her performance fee if she would be allowed to record the song instead. Fortunately, she was granted permission. “Dark Moon” was released on Fabor label but it was later licensed to Dot Records. It became a crossover success having hits on both country and pop charts. She released other singles that never lived up to the feat that “Dark Moon” achieved, and so Fabor terminated her contract and Guitar went back to Washington. There, she established a label with a refrigerator salesman Bob Reisdroff called Dolphin Records. Renamed as Dolton Records, Guitar released her own singles there like “Candy Apple Red” and “Born To Be With You.” However, her own recording career was overshadowed by Dolton’s wards The Fleetwoods (with big hits “Come Softly To Me” and “Mr. Blue” and The Ventures (with a monster hit called “Walk, Don’t Run”). She thought it was now her time to get her own career back on its feet, so she left Dolton and returned to Dot Records. Her records were now primarily geared for country release, and she scored her first Top 10 country hits such as “I’m Living in Two Worlds,” “A Woman in Love” (her highest country hit at #4) and “I Believe In Love.” In 1969, Guitar duetted with Buddy Killy for the single “A Truer Love You’ll Never Find (Like Mine)” which became a minor hit. By the 1970s and 1980s she appeared and recorded sporadically until her retirement in 1996. Guitar now lives in Soap Lake, WA, where she plays music occasionally.

 

The early life and career of Bonnie Guitar

Best remembered for the 1957 breakthrough hit “Dark Moon,” Bonnie Buckinghan, professionally known as Bonnie Guitar was a American Seattle-native country-pop singer born on March 25, 1923. Buckingham started to play guitar and write her own songs when she reached adolescence.

Relocating to Los Angeles in 1955, she found musical employment as a session guitarist for small labels such as Abbot, Fabor and Radio Recorders. With her experience, she was later noticed for her proficiency on the instrument as well as for her prolific work, playing for music stars back then like Dorsey Burnette, Ned Miller, the De Castro Sisters and Jim Reeves.

 

 

Bonnie Guitar as a solo recording artist with her hit song “Dark Moon”

After working as a sessionist for quite a long time, Bonnie decided to try her luck as a solo recording artist. Signing to Fabor Records, she issued her debut single “If You See My Love Dancing” in 1956. At some point, she heard a song performed by Dorsey Burnett called “Dark Moon,” a demo owned by Fabor Robinson, the label owner. Robinson wasn’t satisfied with Burnette’s performance of the song, and offered it instead to Guitar. Since Guitar herself also wanted to sing “Dark Moon” ever since she first heard it, she told Robinson she was willing to forego her royalties just to record the song.  In 1957 Dot Records issued Guitar’s version of “Dark Moon.”  Later that year “Dark Moon” became her first hit, charting on both pop and country charts at #6 and #15 respectively.

Guitar and another country music singer Patsy Cline were among the first country artists (male or female) to achieve huge crossover chart successes. But unlike Cline, who was able to follow achieve some more big hits both on the country and pop charts (before her untimely death from an airplane crash), Bonnie wasn’t able to follow up the success of her only huge hit. The follow-up single “Mr. Fire Eyes” had a marginal success later that year, registering at #71 on the pop chart while it was on #15 on the country chart. After that, Bonnie returned to Washington after her time with Dot Records.

 

Bonnie Guitar in the 60’s

In 1959, Bonnie and Bob Reisdorff co-founded Dolphin Records but it was soon renamed to Dolton Records. She recorded and released most of her later singles on that label and signed several artists such as The Fleetwoods and The Ventures. Both artists had their hit singles during their stay on Dolton label; The Fleetwoods had a couple of chart-toppers “Come Softly to Me” and “Mr. Blue” while The Ventures had their huge hit “Walk Don’t Run.”

 

 

 

Around 1953, Bonnie decided to return to Dot Records where she issued most of her records throughout the early 60s music era. She also released a concept album for Charter Records in 1963. Throughout 1966 to 1969, she returned to country charts with the singles “I’m Living in Two Worlds” (#9, 1966), “A Woman in Love,” (#4, 1967), “I Believe in Love” (#10, 1968) and “A True Love You’ll Never Find” (1969). In 1966, she also earned an award from the Academy of Country Music as the Top Female Vocalist by that year. Seeing no upcoming hits, Bonnie’s career started to fade.

 

Bonnie Guitar’s later career and recent life

Bonnie continued to record singles for several labels and made a minor hit in 1980 with “Honey On the Moon.” She retired from the music industry in 1996. In 2014, the 92-year old Bonnie Guitar was back, began producing, writing material and performing as well.

 

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