On March 6, 1938, Elmer “Buddy” Lee Charleton was born in New Market, Virginia. He began playing the guitar and the bass at just eleven years old. Buddy began his long, accomplished career early when he began appearing in professional bands such as Patsy Cline’s “Kountry Krackers” band. Not long after he left for Nashville, TN, Buddy joined honky-tonk musician Ernest Tubb to become an important part of the Texas Troubadours, and he too moved to Nashville. It was Patsy Cline who recommended Buddy to Ernest because his steel guitar player was leaving the band. The next thirteen years were spent on and off the road performing in every state as well as in England. Buddy recorded twenty-five albums with Ernest including several duets with Loretta Lynn. Another twenty-three albums were recorded with various Nashville musicians. Before leaving Nashville, Buddy was entered into the “Who’s Who” book for his design work with Sho-Bud Steel Guitars.
Drained from being on and off the road, Buddy left the Texas Troubadours in 1974 and moved back to Virginia where he was a member of the staff band of Hunter’s Lodge until its closure. Buddy continued to play in local bands as well as perform as a studio musician in Washington D.C. and in Central Virginia. He also wrote the soundtrack to two segments of “America’s Most Wanted” and a Levi’s Jeans commercial. In 1981 when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, the Buddy Charleton Quartet was asked to play in the Smithsonian Inaugural Series. Buddy was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1993. For thirty-six years, Buddy shared his talent and passion of playing steel guitar by teaching at Billy Cooper’s Music in Orange, Virginia. Students would drive or fly in from all over the country and the world just to take lessons from the man who pioneered “Country Jazz.” Some of his students even went on to accompany recording artists such as Garth Brooks, Reba McIntyre, George Strait, and Brooks and Dunn. Buddy considered teaching to be his greatest accomplishment, which he did up until he passed away on January 25, 2011. He was seventy-two years old.