Bonnie Guitar and Sanger D. “Whitey” Shafer. If you are a big fan of classic country music (what we call real country music), you no doubt are familiar with both. If you’re a more casual follower, perhaps you aren’t familiar with them, but you have very likely been touched by their contributions.
This weekend, we lost both; Bonnie at 95 years old and Whitey at 84. No cause of death has been released for either one, as of this writing, but according to the website, Saving Country Music, Bonnie was battling congestive heart failure.
Bonnie, born Bonnie Buckingham in Seattle, Washington, scored her first hit single in 1957 with the song “Dark Moon”. The single charted country, then took a surprising turn to the pop side, becoming a top ten pop hit. This, despite competing against another version by Gale Storm. “Mister Fire Eyes” would also become a moderate country hit in 1957, but it would be Bonnie’s last chart single until 1965. That year, “I’m Living In Two Worlds” became her first top ten country single.
She scored two more top ten country hits in 1967 and 1968 with “A Woman In Love” and “I Believe In Love”. Though the hits declined afterward, she continued to record into the 1980’s.
Besides singing, Bonnie was an accomplished guitarist, working as a session musician during the 1950’s. In addition, she also started the Dolton Record label. Dolton would wind up scoring several pop hits, most notably The Fleetwoods’ “Mr. Blue” and “Come Softly To Me”, as well as The Ventures’ “Walk, Don’t Run”.
Sanger D. Shafer, known as Whitey, was a singer and songwriter, but his success was mainly in songwriting. He co-wrote classics with Lefty Frizzell, including “That’s The Way Love Goes”, “I Never Go Around Mirrors”, and “Bandy The Rodeo Clown”. “Bandy The Rodeo Clown” would be the last song Lefty wrote or co-wrote before his passing in 1975.
Shafer continued to write and co-write hits over the next 20+ years. The list includes “Overnight Success”, “All My Exes Live In Texas”, and “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” for George Strait; Keith Whitley’s “I Wonder Do You Think Of Me”; “Soft Lights and Hard Country Music” for Moe Bandy, among others. In addition to Lefty Frizzell, he also collaborated with notable songwriters such as Doodle Owens and Dallas Frazier. He joined the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame in 1989.
As a singer, Whitey charted only two singles on Billboard, both in 1981. “If I Say I Love You (Consider Me Drunk)” only mustered a peak in the sixties, while “You Are A Liar” did better, falling just short of the country top 40.
We join the world of country music in mourning the passing of these two country music greats.
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, and focuses on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.