THE STORIES AND SONGS OF OLDHAM COUNTY'S BUDDY PEPPER
Explorethe life and career of oldham county's hollywood star
Early life and acting
Buddy Pepper, born Jack R. Starkey in 1922 in La Grange, Kentucky, was a songwriter, pianist, and actor who was most active during the years known as the Golden Age of Hollywood. A piano prodigy, he began attracting Louisville audiences at a young age by way of vaudeville and his own radio show on WHAS. Buddy made his debut in Hollywood in the late 1930s, and it was there that he was cast in a number of movies alongside other famed child actors such as Jackie Cooper, Jane Withers, and Mickey Rooney. The peak of his movie career came when he was cast in a lead role in Disney's first full length live action/animation film, The Reluctant Dragon (1941). He later went on to also appear in television and guest starred onThe George Burns and Gracie Allen Show in 1952.
Buddy was best known for writing songs. In 1949, he supplied the lyrics for an unpublished melody which well-known composer Richard A. Whiting had written shortly before his death. The song was released under the title "Sorry" and went on to be recorded by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and more. Other noteworthy songs were "What Good Would It Do?" (recorded by Duke Ellington), "Don't Tell Me" (featured in the Clark Gable movie The Hucksters), "Now You've Gone and Hurt My Southern Pride" (recorded by Phil Harris), "That's the Way She Does It" and "Ol' Saint Nicholas" (recorded by Doris Day).
In 1953, Buddy wrote with his collaborators Inez James and Larry Russell what would become the most popular song of the year and an instant classic, "Vaya Con Dios." Les Paul and Mary Ford's popularized the hit and remained a classic for decades to come. Their version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005. Hundreds upon hundreds of other recordings by artists like Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Perry Como, Julio Iglesias, Chuck Berry, The Drifters, and Freddy Fender (whose recording earned the song an award from the ASCAP in 1976) have followed in years since.
While he never quite returned to acting, Buddy stayed heavily involved in movies. In the early 1940s, he wrote several songs for Universal Pictures musicals starring Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan, and Gloria Jean, including the soundtrack and score of the 1943 film Mister Big, which became O'Connor's first big hit among movie goers. In 1959, he co-wrote the title song for the popular Doris Day and Rock Hudson movie, Pillow Talk, which today is one of Day's best remembered films.
hollywood's piano man
Buddy was a talented pianist and accompanied a variety of the best singers and nightclub performers of the era. For many, he even served as their vocal coach and arranger. In the late 1940s, he frequently worked with Margaret Whiting. In 1951, he served as pianist and arranger for his friend Judy Garland in her tour of the English provinces. And in 1955, in between travels with his regular associates, Lisa Kirk and Jack Smith, he was called on by Marlene Dietrich herself to be her pianist for a month in Las Vegas.
WORLD WAR II VETERAN
From 1942 to 1945, Buddy served in the Air Transport Command as a "trouper" in the Special Services Section, a division of the U. S. Army which was dedicated to entertaining both servicemen and the public. While stationed at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, he sang and danced in the popular soldier musical show Hey, Rookie! for eight months at the Belasco Theater. Afterward, he left for Delaware, where he spent the remainder of his career at the New Castle Army Air Base in Wilmington, serving in multiple capacities for the benefit of the community around him and his fellow servicemen. In 1944, he travelled for 12,000 miles to military outposts throughout the Canadian Arctic and Alaska, where he braved below zero temperatures for two months to perform for soldiers. By the end of his service, he had become one of the finest entertainers in the ATC and had risen to the rank of sergeant.