A tribute to Chris Buch

Vale Chris Buch – written by Alan Craig.
12 October 1936 – 19 January 2016

I’m sad to report the passing this morning of an old mate, Chris Buch, a singer, songwriter, guitarist, banjo and trombone player. Chris was well known and loved by a wide circle of friends associated with the Brisbane folk and jazz scenes. His humour was legend, and his enthusiasm infectious.

Chris grew up in London during the Blitz and later served as an army signalman in Germany and Malaya. Following his three years in the army, he served in the Merchant Navy from 1953 until he married his first wife, Nancy, in 1958. They had two children, Paul and Sarah. At that time Chris worked with the London Fire Brigade.

Chris, Nancy and the kids moved to Queensland in 1967 and Chris worked as a fireman at the Gold Coast until the family moved to Mt Isa in 1970; here Chris became an underground fire officer. It was in The Isa that his involvement in folk music really began, and he started the Mt Isa Folk Club soon after his arrival. He also formed Rafferty’s Rules, a band that became an institution at the Mt Isa Irish Club.

While in The Isa, Chris also worked as a tourism officer for North West Queensland. In 1979 he took the opportunity to go cattle droving, an experience that resulted in his writing that iconic folk song “Johnny Stewart, Drover”. He married his second wife, Robyn Hicks, in 1984.

Chris and Robyn gradually made their way to to Brisbane in the early 1990s, where he played with Rantan Bush Band for a while. Rantan, with Tony Miles, was the first band to record “Johnny Stewart, Drover”; many have recorded it since. Chris and Tony were to forge an enduring relationship when they formed the jazz duo Cat’s Whiskers in 1994. When Tony tragically died in 2001, Cat’s Whiskers became a trad jazz and swing band.

Chris had also taken up trombone (yes, we’ve forgiven him!), and for a long while played with a Brisbane big band, Musical Chairs, until health issues forced him to give it away. Chris was responsible for my joining that band as a saxophonist in 2010.

My old friend was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2009, and his health deteriorated from then. He published his autobiography “Hello Sunshine” in late 2011, and despite the gradual loss of movement in his fingers, continued to play and sing; he even took up ukulele in the last couple of years!

Thank you Chris for being a mate. Thank you for your music, your humour, and your enthusiasm – and thank you for “Johnny Stewart, Drover”. My deepest sympathy to Robyn, Paul and Sarah.

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