Canton ‘studio’ home to Caleb Johnson’s raw-cut recordings

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | May 28, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Danny Buckner holds up a photo of American Idol winner Caleb Johnson while standing in his small recording studio beside his home in Canton. Three years ago, the studio was used by Caleb Johnson and his band to record his first CD.

When Danny Buckner opened up his small recording studio to help aspiring musicians create raw-cut CDs about five years ago, he never expected that his studio might one day be a famous landmark.

As Buckner turned on the professional recording system, the unmistakable voice of American Idol winner Caleb Johnson echoed the words of “War Pigs” made famous by “Black Sabbath” in the 1970s.

“War Pigs” is just one of seven songs that Johnson sang in Buckner’s recording studio three years ago while recording a CD with his band.

“If anybody wants to question whether it’s him or not, all they have to do is hear it,” Buckner said about Johnson’s voice.

Although Buckner never met Johnson in person, he vividly remembers hearing the band, called "Charlie Fox Trot," record. He also remembers waving goodbye to Johnson and the rest of the band when he left to go on a fishing trip that same day.

“When bands are in there singing, I don’t bother them because they’re working,” Buckner said. “I never met (Caleb) but I heard him sing and I told my son, ‘that singer right there will go far if he can keep his nose clean.’”

Buckner’s small building on Rolling Hills Road in Canton will likely gain a lot of attention now that Johnson has been named the winner of American Idol for season 13. Johnson is an Asheville native and a graduate of Erwin High School.

Johnson and his band planned to send out their raw cut CD to local clubs in search for music gigs. Buckner’s son, Jeremy, had previously been a part of “Charlie Fox Trot” and had allowed Johnson and the rest of the band to use the studio at no charge.

“We call this the ‘studio’ like you’d call a place you hangout,” Buckner said while motioning to storage building filled with equipment. “We come out here and just jam — but this (studio) recorder is about $2,000. We can do it just like a professional studio does it. It’s not just a rinky-dink thing.”

Buckner has seven of Johnson’s raw recorded songs in his possession, and they are now considered very valuable. Though many people have asked Buckner to make copies of Johnson’s CD, he is hesitant to share it without permission from Johnson or his parents.

“People keep asking me for it,” Buckner said about Johnson’s raw cut CD. “I had one guy come to my door at 7:30 in the morning and he said ‘I will pay you to make me a copy.’ But I told him I’d call him back after I got permission.”

Besides Buckner, Johnson is the only person who has a copy of the CD.

“Jeremy said the only one who had a copy of it was Caleb because it was the first time he did a recording,” Buckner said. “As far as me making a copy of it, I won’t do it without full permission.”

Today, several bands needing a place to record are still using the studio to make CDs. Buckner doesn’t have a pay system to charge musicians for studio use, but he said he’s willing to negotiate and charge much less than a professional studio would.

Buckner, who is also a musician, first developed the studio to give himself a place to practice his songs he performed in church. After a while, he began adding more instruments and recording equipment until eventually it was filled with everything a band might need.

“Someone can walk in here, have a place to practice and just walk out,” Buckner said.

Buckner spends his days taking care of his foster children, going on fishing trips and plays in his band occasionally. Now that Johnson has made a name for himself, Buckner hopes that more musicians will take note of the studio and use it for their own recordings.

“It’s not the facts behind why (Caleb) was here, it’s the fact that he was here,” said Billy Cassada, Buckner’s grandson who currently runs the soundboard inside the studio.

In the meantime, Buckner continues to be a big fan of Johnson, and hopes to cross paths with him again one day.

Anyone interested in using the studio or seeing where Johnson recorded his first songs should contact Cassada by calling 828-648-0778.

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