Bonnie Guitar (born Bonnie Buckingham March 25, 1923 in Seattle, Washington) is an American Country-Pop Singer. She is best remembered for her 1957 Country-Pop crossover hit "Dark Moon". She became one of the first female Country Music singers to have songs crossover from the Country charts to the Pop charts, and have hits on both sides.
She also co-founded the record company Dolton Records in the late 50s, that launched the careers of The Fleetwoods and The Ventures. In 1960 she left Dolton and became part owner of Jerden Records. She was married to the late musician and inventor Paul Tutmarc.
(Right Photo Tutmarc Trio: Marlin Hickerson (l.), Bonnie (Guitar), Paul Tutmarc, ca. 1950s.)
Born in 1923 in Seattle as Bonnie Buckingham, she took up playing the guitar as a teenager which led to her stage name, Bonnie Guitar. At the same time, she also started songwriting. Through much of the 1950s, Bonnie worked as a session guitarist at quite a few small labels, like Abbot, Fabor, and also Radio Recorders.
Working at these places got Guitar noticed as a professional guitarist as she ended up playing on sessions for many well-known singers, like Jim Reeves, Dorsey Burnette, Ned Miller, and the Decastro Sisters. After working with so many singers, she acquired her own singing aspirations herself and a desire to make her very own recording career in the process.
In 1956 when Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley were beginning the first moves toward the New Nashville Sound, Bonnie heard the song "Dark Moon", from a publishing demo and found its' composer Ned Miller among the singers with whom she worked as a session guitarist. However, Guitar liked "Dark Moon" so much she decided to waive her performance fee if she would be allowed to record the song herself instead and was given permission.
The song was originally issued under Fabor Records in 1956. "Dark Moon" was then issued over to Dot Records and by the Spring of 1957, "Dark Moon" hit the Pop Top 10 list and went into the Country Top 15 list. Guitar officially had a hit. Her follow-up to "Dark Moon" called "Mister Fire Eyes" failed to make a substantial impact on the Pop charts, making it only to #71 there. On the Country charts though, it was again a Top 15 hit. Because she couldn't follow-up her crossover success, her contract soon ended with Dot Records, and Guitar returned back to Washington.
Guitar however decided she would form her very own record label called Dolphin Records which she co-founded with refrigerator salesman Bob Reisdorff. When the pair decided to re-name the label Dolton Records, many of Guitar's singles like "Candy Apple Red" and "Born to Be With You" were released.
In 1959, her own recording career was superseded by that of a high school trio called The Fleetwoods. The trio was signed to the Dolton label and soon had major Pop Music hits in the Spring and Summer of 1959, with two #1 hits, "Come Softly to Me" and "Mr. Blue". Guitar was soon credited as one of the people who helped launch The Fleetwoods into major music stardom. Soon another group called The Ventures were signed to Bonnie's Dolton label. They too had a monster hit called "Walk Don't Run". However, Bonnie thought it was time she would get her own music career back on foot. She soon left Dolton, and went back to Dot Records where she recorded a series of country albums throughout the 60's.
In the summer and fall of 1963, Bonnie Guitar took a temporary leave to do a one-album contract with Charter Records which was never released commercially. Her first attempt at a concept album would never be rleased commercially , although some of the following songs found their way onto subsequent albums.
It was in 1966, that she scored her next major hit with "I'm Living In Two Worlds". The song was Guitar's first Top 10 Country hit. It even entered the Pop charts, but just about made the Hot 100. In 1967, she scored an even bigger Country hit, with the Top 5 hit "A Woman In Love", which reached #6 on the Country charts. That same year, she won the Academy of Country Music's "Top Female Vocalist" award, and became the second person to win that award. In 1968, "I Believe in Love" was another Top 10 hit. In 1969, Guitar teamed up with Buddy Killen, and together they had a hit duet with "A True Lover You'll Never Find (Than Mine)". After 1969, Guitar's chart success faded away rapidly.
By the 1970s, Guitar's chart success faded away from view. However, she didn't stop recording for labels. In the 1970s, Guitar recorded for Columbia Records and MCA Records. She charted for her last time in 1980 with the single "Honey On the Moon". In 1986, she recorded for the Tumbleweed label, however she gained little success.
Guitar continued performing and playing until she announced she was retiring in 1996. She currently takes up residence in Soap Lake, WA, where she occasionally performs.