Frank Buchanan was born in the mountains near Spruce Pine in Mitchell County. At the age of fourteen, he started playing guitar and mandolin, and singing with his older brother Ray. As the Buchanan Brothers, the two performed their first gig at Cal Calhoun’s Carolina Barn Dance, held at the Carolina Theatre in Spruce Pine on Friday nights. After his brother was killed in an accident in 1954, Frank took some time off from playing music.
Later, in Richmond, Virginia, Frank played with a band on the Dominion Barn Dance, where Bill Monroe played on occasion. One night Monroe told Frank that he had a job playing with him if he ever left his band. In 1960, when he was twenty-five years old, he went to Nashville and became one of Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. “All of the Blue Grass Boys have a belt buckle,” Frank said. “Mine is number 37.” Monroe was Frank’s idol, and he performed with him for three years, including spots on the Grand Ole Opry. “It was the biggest thrill of my life,” Frank said.
Frank recorded eighteen songs with Monroe, including “The Blue Ridge Mountain Blues,” on which he sang lead. Afterwards he was called the Blue Ridge Mountain Blues Boy at reunions and festivals with other Blue Grass Boys. He also wrote “Maggie Valley Waltz,” about his home area in Haywood County. Frank was selected to be included in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
Over the years, Frank Buchanan performed with many musicians, including Raymond Fairchild in the 1960s and 1970s, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Jimmy Dickens, and Porter Wagoner. He also played with regional bluegrass musicians, including the Shuffler brothers of Valdese, Floyd Gragg of Avery County, and David Wiseman. These and other musicians honored Frank and his music at a performance at the Old Rock School in Valdese.
Frank Buchanan passed away on July 4, 2012 at the age of 78.