By Leah Blain, Observer contributor
Shiny black plaques around city hall in Weyburn, Saskatchewan make up their walk of fame.
This walk of fame recognizes people who have lived in Weyburn and have made significant contributions to the nation or global community for athletic, cultural, academic, or humanitarian achievements.
Inductees include Tommy Douglas, W.O. Mitchell, and Tiger Williams.
This year, Jim Buzash’s name was added to the wall in recognition of his contribution to arts and entertainment.
“At this age it means a lot; you know you’ve accomplished something in your life,” says Buzash, who lived in Weyburn for several years.
He and his wife, Fran, retired to the Shuswap 25 years ago, living in Blind Bay for 16 years before moving to their current home in Tappen.
On his wall Buzash has a framed gold record for his first record, 15 Great Melodies of Many Lands.
“We sold a million copies so the producer did that,” he says pointing to it. “He had to pay for five more of them,” he adds laughing.
He is referring to the Buzash family band, Betty and Her Brothers Five.
Jim played the violin, Betty played piano, Art was the bass player, Frank was on the accordion, Ernie played the clarinet, and Steve played the clarinet and sax but his brothers made him expand his repertoire.
“We needed a guitar player so he had to learn fast.”
Jim being the oldest did most of the booking and organizing, but their sister got top billing for a simple reason.
“Ladies first,” says Buzash.
Although Betty did take some piano lessons, they all mostly played by ear.
“My brothers never had a lesson. I tried to read music, I took some lessons, but I quit. I guess I never had the patience for it.”
Buzash and his siblings played all kinds of ethnic and Gypsy music, the kind they learned to love from their parents, their uncle, and grandparents.
From the 1960s to 1980s they played for community events, birthday parties, dances, weddings, for parliamentarians, and ambassadors in Regina. It was a good life, says Buzash.
“We were always joking around, it was lots of fun. We would play until three or four in the morning, have breakfast at Husky, a couple of hours of sleep and then to work.”
They didn’t tour very much because they performed a lot at their own restaurant on the weekends. They had a 200-seat restaurant which was usually packed thanks to the tasty ethnic food and good music.
Buzash was also in demand as a solo artist, but the family went on to make two more records. Although they weren’t professionals, they were so attuned to each other, they played perfectly together.
“When we went to the recording studio the engineer said ours was the only band that he didn’t have to adjust levels. We had that knack, a nice harmony, balanced music.”
Buzash doesn’t pick up his violin too much nowadays because his hearing isn’t what it was and he finds it too difficult. But with a gold record on his wall, his name on the Weyburn Walk of Fame, and a lifetime of good memories, that’ s quite enough, he says.
Fran sums up her husband’s feelings as she recalls what he said the morning after he was inducted.
“He turned to me, half in tears, and said, ‘My life is complete now.’”