The creation music man (who makes dinosaurs)
A chat with singer/sculptor Buddy Davis
Buddy Davis is an acclaimed sculptor of replica dinosaurs, who is also an accomplished country Gospel musician. His unique ‘creation gospel’ family songs, interspersed with Buddy’s storytelling and humour, regularly inspire laughter, tears, devotion and delight in young and old.
Don Batten: Buddy, you recently had a visit to Alaska to find ‘fresh’ dinosaur bones—can you tell us about that?
Buddy Davis: Sure. Our team of five went to the North Slope of Alaska, about as far north as you can go without actually getting into the Arctic Ocean. We landed at a little place called Umiat, population two, in a small bush plane and there picked up rubber rafts and rafted a hundred miles down the glacier-fed Colville river. The third day we found our first dinosaur remains. [Prof.] John Whitmore, our geologist and team leader, spied this fossil head—it was just dropping out of the bank ready to fall into the river. Dr Speck and I paddled just as hard as we could, and I just got my hands on it and, you know, the current was pulling us. And so I’m hanging onto this thing trying to pull it loose and get it in our rubber raft. It weighed 80 pounds [40 kilograms]—it’s a wonder it didn’t sink the raft. We later identified it as a Lambeosaurus—the furthest north such dinosaur remains have been found.
I heard the mosquitoes were ferocious?
I tell you, I’ve never seen mosquitoes like it. They were on us constantly and you couldn’t get away from them. They’d even land in your food—we ended up eating our food, mosquitoes and all. It was something else.
… and quicksand?
That’s right. Dr Speck fell in quicksand as we neared the main bone bed. We got him out — he was very cold and shivering — we put dry clothes on him, put him in a sleeping bag, gave him a hot meal, and the next day he was all right. The police later told us that Eskimos out hunting alone get caught in quicksand and bears get them.
The Liscomb Bone Bed has probably thousands of frozen unfossilized dinosaur bones—some of them have the ligaments still attached. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure the importance of this. To believe that it is 65 million years or more since these dinosaurs lived on earth—that takes a lot of faith. It doesn’t take near as much faith to believe that they might have been frozen for a couple of thousand years at most. It places dinosaurs well within the time of man, so I think that’s exciting. That’s what we went there for—to find the frozen dinosaur bones and the Lord was very, very gracious to us. We brought back (under an official permit) over two hundred pounds of bones. It was a neat team and we all give God the glory.
You’ve had a long-term interest in dinosaurs, haven’t you? You’ve been sculpting dinosaurs—how did you get into that?
Well, I used to be a taxidermist—the Lord did it, actually. The Lord knew way back then what he wanted me to be doing. I always loved wildlife and animals, so I thought, well, I’ll learn taxidermy—and it took off. Soon I was doing it full-time and it turned out to be a pretty good business for us.
I had to make lots of forms to mount my animal skins on, which was training for what I’m doing now and I didn’t even know it. I believe the Lord called me to build dinosaurs. A lot of people thought I’d lost my marbles. I heard a thousand times, ‘What you gonna do with all these things?’ and ‘What you gonna do when the fad stops?’
Before that you almost had a country music career in Nashville, didn’t you?
After I got out of the Navy I moved down to Nashville, Tennessee, where the ‘Grand Ole Opry’ is and where the ‘big boys’ are. I got signed with a major agency as a singer and a songwriter. And I thought, wow, my dream’s coming true. We did a demo tape and stuff. We had a chance for a major label at that time but the agent didn’t let me go because the guy that owns this record company said, ‘Well, I see that Buddy’s got potential, but he’s not quite ready yet. But I’ll sign him just as a favour for you, Joe.’ And Joe says, ‘No, I want you to really want him before we sign.’ I couldn’t understand that because, I mean, anytime a record label says that they’ll do it, you do it! Nothing worked out from then on and I got really discouraged.
But you met your wife, Kay, in Nashville?
Kay was going to college down there—that’s the blessing of Nashville, but as far as the music goes, it was anything but. I moved back to Ohio very discouraged. I thought hometown people would think, ‘There’s the guy that went down Nashville, thought he was gonna make it big’—but they didn’t say that. Soon after, I started into taxidermy.
How did you get involved with Ken Ham?
We showed our dinosaurs in shopping malls for, maybe, 10 years, travelling around. But in the malls I could never present my dinosaurs as a creationist. I’d never present them in an evolutionary way—I’d never say ‘millions of years’, or anything like that. But I couldn’t go out and say, ‘God created this’ and ‘Did you know that in Job chapter 40 …?’ [the description of Behemoth] We had a real burden in our heart for years. We talked about building a museum and presenting our dinosaurs the way we wanted them to be. Then we found out that Ken was moving to Kentucky from California.
Kentucky’s not far from where you live here in Ohio, is it?
No, not far. It’s like God put us where we could get together. Three years ago we went to the Answers in Genesis seminar at Mt Vernon, and I introduced myself to Ken. I told him I was the dinosaur man Creation magazine had done a story on [13(1):10–14, 1990]. I invited him to my cabin but didn’t think that he’d come because at seminars people are always inviting you and you’re tired and that. But he came. I showed him the dinosaurs and Ken saw the potential of using these in a major creationist museum. Then he saw that I was a taxidermist. And he saw the potential of the taxidermy. Then Ken sees my guitar in the corner. He says, ‘Play me a song.’ And I thought, oh, I don’t want to do that. I hadn’t picked up the guitar for months and I just wasn’t practised up. Anyway I said, ‘Well, since we’re talking about the museum and it’s still like a dream,’ I sang him a song I wrote called He Makes Dreams Out of Nothing and Ken said, ‘You have to sing that song when the museum opens.’
I started bringing my dinosaurs to some of the seminars. I sang for the kids, and did a few workshops. Then we did a family camp in Indiana and the adults really enjoyed the songs, too. So now I’m singing at the Answers in Genesis seminars. I was excited a t just being a part of the ministry, let alone having the dinosaurs I’m sculpting as part of their exciting new family museum project. It’s unbelievable to me that I would even be asked.
After all these years, you are now not only performing regularly to thousands, you’ve also released a professional CD and tape, which is ‘snapped up’ by people who hear you at the seminars. Some of your songs are like Ken Ham set to music, aren’t they?
Well, Ken actually says that this CD is the seminar in song. ‘It’s designed to do what it does do, what it does do it does do well, doesn’t it? Yes it does. I think it does. Do you? I do. Hope you do too.’ Most of the songs are easy tunes to catch on to and they’re easy lyrics. Parents say their kids just play the tapes all the time and, I mean, it’s just really good.
So, your youthful ambition has been fulfilled—and more!
From the time I was fifteen years old, I wanted to be a singer. I prayed for years about getting into the music business and I couldn’t understand how I could write these songs and God wouldn’t let it happen. But I can see now that if I’d made it in Nashville, I never would have developed my talent as a sculptor, and I never would have gotten to the ministry part of it, probably been far from it. And God, being so good and knowing the end from the beginning, brought me back here thirty-two years later. And so when I sing ‘He makes dreams outa nothin’, He does—I can sing that from the heart and I can identify with people who’ve prayed for years for things and got discouraged. I tell people at the seminars you don’t get discouraged and you don’t give up. And to think that I’m part of the creationist ministry! I mean, I had read their books, got their literature, subscribed to their Creation magazine, which I’d look at and say, wow, this is really something. And to think that they would take on this country boy here at Henpeck, Ohio.
Buddy, after listening to your CD, I think you’re being much too modest. We’re excited about having you and Kay in Australia in July.
We’re looking forward to coming and sharing our music and some stories as well. I’ll tell about the Alaska adventure. I’ll probably tell a little bit about us going on through the Everglades and what that was like and I’ll tell something about dinosaurs and our sculpting. And we’ll mix it with some songs.