Let’s say you’re an educated Massachusetts girl, you have a first class rock ‘n’ roll voice, the ability to play multiple musical instruments, and looks that warrant being a finalist in a living “Rocker Barbie” search by Mattel Toys in 1986. What do you do with credentials like those?
You take them to the Outer Banks and you have Leslie Buck.
Residing on Hatteras Island in the village of Waves, Leslie has been a mainstay here for almost two decades, with the ability to lead her own band, play solo and as support player, adding value to musical combos led by others.
I first met her at a gig of mine in Waves. She was in the audience, I had no idea who she was, (although I had heard of her), and my first thought was “There’s someone actually listening.
Had I known, my fluster level would have risen by leaps and bounds.
If you’re a resident of the area that’s south of the Oregon Inlet, you’re likely very familiar with her. If you’re an occasional visitor, you may well have been exposed to her talents, as she tends to ply her trade near the place she calls home. But not exclusively: She’s happy to go where she’s able to make her joyful noise.
She graciously submitted to my interview request:
Q: If you’re not a native, what brought you to the Outer Banks?
A: My ex-husband. He surfs and fishes. I’d never heard of this beautiful, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, kind of place. As newlyweds, the Outer Banks was to be one of many surf and sightseeing stops while going cross-country to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We never left.
Q: How would you describe your music?
A: All over the map, both covers and originals.
Q: Who is your greatest musical influence?
A: My dear departed mom, Jacqueline Buck.
Q: What is it about music that touched you?
A: How there’s music, or music and lyrics, which has been and continues to make my personal life soundtrack.
Q: What was the first concert you attended? Did it inspire you to perform?
A: John Denver, 1974, and no, he didn’t inspire me, as I was already performing in plays, church, and school chorus groups.
Q: Are you self-taught?
A: Not really, but I had much help from my mother, and my wonderful musician friends over the years.
Q: Besides guitar, what other instruments do you play?
A: Keyboard, multiple percussion instruments, harmonica, and can handle some basic/easy bass guitar. Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. My voice is truly my “instrument.”
Q: How many different musical projects — duos, trios, bands — are you involved in?
A: Two. In addition to my solo acoustic act, I’m thrilled to be a hired gun for Jeremy and the Generations, and also the Dr. Tom Band.
Q: What’s your favorite venue to play on the Outer Banks? To listen?
A: To play: Good Winds Restaurant in Rodanthe. Totally unplugged, hardly any gear to carry. To listen: No fave, just as long as it’s stellar, well-played live music.
Q: Musicians usually play for those “moments” when everything clicks, and you play above and beyond what your normal capabilities are. Do you have a favorite moment?
A: Not really. Although, having lost my voice three times in my career, it makes me really happy at any gig when I can nearly work my entire vocal range (several octaves). Then, it’s all about positive audience reaction/response.
Q: What do you do in the off-season? Do you have a day job and if so, what is it?
A: Music has pretty much always been part time. I’ve been working with the County of Dare since 2002 — in Finance, and now the planning department.
Q: Was there a person in your life that motivated you to pursue music?
A: My brother Chris. He had a friend who was in a rock band, and they needed a lead singer. He told them about me, and the rest is history.
Q: If you could perform with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
A: Several performers, but Ann Wilson is my female rock vocal “idol.”
Q: What one song have you heard that you wish you’d written?
A: Perhaps “Amazing Grace” — it means so much to people all over the world, and all ages, and for a several hundred years.
Q: If you could choose a time period in which to perform music, what would it be and why?
A: The ’40s. I love the old standards/torch tunes.
Q: Do you listen to new music, and if so, what are you listening to?
A: Yes, and usually artists my friends turn me on to it.
Q: The music business can be tough. Did you ever consider quitting and doing something else?
A: I love to sing too much to quit.
Q: McCartney or Lennon?
Q: Where were you the first time you performed onstage, and how old were you?
A: Acting: 9 years old. Singing: 11 years old in middle school chorus.
Q: When you write a song, is it positive or negative inspiration that drives you?
A: I’d have to admit, it’s more negative inspiration.
Q: Do you have any hobbies that aren’t music-related?
A: Gardening. I have a degree in horticulture.
Q: Your favorite album?
A: Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie.”
Q: Your favorite song?
A: “Amazing Grace.”
Q: If you were I, what question should I be asking you?
A: “I’ve heard you were one of the finalists in Mattel Toy Company’s national search for a living “Rocker Barbie” doll. How’d that come about?”
Q: How did the “Rocker Barbie” doll thing come about?
A: My dad and my future brother-in-law at the time heard about the contest, and they suggested I enter. ...I was chosen to go to New York City to audition for those chosen from the eastern half of the country — nine out of 40 chosen. Then I was chosen to go on to L.A., to meet up with all 18 selected ladies from both halves of the country for the final audition. ... Ultimately, they never chose anyone.