Blues singer Buddy Ace, also known as “The Silver Fox of the Blues,” was born Jimmy Lee Land in Jasper, Texas, on November 11, 1936. Ace grew up in Baytown, Texas, and moved to Houston when he was a teenager. He showed musical talent and played with his family at an early age and performed as Jimmy Lee Land in a gospel quartet in high school with Texas soul singer Joe Tex. His early influences included Ivory Joe Hunter and Big Joe Turner.
Ace’s career took an important turn in 1955 when he signed with Houston-based Duke Records under the name “Buddy Ace.” It was a year earlier, on Christmas Day 1954, that singer, pianist, and Duke recording star Johnny Ace killed himself while playing Russian roulette backstage between performances at Houston’s City Auditorium. In an effort to capitalize on the late singer’s popularity, the Duke label first recruited Johnny Ace’s brother, St. Clair Alexander, to perform as “Buddy Ace.” When that failed, Duke Records owner, Don Robey, turned to Johnny Lee Land, who agreed to perform under the name Buddy Ace.
Buddy Ace recorded several songs during the 1950s, including the popular “Angelboy,” but his biggest hits came in the 1960s. “Nothing in the World Can Hurt Me (Except You)” and “Hold On (To This Fool)” proved the most successful of his R&B hits. In the 1970s Ace moved to California where he lived in Los Angeles, Oakland, and Sacramento. It was during the 1970s as Ace entered his forties that his hair and beard turned white, earning him the nickname “The Silver Fox of the Blues.” He was also referred to as “The Root Doctor,” the title of one of his songs. Ace performed regularly throughout California, and his releases included Don’t Hurt No More (1994) and Silver Fox (1994), but he never again had the level of success he had enjoyed during the 1960s. He died of a heart attack on December 26, 1994, while performing onstage at a club in Waco, Texas, and is buried at Magnolia Springs Cemetery in Magnolia Springs, Texas. EveJim Records released Ace’s most recent work as From Me to You in 1995.