Leslie Merrill Behunin, Jr. was the oldest of four children, born to Leslie Merrill Behunin, Sr. and Juanita Marie Ortego Behunin, in Torrey, Utah. Nicknamed "Buddy", at age eight he got his first guitar and soon began performing live with his father's band, The Fremont River Rangers. Three years later, he appeared with his father live on local television station KDYL in Salt Lake City. When the family moved to Los Angeles, California in the early 1950s, he continued to perfect his musical skills, playing both the acoustic guitar and the steel guitar. He also began to do home recordings of himself playing rhythm guitar to a song.
The Lawrence Welk Show
Buddy Merrill joined The Lawrence Welk Show in 1955, the same year it first went national on ABC. On the Welk Show, he performed his guitar version of "Blue Suede Shoes," a popular hit by Elvis Presley in 1956. (Retrieved from "The Lawrence Show." PBS TV. May 12, 2018) He briefly left the show from 1959 to 1962 when he was drafted by the Army. On his return to the Music Makers he was joined in the band's rhythm section with fellow guitarist Neil Levang. For the next twelve years the two would perform together on television. Merrill used a Fender Stratocaster guitar for many of his TV appearances.
Accomplishments after Welk
In 1974, Merrill left the Welk orchestra to devote more time to writing music and recording for Accent Records. He continued to perform live, either as a solo artist or with a band, until 1988 when he retired from the road. He continued to perform as a studio musician. He penned a symphonic work, "Living Sea", as well as original compositions for tape programmers and television commercials. Today he lives in Murrieta, California with his wife Connie, whom he married in 1983.
- Classics in Rhythm, Accent ACD 5054, 2001
- Classic Guitars, Accent ACD 6042, 2001
- Guitars Express, ACD 6041, 1998
- The Exciting Guitars of Buddy Merrill, ACD 5038, 1998
- World of Guitars, ACD 6030, 1994 (sampler of Buddy's compositions)
- Beyond the Reef, ACD 5034, 1992
- Classics in Rhythm, ACS 5054, 1980
- Guitar Sounds of Buddy Merrill, ACS 50100, 1977
- Buddy Merrill Today, ACS 5052, 1975
- Upbeat M.O.R., ACS 5048, 1975
- World of Guitars, ACS 5042, 1972
- Country Capers, ACS 5040, 1972
- 25 Great All-Time Hits, ACS 5038, 1971
- Steel Guitar Country,ACS 5036, 1970
- Beyond the Reef,ACS 5034, 1970
- Guitar Sounds of the 70's, ACS 5032, 1970
- The Best of Buddy Merrill, ACS 5034, 1969
- Electrosonic Guitars, ACS 5028, 1969
- Land of a Thousand Guitars, ACS 5026, 1967
- Sounds of Love, ACS 5024, 1967
- The Many Splendored Guitars of Buddy Merrill, ACS 5022, 1967
- Guitars on Fire, Accent SQBO 91997
- The Exciting World of Buddy Merrill, ACS 5020, 1966
- Latin Festival, ACS 5018, 1966
- Holiday from Guitars, Accent AC 5016, 1965
- The Guitar Sounds of Buddy Merrill, ACS 5010, 1965
- Songs of the Islands (with Lawrence Welk), Dot DLP 3251, 1960 (re-issued by Ranwood R 8022 and R 2007)
- Biography, SpaceAgePop.com; accessed December 4, 2014.
- Profile, welkmusicalfamily.com; accessed December 4, 2014.
- Interview with Buddy Merrill for the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Program February 15, 2011