Buddy Killen’s Estate Gems

By Karen Parr-Moody

January 8, 2017


Burt Reynolds gifted him a llama. Dolly Parton had her first record produced by him. And young Elvis Presley sang “Heartbreak Hotel” at his convincing.


For decades, the late Buddy Killen (1932-2006) was a key figure in Nashville’s music business as a famous publisher, songwriter and producer. By middle age, he owned the largest country music publishing business in the world, Tree Publishing Company, which owned such well-known standards as “King of the Road,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy.”


When Killen sought downtime from the business, he took refuge in his grand estate in Leiper’s Fork, where his mansion was filled with fine furnishings and dozens of chandeliers.


Today, some of those fine furnishings are on view at GasLamp Too Booth T-384, handpicked by Killen’s widow, Carolyn, who was instrumental in bringing many antique finds to the mansion in Leiper’s Fork.


One such item is this bronze Buddha sculpture Killen discovered when he visited China in 1964 ($4,000). This superbly modeled sculpture is the Buddhist savior, Padmapani the Lotus-Bearer, who represents the bodhisattva of compassion. It belongs to a long tradition of metal icons that have been produced in Tibet since the 1000s.


Padmapani is portrayed standing, barefoot, upon a lotus base. His face is carved with features typical of the Tibetan style, the expression benevolent and noble. He is bare chested and wears a dhoti around his hips and the jewelry befitting a prince, including a high tiara. In his left hand, he grasps a stemmed lotus flower and a leaf. The lotus represents the active principle of creation.


Killen made another find in Asia with these rare and beautiful ginger jars topped with foo dog finials ($1,850 for the pair). Beyond their dreamy mint-blue base color, they feature beautiful paintings of the Canton Factories, a neighborhood that existed along the Pearl River, in Guangzhou (which Westerners called Canton), from about 1684 to 1856, as the West’s sea trade was cemented with China.


Such views of Canton were popular paintings that were once acquired by captains and merchants and documented important locations in trade. In the paintings on these ginger jars, one can see a variety of flags from countries that had outposts in Canton, including those of Great Britain, Holland, Finland and America.


The paintings also appear to depict the nine-storied Flowery Pagoda and the Zenhai Tower, also known as the Five-Storied Pagoda, which was initially built in 1380.


This bronze sculpture, “Zebra,” was cast on Sept. 15, 1992 at Dyansen Studio ($11,000). Created by the Chinese sculptor and painter Jiang Tiefeng (b. 1938), it is a limited edition, cast bronze sculpture that has been hand finished. It is one of six museum-quality copies that were made from a mold that was destroyed after the casting was completed.


The sculpture is 22.5 inches tall and 15 inches wide and is finished with 24-carat gold leaf. It is numbered and signed. Tiefeng was originally assigned by the Chinese government to product Socialist Realism propaganda posters and sculptures, but he is now known for the vibrancy and modernity of his work.


This bronze sculpture of Wyatt Earp is by Mark Hopkins, one of the premier bronze sculptors in the United States today ($2,395). He is a master technician of the ancient lost wax process whose lifelike works are owned by corporate and private collectors, including Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, Ron Howard and Maya Angelou.


Hopkins is known for focusing on faces and hands to express emotion, as can be seen in this Wyatt Earp piece. He certainly captures the cool grit of Earp, an Old West gambler and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Arizona.


Larry Butler, the Grammy-winning producer behind some of Kenny Rogers’ greatest hits, including “Lucille” and “The Gambler,” gifted Killen this limited edition Howard Miller “Hourglass-I” mantel clock seen below ($5,000). It was created with lavish use of precious metals and rare woods, including the finishes in Honduras mahogany, the silvered and engraved dial with brass numbers and brass spandrels on the face.


GasLamp always offers items of great beauty and uniqueness. But with the estate of Buddy Killen, such pieces are concentrated in one space that will quicken one’s pulse with an exquisite array.


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