Tim Buppert’s road to Nashville started at the old Chuckatuck firehouse when he was 8 years old.
The singer-songwriter recorded by Trisha Yearwood and other big country names was at a function where a drummer had him captivated.
“For some reason, I watched that drummer,” he reflected.
Santa brought Buppert a drum kit that Christmas, and the first time he made any money playing it was at the Driver firehouse.
“I made $5 and had to walk all the way home to Chuckatuck,” he said.
Buppert, now 54, moved to Nashville to pursue his dreams in 1991. But he gets home a couple of times a year.
He was back this weekend to perform at a concert in Smithfield raising money for Keeping Warriors Outdoors, a Wakefield-based nonprofit that takes wounded warriors on hunting trips.
Buppert says he’s also played benefits for the Wounded Warrior Project and for the troops in Europe and Saudi Arabia. “Anything for the troops,” he said.
He has fond memories of growing up in Chuckatuck. “There were five or six kids my age, some a few years older, (and) we never had any trouble getting together a baseball or a football game,” he said.
Besides the drug store and Gwaltney Store — “the social center of things” — Buppert said his other main boyhood haunt was the ballfield. Indeed, he says he would have played baseball professionally, had he been good enough.
After graduating from the old John Yeates High School in 1978, Buppert started playing with a country band in the Ocean View area. Then he joined the “Urban Cowboy-period” band Thunder Road.
He and his then-wife decided to move to Nashville after Buppert sent “10 or 15 songs” to another songwriter there, who suggested they were pretty good and that he’d have some success in Music City.
Soon after moving, Buppert started co-writing with two songwriters he’d been working with as a demo singer: George Teren and Don Pfrimmer.
Yearwood recorded “If a Train Left for Memphis,” but it didn’t make it onto an album. “Joy turned to heartbreak pretty quick,” Buppert said.
Then Kevin Sharp recorded “She’s Sure Taking It Well,” which did make the cut.
“We got to celebrate it for a long time, a couple of years,” Buppert said, adding that it won them a major songwriting award.
Buppert said he started getting back into the drums upon his divorce 10 or 12 years ago. He currently plays in six different bands, including a Beatles tribute band, and generally returns to Chuckatuck about twice a year, catching up with family and old friends.
“It’s hard to write those songs if you can’t relate to them,” he said of Chuckatuck’s influence in his writing.
“You can’t write a song about hanging out in a hay barn if you have no idea what a hay bale is.”
Buppert concluded that he’d been “blessed beyond belief,” adding, “Music has allowed me to go all over the world.”