Real Country Music
There was a time when adult themes were prevalent in Country Music. The songs gave attention to things like too much work, too much drink, too much trouble, too much/not enough love at home and finding love outside the home. It was “grown-up music.” These tales of hard times and hard living were broadcast for everyone to hear.
And I was listening. Thoughts of being grown-up fill the head of every child, but my images were shaped by this music. I was certain that it painted a true picture of what life would be like. Now, I’m not so sure that I couldn’t have waited a bit longer to learn their uncanny accuracy.
In the 70’s and 80’s in rural
Of course rowdy days and nights soon give way to marriages and settling down. The adult mind is forced to focus on issues like work, kids, paying bills, sleeplessness, sex-less-ness, infidelity and divorce. Country Music also has the ability to find the essence of these issues and play them back to you. And for a while it was proud to capture the sometimes harshness of everyday life.
Many artists have found moments during their careers to tackle adult themes. But other than Moe Bandy, few artists have built a career on chronicling this “rawness” of life. Moe virtually stands alone as an example of the success that can come in “keeping it real”.
Moe, according to his website, has earned “10 number 1 hits, 40 top ten hits, 66 chart hits, 5 gold albums, ACM Song of the Year, ACM Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year, American Video Award of the Year, and ACM and CMA Duet of the Year.”
When asked recently for a comment about Moe Bandy and his music, George Jones, (that’s right the Possum himself), had this to say, “I have always loved Moe’s music. He is what country music is about. When Moe sings a song, it has been sung. I just love the guy and his work.”
Knowing Moe’s music and full heartedly agreeing with George Jones’s assessment of his work, I was excited to have the opportunity to meet and talk to Moe about his life and career. We met in an appropriate place, the
The owners of the hall like to advertise it as being a “two-step back in time.” Its history is evident when you consider the bullet holes left in the bar by someone having a good time many years ago. The general condition of the dance hall allowed a draft to come through the walls on the cool night that I was there in late February.
We began our life encompassing conversation by discussing his childhood. Moe, like the T-Shirt says, was not born in
Being a cowboy led him to the sport of rodeo. “We started riding calves, when I was little kid, and then bucking horses and it just kinda went from there. And then later on my Dad got bucking bulls.”
Moe, along with his brother Mike’s, interest in rodeo was fed by their Dad having “had Dandy’s Arena in
While discussing rodeo, Moe spoke of a recent purchase. “I’m very excited. I just bought a bucking bull, a PBR (Professional Bull Riders) bull. He’s out on tour right now. He’s gonna buck in
After getting “so banged up and beat up a lot,” Moe started to lean away from rodeo and more toward his music. “I started playing when I was just a kid, I played fiddle back then and guitar some and that’s where I needed to be. I needed to be doing the music and I knew it.”
Moe Bandy and the Mavericks played the honky tonks around
“I played a lot of the honky tonks and I recorded some. And I got the bug to record. I really liked to record and write. I recorded for several years like that. Of course, at the time, I was just trying to record to support my little band.”
The band also appeared regularly on a San Antonio TV program. “I was on a TV show, oh God, it was a rough one, it was called Country Corner Furniture Show, and oh it was rough. Our little girl singer was Dottsy.” Dottsy would later score several hits including “(After Sweet Memories) Play Born to Lose Again”, “Tryin’ To Satisfy You” (worth finding, features backing vocal by Waylon Jennings), and “I’ll be Your San Antone Rose.”
An album of some of Moe’s earliest recordings is now available on-line as a download. According to Moe, “that’s some of the stuff where I wrote all of them. What happened on that deal was I signed with
Like most beginning artists, Moe had to finance his early recordings and demos. “I sold all the furniture to do the last one. I had done a couple, and spent every penny I had. And I thought, well, I’ll try one more, and I had to hock the furniture. But I went to
Moe “ended up going with GRC records which at the time was a fairly big label out of
“Ray Baker produced all the old stuff, and we had a lot of hit records back then. When I met Ray he had this publishing company. He had Blue Crest Publishing. Whitey Shafer, Doodle Owens, Dallas Frazier, they all wrote for Ray.”
The pens of Frazier, Owens, and Shafer brought Moe hits with “I Just Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today”, “Honky Tonk Amnesia”, “It Was Always So Easy (To Find an Unhappy Woman)”, “Don’t Anyone Make Love At Home Anymore”, “The Biggest Airport in the World”, “She Took More Than Her Share”, “Soft Lights and Hard County Music”, and “She Just Loved the Cheatin’ Out Of Me”.
“Well, here I come along, and it gives them something to write for. Ray had all of these writers, and they started writing for me once I came with him. It aimed them in a certain direction to write, and they just started pumping them out. They all just started writing these great songs. They were just great songwriters and they wrote exactly what I was doing. We just started turning them out. I was very blessed to have everything come together like that.”
“I think with Whitey, I’ve recorded something like 30 of his songs. It was so good. We became great friends, and I still talk to Whitey every once in a while. He’s doing really well. He was very ill for a while, but now he’s doing really well.”
When Shafer (along with Lefty Frizzell) wrote “Bandy the Rodeo Clown”, he and Lefty delivered the song by phone. Moe recalled “Lefty and Whitey called me up around 3 in the morning one night and said ‘we just wrote a song for you’. I’m glad they did.” Of course, now it is the song Moe is most known for.
But Moe didn’t always score a hit with a Shafer penned song. “I did ‘Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind’, but we decided to put out another single instead of that and of course
About his early GRC and
His popularity has allowed him to visit
A later visit to the
In addition to his solo success, Moe scored several hits that featured other artists. “I can’t say enough about Janie Fricke. She’s just so great and she was nice enough to come in and sing with me on ‘It’s a Cheatin’ Situation’. Of course that was song of the year in 1979.”
“Judy Bailey is another one.....just a great singer and a great gal. Ray was recording Judy and I heard her sing and said ‘Man, we gotta do a song”. And we did. We had a hit record, so it worked out good.” Moe and Judy’s “Following the Feeling” hit the top ten in 1980.
1983’s duet with Becky Hobbs, “Let’s Get Over Them Together” also entered the top ten. About Becky, Moe said “she’s a great talent. And over in
But it was his pairing with Joe Stampley that brought the most success. Together they recorded several albums. The latest being 2002’s Live at Billy Bob’s
When asked about his and Joe’s relationship, Moe said “Joe and I are good buddies. Matter of fact, we’re doing a show next week in
The success of this duo would surprise the two men. “Joe and I did that, and we had no idea what it would do. But it was fun. It was great. The Good Ol’ Boys tours were just unbelievable. We were working places with 10,000 people....What we were trying to do was convince everybody that, and it’s tough to do, that, it was a great thing that Good Ol’ Boys hit so big, but we were still doing our own thing. But when this Moe and Joe thing come along it just swamped both of us. But I had several hit records while we were doing it and Joe did too. The timing was right.”
“It gave us a chance to go in a different direction and still be ourselves. But every good ol’ boy in the world come out of the woodwork. I’m telling you it was amazing. And girls too, you would see them at the shows doing high fives and stuff. It was just a neat deal.”
In 1986, Moe left
With the change in material, and now Jerry Kennedy’s production, Moe delivered a few more hits. Of which, the most enduring is the Kevin Welch penned “Till I’m Too Old to Die Young”. Many people are touched by its lyrics. “That song has been so inspirational. People play it at funerals....... which is flattering. It played at my Dad’s funeral. It has such a message to it. Everybody wants to see their children grow, you know, to see what they become. And that’s been a big one for me.”
In the late 80’s his relationship with MCA/Curb became a relationship with Curb. Moe remained with Curb for several more years scoring another top ten hit with “
Since 1991, Moe has performed regularly in Branson. He began his 18th season at the Jim Stafford Theatre on March 19. About Branson, Moe says “I play in Branson but I love to get out and play the honky tonks and bars. I just love it. It’s where I came up. And I get to do some songs that wouldn’t go over as big in Branson.”
“The reason I went to Branson is because I love to work and I love to sing and perform and there’s no place in the world that you can perform everyday like you can in Branson. I enjoy it. It’s a way to appeal to family, the older people, and still I can go out four or five months a year and do this.”
“But I’m getting so many bookings outside of Branson; I’m really staying busy and going out more. I really think that Sirius Radio, and the traditional stations playing traditional music, has been a really great thing for our careers. They brought our careers back record-wise.” Moe gives particular credit to Sirius XM’s satellite radio station Willie’s Place, which plays nothing but Traditional Country. “Willie’s Place has been so great.”
On this night, Moe and his
With his enthusiasm for performing showing, I wondered if he was a fan of music as well. He answered that he tries “to listen as everyone else does. The new music now is different. The new singers are different. But it’s like anything else, it goes in cycles. I think that eventually you’re going to see someone cut a real traditional record and it’s going to hit, and all of a sudden it’s going to be this new music. That’s what it’s always done.”
Moe knows this cycle well. When he hit with “I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today” in 1974, “Eddy Arnold and Ray Price and some of them had gone to the more pop sound, and it actually worked in my favor. All of a sudden this pure country traditional song comes out. We just felt it was good song and cut it. We had no idea what would happen. Luckily we were right.”
When considering the cycle, it’s clear that Moe paved a way for the New Traditionalism of George Strait. Of
“We were doing a show in
Similar words can be said of Moe as well. And with good reason..... “I’ve tried to keep up with the latest in everything as far as technology. But I think what you see with me is kinda what you get. I go in and record and it just comes out Moe Bandy. It seems to always do that. And that’s a good thing. I think it’s real bad to go in and try to be something you’re not.”
Moe went on to offer, somewhat reflectively, “It was a wild ride there for a while. Everything was hitting at one time. And it was a great ride. I tell these young kids these days that when you get a hit record to just enjoy it as much as you can.”
“The thing about it is that you live on those songs the rest of your life. That’s why they used to say don’t cut a song you don’t like because you’re gonna sing it the rest of your life. But I just enjoy every bit of it...as much today as I did back then.”