Forgotten Artists: Bobby Lord (1934-2008)

Paul W. Dennis | December 4th, 2008

Bobby Lord

“Because you see, we live what we sing. Or, put another way, we sing what we live In telling things as they are, in being what we are, we are true to our ‘raising’ – to the small town and rural American values we take for granted . These values are heavily religious, but they are also heavily patriotic. They are highly moral, but they are also very human…It reflects life as life is lived. But we are not deceived into thinking that it is right.”

Hit The Glory Road, Broadman Press, 1969

Bobby Lord was a genuine country music star in his time, one whose career could not duplicated in today’s environment.

Consider this: Columbia issued 18 singles on Bobby Lord without ever releasing an album. Of these singles, only his seventh, “Without Your Love,” released in 1956, charted on Billboard’s Country Chart (reaching #10), though most of them sold very well in the South, with several becoming huge sellers. Since the charts prior to 1958 went only 15-20 places deep and Lord’s records were selling only regionally, it’s not surprising that they didn’t chart. Despite this, several of the records sold over 250,000 copies, with “Hawkeye” (written by Boudleaux Bryant) being the biggest hit, although “Swamp Fox” and “Pie Peachy Pie” are also well remembered–all of Lord’s Columbia singles fetch high prices from collectors.

Bobby Lord was born in Sanford, Florida (between Orlando and Daytona Beach) but grew up in the Tampa area where he began his career as a teenager. While a freshman at the University of Tampa, he starred in his own television show, The Bobby Lord Homefolks Show, which ran for an hour on Saturday nights. From there he landed a guest appearance on Paul Whiteman’s TV show in New York. For those not familiar with Whiteman, he was the biggest recording star of the 1920s, from whose band such future stars as Bing Crosby, Jack Teagarden, Bix Beiderbeck and Tommy Dorsey emerged.

In 1953, songwriter Boudleaux Bryant gave an assist to Lord’s career by playing a tape of his recordings for Don Law at Columbia records, who signed Lord to the label. As mentioned previously, Lord recorded several regional hits in both the rockabilly and country idioms. At the same time, he became a regular on The Ozark Jubilee (ABC television show starring Red Foley, based out of Springfield, Missouri), where he stayed for five and a half years. Lord also made his first guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry in 1954 and appeared occasionally thereafter.

The Ozark Jubilee went off the air in 1960, so Bobby Lord moved to Nashville, joining the Grand Ole Opry that same year, where he remained active until the mid 70s. In 1961 he began recording for the Hickory label, where he had his first National hit in eight years with “Life Can Have Meaning”. In 1967, he moved to Decca, where had seven charted hits, with the biggest being “You and Me Against The World” (not the same song as the Helen Reddy hit) and “Wake Me Up Early In The Morning.” While with Decca, Lord released one album, and during this period he hosted the nationally syndicated Bobby Lord Show, which was seen in 40 markets in the U.S. and 34 countries around the world. He also had a late afternoon live country TV show on WSMV

After his Decca contract expired, Bobby Lord more or less retired from the music business, returning to his native Florida to sell real estate. When The Nashville Network (TNN) came into being, he hosted Country Sportsman (later called Celebrity Outdoors) and made occasional guest appearances on other TNN shows. After 1990 Lord was largely retired from show business.

Bobby Lord was a deeply religious man, and his 1969 book Hit The Glory Road remains as fascinating to read today as it was when first published. The book includes interviews with such notables as Roy Acuff, Bill Anderson, Boudleaux & Felice Bryant, Skeeter Davis, Jake Hess and Tex Ritter, discussing their concepts of religion, morality and country music, as well as relaying a number of truly funny stories.

Discography

Aside from the occasional song on various rockabilly anthologies (mostly foreign-issued), Bobby Lord is completely unrepresented on CD. Even on LP, he was poorly represented, with Columbia never issuing an LP of his seminal recordings of the mid-1950s:

You and Me Against The World/Wake Me Up Early In The Morning (Decca, 1970) collects the A-sides of six of Bobby’s seven Decca singles plus a few more songs.

Especially For You (Rice, 1984) includes a remake of “Hawkeye” plus remakes of “You and Me Against The World” and “Wake Me Up Early In The Morning.”

3 Pings

  1. [...] Your Love.” Lord will also be remembered for his book Hit The Glory Road, of which The 9513’s Paul W. Dennis writes: “[It] remains as fascinating to read today as it was when first published. The book includes [...]
  2. [...] now a Tennessee resident, to appear on his morning show on WSM-TV. This, in turn, led to a spot on Bobby Lord’s afternoon program and brought him to the attention of Don Law at Columbia Records. While he [...]
  3. [...] Me Up Early In The Morning” – Bobby Lord (1970) See the Forgotten Artists article for more on this fine [...]
  1. Kelly
    December 4, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Awesome Job, Paul. Sadly, for me, Lord wasnt a “forgotten artist”, as I have never been aware of him. I continue to be amazed at how many of the artists you have written about have had career paths that likely wouldnt be traveled these days by any label. Keep it up!

  2. Juli
    December 4, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Good stuff, Paul. I’d never heard of Hit the Glory Road; looks like I’ll be adding that to my Christmas list!

  3. Rick
    December 4, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I don’t recognize Bobby Lord’s name at all, so he is obscure as well as forgotten. This is another fine article Paul. Historic artists whose music is not readily available on CD or for download will likely remain forgotten and fade into oblivion. That’s just the way it goes…..

  4. Dana
    March 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    My grandfather played with Mr. Lord on the “Homefolks” show. He did shows with Hank Locklin too. I was very little. Mr. Lord gave me a mechanical horse named Buttermilk. He lasted many years. Another piece of my childhood has ebbed away with Mr. Lord’s passing and Papa Hank (Locklin).

  5. TERRY
    June 7, 2009 at 10:07 am

    TO GET AN IDEA OF HOW GREAT A SINGER AND PERSON BOBBY LORD WAS,CHECK OUT THE COUNTRY FAMILY REUNION SERIES ON DVD OR VHS.SUPER CLASSIC SERIES AND SUPER ARTISTS.

  6. KAY HAMPTON
    February 9, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    I TOO HAD FORGOTTEN HOW GOOD BOBBY LORD WAS UNTIL I RECEIVED MY COUNTRY FAMILY REUNION SERIES, IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY TRYING TO FIND THE SONG BOBBY LORD DID CALLED “FLY AWAY” DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN FIND A COPY OF THIS SONG AND DID BOBBY LORD, RECORD IT?

  7. Cabot Lord
    April 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Dear Mr. Dennis, My father was a great man and of course I will never forget him. Thank you for writting this about his life. Before he died I asked him what he was most proud of in his life. He stated that he lived his life authentic to his faith and values and loved his family and fellow man and that he never had worked by the hour and only got paid when he performed something for someone else of value. He never recieved a paycheck in his life. He was a performer at age 17 and Real estate broker and my partner in the Insurance business until his death. He was a self made man who loved everyone and I never heard him say a bad word about anyone or raised his voice in anger at anyone but me when I was a kid and deserved it. Thank you again for the kind words about my father, he so would appreciate it.
    Warmest regards,
    Cabot Lord

  8. Paul W Dennis
    April 15, 2011 at 12:06 am

    AT LAST !

    The good folks at Bear Family have issued the first ever CD compilation of Bobby’s Columbia sides – 24 tracks including the three Columbia tracks I mentioned in the article.

    Roots and Rhythm has the CD listed now although it likely will be available elsewhere

    http://www.rootsandrhythm.com/roots/New_Releases/latest_041111.htm

  9. tommy mayberry
    July 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    i remember bobby lord fondly i lived in sparta tn from 1944 til 1955 i watched bobby on tv a lot on the nashville channels the local radio station wsmt /sparta played his records i faintly remember hawkeye but i cannot remember the tune or any of the words of pie peachy pie pie entertainers of his quality and caliber are sorely missed today tommy mayberry

  10. Ted Keirnan Jr
    October 13, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Bobby Lord will never be forgotten in my house or with my family. My father was a regular on The Home Folks Show back in the early 50’s, out of St Pete. He was Slim of the “Slim and Red” combo. He played the guitar and Red played the Harmonica. As a young boy I watched the show every week, unless I got in trouble, then Mom would send me to bed early. Pop played that guitar right up till he passed in 2004.

  11. John The Bassist
    October 31, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    If you were alive in the 50-60’s you must know Bobby Lord was not OBSCURE!
    unless you’ve never heard of Ferlin Huskey, Hank Locklin, Patsy Cline or Jim Reeves.

  12. John The Bassist
    October 31, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Did Bobby do a song titled something like, “What Difference Will It Make A Hundred Years From Now” ? Thanks!

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