Interview: The Bellamy Brothers Still Rolling Down the Road After 40 Years
The Bellamy Brothers are celebrating 40 years in the music business this year, and at an age when many acts are retiring, they show no signs of slowing down.
Howard and David Bellamy shot to worldwide fame in 1976, when "Let Your Love Flow" reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The song also charted in country and adult contemporary in the U.S., and scored the duo a hit in many markets all over the globe.
They followed up with a long string of country hits that include "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me," "Do You Love as Good as You Look," "For All the Wrong Reasons," "I Need More of You" and many more, all the while building up a strong touring base that still supports them working live all over the world.
The Bellamy Brothers have recently released 40 Years, which chronicles their long career with new re-recordings of their past hits and 20 new studio recordings. They have partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to release a new video for "Let Your Love Flow," and they are supporting the foundation's breast cancer research by donating one dollar from every purchase of the 40 Years package.
Taste of Country caught up with David Bellamy recently to discuss the new release, an upcoming book, what keeps them rolling after so many years and more in the following interview.
Could you have ever anticipated lasting for 40 years?
Uh, no. [Laughs]. I would have never anticipated it lasting for a year, actually. You know, with Howard and I, we wanted to have a hit — find one, write one, record one, anything we could do. And we did. We ended up having a very, very big first record worldwide, and after that, I think we just saw the opportunities. The first song was so big around the world, we just kept working those markets. The U.S., Europe, Australia, South Africa ... anywhere we could go. I think it just evolved out of that. We had more hits, and the pop success that we had rolled into country.
We actually didn't change that much. Everybody always asks us why we went into country, but we were actually doing pretty much the same kind of music. It's just that the genre changed, the format changed. We could have never really imagined that we'd be here 40 years later, and not only 40 years later, but we actually probably work more than we ever have in our lives.
When you guys announce a world tour, you mean the entire world. You perform in some places we generally don't see country acts try to play.
Yeah, we cover the world at least once a year. It's not unusual for us to jump on a plane and go to Dubai, or go to India, or go to Switzerland. It's just part of what we do, and have for a long, long time. It seems pretty normal to us. We're in Nevada right now, but we're working on tours of the Czech Republic and Dubai and the UAE, and some more European stuff. It's all pretty normal.
I would have never anticipated it lasting for a year, actually
Normally we see an act that's together that long, there's a real strain, and with brothers — you look at the Everly Brothers, the Louvin Brothers, even the Kinks — there tends to be a hard time separating the personal and the professional. How have you kept that straight all those years?
Well, Howard and I had a really strong family growing up, and at the time, I don't think we knew it as much as we know it now. We kinda took it for granted, because we thought everybody grew up like that. Now I see how unusual it was. Our family was very strong in terms of work ethic, They taught us to work really hard. We grew up on a little cattle ranch down in central Florida; our dad was basically a dirt farmer and a cattleman. We worked really hard, and we were taught to work together, and I think we still know how to do that.
As far as separating things, we actually don't separate things very much. We still live on the same ranch together, in different houses, of course. We have the same common goals. Most all of our work is either in the music business or the ranch, and of course our families. So we have a lot of common goals, and it all meshes together.
The 40 Years collection is unique in that it's half re-recordings of past hits, and half new studio recordings of new material. What was the idea behind that?
We've had labels do compilations, of course. We've had several over the years, and in doing a 40 years album, we knew we had to include the hits, because it's just like playing a show: everybody wants to hear the hits. We knew that that had to be there, and we knew that we wanted to do it as good as we could, but we also wanted to include new stuff. So we started out just cutting a few new songs, and were gonna find a way of incorporating them, and we ended up coming up with a lot of material. So we kept recording songs, and we finally said, "Why don't we just make this 40 years and 40 songs? We'll put 20 hits on there and record 20 new songs.' So the package evolved like that.
What are the potential challenges of re-recording your own past hits? It's gonna be compared to a recording that people have had for decades.
Yeah. You know, I think we do them as well as ever. We play them live still two or three times a week, and we also produced most of the old records ourselves. We know the sounds, and we know how they were cut and everything. We don't sit there and try to fool anybody, we just try to make as good a recording as we can, and make the best package that we can.
You shot a new video for "Let Your Love Flow" that has a tie-in with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. How did you become involved with that organization?
It started off just by, we've had a lot of friends and people in our lives with breast cancer. A friend that I went to school with going back to early grammar school, you know, and have just run into so many people with the disease. Some friends of ours in Fort Worth, Texas were talking about wanting to do something, and we said, "Well, we've got the 40 Years album coming up, maybe we could do something.' So we met with them, and kinda hit it off. The rep was great, we liked her, and then we met all the survivors.
We did the video with about 50 survivors, and spent a day with them. It was really, really great hearing all of their stories. You get pretty close to it. As a man, it's harder to relate to because it doesn't affect your life as heavy, but when you see them ... it's an incredibly rampant disease, and you can't help but be touched by it, but I think the video came off well. We had a lot of fun doing it.
It's really cool to see them, basically celebrating the fact that they're still alive.
Yeah. Sure. And some of them have had it three or four times, you know. Some of the ladies had gone through 10 or 15 surgeries. I mean, it's just crazy. So for them to even be here they're very, very happy, and they just had a blast.
What else are you doing to mark 40 years? Are you changing up your set list?
We don't change the set drastically. We've added some of the new songs in with the hits, and they are working very well. People like them very well. We're also planning on releasing a book next spring. We've been working on that for a while, and it's kind of a timing thing, but we anticipate having that out probably next spring or summer.
We really enjoy doing it, I think now more than we ever have.
Will that be a career-spanning autobiography?
It's kind of a combination of a book about our career and our travels, and kind of our family as well. It takes in some of our family, because we have a very unusual, very interesting family. So it takes in some of those stories, but it's about our career, basically.
You're at an age where you could consider retiring. Does it ever cross your mind? Is there a finish line in your mind somewhere where you say, "Well, we know we're not gonna do this forever," or any kind of plan?
Not really. I think we pretty much judge everything by our health. Both of us feel pretty good right now. Maybe 10, 15 years ago, we actually thought maybe, 'Well, somewhere down the line here we'll retire.' Almost more than we do now, because now we don't really think about it. People call and book us two years out [Laughs] ... they'll call up and say, 'Hey, can you do a cruise in Australia in June of 2018?' And we go, 'Well, I don't know — I might need to bring my wheelchair on that one.' [Laughs]. But we both feel really good, and the band sounds really good right now, and there's a lot of work for us. You know, it kinda keeps us young. We really enjoy doing it, I think now more than we ever have.
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