The Bellamy Brothers
An avid country music fan, Howard and David Bellamy’s father would often wake them to the sounds of Merle Haggard or Buck Owens. They grew up surrounded by the harmonies of rhythms of the Jamaican fruit harvesters working in the family’s West Central Florida’s orange groves during the day. Exposure to Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers as well as the British invasion and the Cultural Revolution in the 60’s resulted in their highly individualistic style and sound they have taken on the road for more than 20 years.
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Averaging more than 250 world-wide dates per year, the Brothers are one of the most active touring bands in the business. "We’ve never toured with smoke and mirrors," Howard explains. "We’d rather let the music speak than the smoke. We’ve gone with the idea that we’re going to have fun and the audience is, too. So, we’ve always been known as a live act."
"Performing is not something we got into for the money. We got into it for the love of it. We just enjoy it. It is a lifestyle with us," adds Howard. "You learn how to feel at home wherever you are. You have to adapt. That’s how we’ve managed to stay on the road so long."
Although the Bellamys are strong across North America, they are well established as international artists in Europe, Scandinavia and Australia. They play venues ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 seats to 30,000-capacity festivals. "A lot of people claim to do international tours, but they really only go over and play annual festivals," Howard points out. "We do it differently. We’re on the road with a tour bus for at least a month. So, it has to be handled like a tour here. There are not many people touring overseas, and even though the country agents claim they have major overseas connections, there’s very few that do. I don’t mean for a festival or two, but for doing a proper tour."
Outside of their country music success, the Bellamy Brothers have always been accepted as a pop act overseas and have had active chart play in Germany, Norway, the U.K., Australia and Japan.
THE EARLY YEARS
The Bellamy Brothers first gig was in 1968 playing for free with their father at the Rattlesnake Roundup in San Antonio, FL. Today, their annual Snake, Rattle & Roll benefit concert, initiated in 1989, takes place in conjunction with the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival and attracts more than 20,000 people.
They played a lot of black clubs early in their careers, singing backup for r&b artists like Eddie Floyd, Percy Sledge and Little Anthony and the Imperials. In the late 60’s, they moved to Atlanta, where the local band was the Allman Brothers. Then called Jericho, the Atlanta-based Bellamys extensively toured the Southeast from clubs to fraternity parties.
Their first big break came with the hit "Spiders and Snakes," written by David. Jim Stafford cut the song, which went on to sell 3 million copies world-wide.
With "Spiders and Snakes," a major-pop hit, the brothers moved to Los Angeles. Howard became Stafford’s road manager, taking the place of Gallagher, who went on to be a comedian. At this time, singer/songwriters such as Van Morrison, Bob Dylan (Howard and David recently met the elusive musician after one of his concerts who expressed his appreciation for their music) and James Taylor, along with country-rock groups like the Byrds and Poco, began influencing the Bellamys.
They then cut "Let Your Love Flow," the monster hit that forever fixed them in the public eye and laid the foundation of their career. "Let Your Love Flow" was a smash in the U.S. and Europe, it hit No. 1 in Germany for eight incredible weeks.
The Bellamy Brothers had come from rural Darby, FL. To Hollywood, then took off for Europe. "For two years we were in Germany, Austria and Switzerland more than L.A.," says Howard. "Our first big tour there, we performed 60 concerts in 63 days."
Back in the United States, the hit meant tour dates with Loggins and Messina, and then on the eve of a tour with the Doobie Brothers and the Beach Boys, disaster struck. "We had just finished the last Loggins and Messina date and had done a couple of showcases in Denver and Chicago," David explains. "We were spending the night at a Howard Johnson’s in Schaumburg, IL., with all of our equipment in a Ryder truck. We got up in the morning, and it was gone – all the guitars and amps, Mellotron, drums, even a vintage mandolin of the Everly Brothers. We thought our career was over."
"We were pretty much hip-deep in debt to the record company, too," adds Howard. "We had lost $60,000 worth of equipment. We were devastated. We scrambled, and Ovation sent us a few guitars, Roland sent us some amplifiers. We missed a few gigs, but in a few days we were going again."
Continues David: "So there we were, touring with the Beach Boys and the Doobie Brothers; the record had the most-played song of the year; and we were broke."
At the end of the 70’s, the Bellamy Brothers emerged on the nation’s country charts. It was of course, "If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me" (originally penned by David on a dinner napkin) that planted them firmly in the country singles in the U.S., spending three weeks at the top of the charts.
While the Bellamy Brothers had a modest start (they didn’t even have a phone until Howard was 16) much has changed. The ranch where the boys grew up and still return to rejuvenate is now 2,500 acres and houses their families, offices, a recording studio and a successful cattle ranch.
By maintaining the same sense of fun they started with 20 years ago and remaining true to their musical course, the brothers have received more nominations for Duo of the Year by the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music than any pair in history. They continue to garner notable recognition in an ever changing industry.
"I don’t know of a duo of brothers who has played together as long as we have," says Howard. "We credit our family. We were raised on a ranch. We were taught to work together. We have a good chemistry mix to begin with, even though we are totally different."
"We’re products of our Florida upbringing; luckily we also had a lot of discipline as children, he adds. "A sun and beach mentality mixed with country roots that has a little more of a laid-back feel to it; it’s a blend no one else has." Behind the laid-back approach remains a dedication to the music and fans. "The key to our longevity lies in being true to our own personalities, mixing the analytical and the off-the-wall, doing genuine social commentary without ever preaching and coupling the ability to say something meaningful while having a good time doing it," says David.
"David and I have always been goal setters," says Howard. "While keeping our eye on the big picture, we still keep in mind that it takes one step at a time to achieve any goal. From starting our own record label to taking charge of the overseas market, we have never been and never move forward. We’re proud of what we’ve done, but we’re more than excited about where we’re going."
The Bellamys recently signed with one of the world’s leading international booking agencies, APA, and are being represented by agent Rob Battle. Judy Seale at Refugee Management International is spearheading their management team.
BETWEEN NOW & THEN
While the Bellamys have established themselves in the concert, fair and festival markets, they have always kept a hand at playing high-level clubs. The danceable music the Bellamys were doing when clubs were primarily only big in Texas and Oklahoma has now become the norm across the country.
"What’s going on in country music is what we’ve been doing for a long time," says Howard, referencing the resurgence in dance clubs of vintage Bellamy cuts like "Redneck Girl" and "Reggae Cowboy."
Although the industry has prioritized young country during the past few years, the Bellamys’ career has strengthened, says Howard.
"We have a lot of young people coming to our shows," he explains. "Our demographics are very broad, but oddly enough, being 20-year veterans, we have noticed a real strengthening in the college market. I guess their parents played our music. That generation has come around and included us.
"We’re not traditional country. We have a variety in our show from country to reggae, which makes us appealing to a younger audience as well as our longtime dedicated fans," he continues. "When people come to our shows, they end up dancing. We feel like if we haven’t done our job if people don’t get up and move with us. We enjoy that. We don’t care if they go wild."
Along with building their strong foundation in the global touring market, the Bellamy Brothers most exciting chapter in their history was launching their own record label. Bellamy Brothers Records gave Howard and David complete artistic freedom and control; flexibility they’d never had. That artistic freedom has shown through in their music videos resulting in a CMT Video of the Year Award.
"While we’ve continued our career in touring, we’ve taken a different route by starting our own record label," says Howard. "One advantage of having your own label is that you’re out there with the people. You can see what they want from you. You don’t have to go back to your label and sell your idea. This way you can see what people want from you, and you can deliver it without much red tape."
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