Singer, songwriter, guitarist.

Born Robert Joseph Bare, Sr., 7 April 1935, near Irontown, Ohio

Bobby Bare started out as a country singer in 1956-57, then switched to rock and roll and pop before returning to his first love in 1962. He took an eclectic approach to country music that has variously identified him as a storyteller, humorist, folkie and country outlaw. His instinct for choosing good songs has led to associations with many of country music’s greatest songwriters, including Kris Kristofferson, Harlan Howard, Billy Joe Shaver, Mickey Newbury, Tom T. Hall and Rodney Crowell. Numerous collaborative efforts with the eccentric songwriter-author- cartoonist Shel Silverstein are among Bare’s most notable artistic achievements.

Bare was born and raised on a hillside farm in Ohio. As a teenager he moved to Springfield, Ohio, where he started writing country songs, influenced by Hank Williams. Arriving in the Los Angeles area in December 1953, he soon became friends with steel guitarist Speedy West, songwriter Harlan Howard and singer- songwriter Wynn Stewart.

Bobby recorded briefly for Capitol (1956-57) and the Challenge subsidiary Jackpot (1958), but nothing clicked. Then he got his draft notice and had to trek back to Ohio for his induction. Just a few days before he had to report to the Army, he met an old friend from Cincinnati, Bill Parsons, who was on the point of being discharged from the Army and was anxious to start a career in music. Bobby agreed to help his friend record some demos for a possible record deal. Among them was the talking blues “The All American Boy” (written by Bill Parsons and Orville Lunsford), a parody of Elvis’s rise to fame and his subsequent conscription. Thinking that Bare’s voice suited the song better, Parsons asked him to perform the drawling vocals. Parsons took the acetates to Cincinnati’s Fraternity studio and Fraternity decided to release Bare’s demo as it was. Label credit went to Bill Parsons, “erroneously” according to most sources, but it was quite deliberate, as Bare was still contracted to Challenge. Bobby just wanted to help his friend and bore Parsons no grudge at all, even when the song climbed to # 2 on the Billboard charts in February 1959. (Kept from the top by “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” by the Platters.) “All American Boy” also did well (# 22) in the UK, where it was released on London HL 8798.

In August 1959 Bare signed his own contract with Fraternity (it’s not clear if he was still in the Army then) and the first thing he recorded was a sequel to “All American Boy”, called “I’m Hanging Up My Rifle”, anticipating Presley’s discharge from the service. In October 1961 (still with Fraternity), Bare even made a third record in the style of “All American Boy” : “Brooklyn Bridge”. But his Fraternity recordings didn’t sell, good as some of them were. Bobby’s career didn’t really get off the ground until he signed with RCA in 1962 and switched to pure country material. RCA also bought the Fraternity masters and half of the tracks on his first RCA LP (1963) consisted of recordings that had previously appeared on Fraternity, including “The All American Boy”.

Bobby's first RCA single, “Shame On Me”, was an immediate success (# 23 pop, # 18 country), but his real breakthrough came in 1963 with “Detroit City” (# 6 country, # 16 pop) and “500 Miles Away From Home” (# 5 country, # 10 pop), both songs now considered country classics. “Detroit City” earned him a Grammy for Best country and western recording in 1964. Between 1962 and 1985, Bare had no less than 69 entries in the Billboard country charts, on RCA (1962-1970), Mercury (1970-1972), again RCA (1973-1977), Columbia (1978-1983) and EMI America (1985). He recorded many duets with female singers, especially Skeeter Davis. His only number one was “Marie Laveau” (1974), taken from the concept album “Lullabys, Legends and Lies”, his first collaboration with Shel Silverstein.

Bobby's pop success was far more limited. After 1964 he scored only one pop hit, “Daddy What If” (1974), sung with his 5-year old son, Bobby Jr. (# 2 country, # 41 pop) and also first released on “Lullabys, Legends and Lies” in 1973. After a long absence from the studio, the Dualtone label coaxed Bare out of retirement in 2005 and released a new album, “The Moon Was Blue”, produced by his son Bobby Bare, Jr. He continued to perform concerts regularly over the next few years, but didn’t return to recording until 2012, when he cut a collection of folk songs called “Darker Than Light”. The next year Bare was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

More info :

Discography :

CDs :
- Bear Family issued a 4-CD set of his complete 1956-1965 recordings, entitled “The All American Boy” (BCD 15663) in 1994. 126 tracks.
- A less comprehensive overview is “Storyteller : The Bare Anthology, 1960-1983”, a 2-CD set (51 tracks) on the Australian Raven label.
- If that’s still too much for you, there are several single CDs with the greatest hits, for instance “16 Biggest Hits” on Sony Legacy (2007). Like the Raven release, it includes “The All American Boy”.

Acknowledgements : Colin Escott, Dale Vinicur, Stephen Thomas Erlewine.

YouTube :
The All-American Boy :
I’m Hanging Up My Rifle :
Brooklyn Bridge :
Book of Love :
Sailor Man :
Detroit City :
500 Miles From Home :
That’s How I Got To Memphis :
Marie Laveau (live) :

Dik, September 2016

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

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