Honky-Tonk Traditionalist Moe Bandy Ain't Clowning Around
A country-music traditionalist, Moe Bandy stands with guys like Johnny Bush and Johnny Paycheck as one of the true masters of the three veins of honky-tonk that matter most: loving songs, drinking songs, and cheating songs. If Bandy does a cover, he goes straight to the source code: Hank Williams and George Jones. The influence of both artists can be heard in Bandy's vocal delivery, and was enough to gain him ten No. 1 country hits while placing 40 songs in the charts during his career.
"I'm a traditionalist," says Bandy from his home outside Branson, Missouri. "I went into music wanting to sound like Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Ray Price, George Jones, the guys who set the bar for what I think of as country music. I just never saw myself venturing very far from those old-school artists."
As younger men, both Bandy and his brother Mike had a strong jones for rodeo, but Moe eventually found himself more interested in the entertainment that went on at rodeos than the bumps, bruises, and broken bones that are par for the course for men who ride wild broncs and bad bulls. Both Bandy brothers are members of the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame.
"Mike was a serious rider," Bandy explains. "He's made the national finals several times. Me, I rode my share of horses and bulls, but I was always more interested in music than in being a rodeo hand.
"But being around rodeos was a very important element in my ever having a singing career. I knew so many people around the rodeos everywhere that I started getting gigs to play the afterparties that go on, and that's certainly a part of how I put my career together."
Bandy's family moved to San Antonio in 1950, where his dad had a honky-tonk band. He finally gave up rodeo his senior year of high school to concentrate on music in 1962 and recorded his first single in 1964, but fame was slow to find Bandy. He labored another ten years in his father's metal-fabrication shop by day and played the joints in and around San Antonio at night before finally being discovered by the country music machine.
Late in 1973, with the help of a small loan, Bandy recorded "I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs Today." The tune was picked up by Atlanta's GRC label, which pushed the single to country radio stations.
It climbed to No. 17 on the country charts, and the label rushed out two more singles in 1974. Both "It Was Always So Easy to Find an Unhappy Woman (Till I Started Looking For Mine)" and "Don't Anyone Make Love at Home Anymore?" became minor hits. The next year he switched to Columbia Records where he hit the big time with "Bandy, the Rodeo Clown," written by Lefty Frizzell and Whitey Shaffer.
"Whitey loved the way I pronounce 'woe-min,' he just couldn't get over it," laughs Bandy. "But I tell you, with the rodeo elements and the strong honky-tonk base that song has, it was a perfect vehicle for me and it came along at the just the right time."
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