Bobby Bare / Bobby Bare Jr. – Bobby Bares, all
Bare: To me it was country, and I loved it. I didn’t know why at the time…No, it opened right up with this open A chord on a Martin guitar. “That’s All Right Mama” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”, to me, that was country. Anything that had an open chord guitar was country. High energy.
Bobby: Why did you want to move to California?
Bare: I just wanted to go somewhere, it didn’t matter. Thought about going to Nashville, but all my heroes lived there.
Bobby: Kind of intimidated?
Bare: I tried to get a record deal in Cincinnati. I went to all the studios, auditioned, one of ’em wanted me to cut some records, but they wanted me to sound like Webb Pierce if I could. But it was too high, I couldn’t sing that high. And I didn’t want to.
Bobby: What year did you hitchhike to California?
Bare: I didn’t hitchhike to California. I hitchhiked all around Ohio. I lived in Springfield and rode with the band down to Wellston, work Friday and Saturday night and we’d come home. Then I’d hitchhike to Portsmouth and work Sunday night, and then Monday I would hitchhike back to Springfield.
I was working a club in Portsmouth, and this ol’ boy came in there, and he had on a Nudie suit and he had a Palomino Club bumper sticker on the back of his red, beat-up convertible with the plastic rear [window] missing. And he was leaving for California. Always leaving for California. Wanted [us] to go with him. We’d find a job, we’d work out there anywhere, blah blah blah.
It was December, it was cold as could be, I said, “I’ll go. Hell yeah! Let’s go.” The guitar player says, “I’ll go.” Course he was an alcoholic. And [Bill] Parsons was my bass player. He said, “I can’t go, because I’ve got a wife and three kids.” So we took off.
Bobby: You were a singer at this time?
Bare: Yeah. I had a band. Me, steel guitar, and bass. They was building that atomic plant down there in Southeastern Ohio. We had a lot of people from all parts of the country — construction workers, yeah, we had a big crowd. Packed in.
So we took off. Bob Gary went to get his money, and he owed them, just to pay his bar bill. So he was broke. Time I settled up I had 40 bucks. So we took off. I didn’t realize that Big Al — his name was Al Wood — didn’t have any money, because that $40 got us as far as Texoma.
Bobby: You mean the guy driving?
Bare: Yeah. We got as far as Texoma, and I had a quarter [left]. He didn’t have any. I spent all my money on gas. That’s why he wanted us to go, because he didn’t have any money, and he just wanted to get back to California. But he was a great bullshitter.
Bobby: This would make a great movie [laughs].
Bare: Yeah, I had one quarter and I was smoking. I went into this big ballroom. The sign on the window said “Johnny Lee Wills, Here Tonight.” It was early in the evening, and there was nobody there but a waitress. I got to bullshittin’ with her, and I turned around and dropped my quarter in what I thought was a cigarette machine and it was a damn jukebox. And I didn’t have any cigarettes and no quarter. I told her, “You play ’em.” And I left.
We found someplace to play for tips in Texoma. We set up with a guitar, amp — steel player had an amp. Microphone plugged into the amp. And we made enough in tips to get us through Texas. Then we got to Hobbs, New Mexico, which was an oil town, and we made a lot of money there. Shit, time we left there we had $150, split it, we had $50 apiece.
So we took off for California. And of course out there we got a job, at a place called the Hula Hut [in Long Beach].
Bobby: Were you aware of the Bakersfield thing while you were in LA?
Bare: Not when I first got there. I wasn’t aware of anything. I was glad to have a job.
Bobby: But after you’d been there for awhile…
Bare: Well, yeah, because Wynn Stewart had a band [at a club] about a mile away. On my nights off I would go to see him. Then his nights off he’d come and see me, because we were the only ones doing country music. I was doing “That’s All Right Mama”. Nobody out there had ever heard that song. Ever.
Bobby: Elvis had hit by then, hadn’t he?
Bare: That was regional. That was strictly regional.
Bare: Everybody thought I wrote it. I didn’t tell ’em I did, didn’t tell ’em I didn’t. I just sang it. But then I got to meet Wynn, and Ralph Mooney was his steel guitar player. And then we got to talking about Buck Owens and Bakersfield. Wynn was playing with Skeets McDonald, who was a record guy on Capitol. Good, good guy. I loved his singing. Mooney played steel on his records.
Fact is, when I finally got to cut a demo session, Wynn’s band and Mooney played on it, the very first demo session I ever did. I hocked everything I had, which wasn’t much, I got $40 out of it. I paid for studio time at $15 an hour, I had two hours, Mooney played steel, and it got me a record deal.
Bobby: Wow. With who?
Bare: Capitol. One of the very first people I met out there was Speedy West, and he was a steel guitar player on “Hometown Jamboree”, which was Cliffie Stone, which was Capitol. Speedy really believed in me, and he really liked me, and he promoted me. Took about a year, but he got me a record deal.
Bobby: Were you living in California at the time you recorded “All American Boy” in Cincinnati?
Bare: I had been, but I got drafted. I was living in California when I got my greetings from Uncle Sam.
Bobby: So what were you doing in Ohio?