Moe Bandy and T.G. Sheppard
Country music’s Moe Bandy and T.G. Sheppard were two of the guys who ruled the radio waves in the 1970s with their prolific ability to generate hit song after hit song. A person couldn’t turn a station on without hearing both of these guys on a consistent basis. Bandy was a traditionalist, who’s sound stuck to the tried and true popularity of the honky tonk flavored songs that peppered jukeboxes all across Texas—and America, for that matter.
Sheppard was probably the only country music artist to start a career at Motown Records when the label decided to venture from its R&B roots. Sheppard scored his first Number One hit as a result. Here’s a closer look at both of them.
Bandy, like the late Chris LeDoux, was a rodeo cowboy who traded bucking bulls and broken bones for a career in country music. When he wasn’t rodeoing, he was working as a sheet metal worker. This rough backdrop made him a natural to sing in every Texas honky tonk in and around his hometown of San Antonio.
So Moe Bandy’s music was right out of the sawdust floor joints and dealt with tried and true honky tonk themes. How about this for a classic honky tonk song (and line): “I Just Started Hatin Cheatin’ Songs Today”. That was his first hit (a Top 20) and set him on a national recording career.
The songlist of his hits have titles that just ooze honky tonk. Among them—”It Was Always So Easy (To Find An Unhappy Woman),” “Hank Williams You Wrote My Life,” “Here I Am I’m Drunk Again,” “She Took More Than Her Share,” “Cowboys Ain’t Supposed To Cry,” “Till I’m Too Old To Die Young,” “Barstool Mountain,” “I Cheated Me Right Out of You,” and “She Just Loved the Cheatin’ Out of Me.”
If reading those doesn’t make you wanna grab a beer, you’re not the honky tonk kind.
His first number one hit was a bit different, title-wise, as it was autobiographical: “Bandy the Rodeo Clown.”
In 1979 he teamed up with Janie Fricke with “It’s A Cheatin’ Situation” which became the CMA Song of the Year. That same year Bandy teamed up with Joe Stampley and released the album Just Good Ol’ Boys that went gold.
The following is from an interview we had with Bandy via phone last week.
Bandy: I have a new album I’m working on right now. I haven’t had an album out in a while and hopefully this one will be out in the spring.
It’s like after one recording session I’m thinking, “that was a pretty good song,” but then I’ll find one better, record it—and then I’ll find one I think is better than that one. That’s usually the way it goes until the minute you finish the record. There are good songs out there, you kind of have to find them.
Hangin’ in there…
Bandy: The newer music in Texas has a rock beat to it, but we’re still doing the old traditional country music and still hanging in there, playing all over the country. Thank goodness our music is still alive. “Bandy The Rodeo Clown” is still popular. Not that many people have a song with their name in it—not their own name, anyway.
Bandy: I’m still involved in rodeo. I’ve got a few bucking bulls. One of my bulls called, MB.com, made it to the National Finals Rodeo four times. He’s done well, but he’s ready to retire. He’s a little long in the tooth.
I’m singing at the NFR on the night of December 9 this year. I don’t know what I’m doing yet, but they’re doing a tribute to a lot of the older rodeo cowboys and bullriders, so I think I’m singing, “Too Old to Die Young.” That’s gonna be fun.
Did you always choose the songs you recorded?
Bandy: Yes, I always did. It was very important to me. I’ve known other artists who would send their songs to college music departments to get their feeling before they would record a song. I always went by my gut feelings and whether it felt like a hit. I had a pretty good record at that, picking hit songs. I never did want to get the opinions of people who weren’t involved with the record. I listened to the ones who were involved. If you surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing, it doesn’t make sense not to listen to them. After the record was out, then I’d get other people’s opinions and hoped they liked it.
Did you ever have to record a song you absolutely hated?
Bandy: No, because early on everybody told me, “don’t ever cut a hit record you don’t like, because you’ll be singing it the rest of your life.” So I’ve only recorded songs I really enjoy singing. Songs like that are the ones you cut.
Bandy: “Bandy” still gets the attention of the people quite a bit and I still love singing “Too Old to Die Young.” That’s the best message I’ve ever sang in a song….that you live to see your children grow up to see what they become. That’s a pretty strong message right there.
Bandy: “Cheatin’ Situation.” It was Song of the Year in 1979.
Bandy: We’re still good friends and do a few shows together now and then. We still enjoy singing “Good Old Boys,” Hey Moe, Hey Joe” and stuff like that. We had quite a little run for a while together. It worked out good.
The live show…
Bandy: T.G. and I are sharing my band. We’re good friends and I love to work with T.G. We did a show in Oklahoma not too long ago and it worked out really well. We have a great time together and it’s a fun show.
I used to play Laughlin all the time, so come out and see us. I have a lot of friends in that part of the country so I hope we can get them to come out and see us.
T.G. Sheppard teaming with Moe Bandy is a bit of the yin and yang of country music. Coming up, Bandy was all about bulls, honky tonks and chicken wire. Sheppard was more of a white collar country singer. Sure, he made his way up by singing in bars and clubs, but he soon found himself on the business end of things as a record promoter.
It was 1974, when Bill Browder the promoter became T.G. Sheppard the singer after a song he was trying to pitch found no takers. The song was “Devil in the Bottle” and he decided to sing it himself. He pitched it to Motown Records in Nashville when that famous R&B label tried to get into country music.
It worked. He scored numerous hits with Motown, including “Trying To Beat The Morning Home” and “When Can We Do This Again.”
He jumped to Warner Records when Motown ended its country foray. His career then skyrocketed as he scored 10 consecutive Number One songs, including “Only One You,” “Party Time,” and “War Is Hell (On The Homefront).”
His 21 Number One hits also included songs like “Last Cheaters Waltz,” “I Loved ‘Em Everyone,” “Do You Wanna Go To Heaven,” and “Party Time.”
Here’s what Sheppard had to say about things in an interview we conducted with him via phone last week…
Sheppard: My wife is a very successful singer-songwriter by the name of Kelly Lang. She wrote the songs on Lorrie Morgan’s last album. She writes a lot of great music.
She and I were sitting together talking one time and she asked how come we hadn’t recorded together. We’ve been on the road together and performed together so we decided to do a duets CD.
We sat down and picked songs from people we’ve known and respected for years—like Johnny Cash and June Carter, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Then we went back and found our favorite duets they did and rerecorded them our way, in our style. We even did a remake on this album of the Sonny & Cher song, “I Got You Babe.” You wouldn’t think a song like that would work in country, but it did.
Now this new duet project, we don’t have a name for it yet, is in the mixing stages and should be ready in about a month—in time for people to buy for Christmas. We’re really excited about it.
Then, I’m starting my own commercial album in January. My dear friend Barry Gibb wrote a great song for me as a birthday gift so I’ll have new music on this album.
Working with Moe…
Sheppard: It’s always a lot of fun and we enjoy working together. He’s hilarious, a great guy. He cracks me up. What’s funny is that we were never close until just recently. We have enough Number One records together to come up with a pretty good show.
Sheppard: I’m very fortunate in my career to put together 21 Number One hits. There are a lot of young people who come to my shows, in their 20s and 30s, who tell me they grew up listening to my music because of their moms or grandmothers. The demographics are so wide, it’s exciting to see all ages in the audience.
Sheppard: I spent 16 years around him as a close friend. I pinch myself, asking, “Was that really me that did that?”
I sometimes reminisce about how he and I used to talk about things or about the things we did.
My wife tells me all the time I’m the real Forrest Gump of country music. She says, “you worked with all these people at history making times, you met Kennedy, you met Elvis and the Beatles.”
I worked with the Beach Boys, and Jan & Dean, and The Animals. My first professional job as an entertainer was when I opened the show for Sam the Sham who had the hit “Wooly Bully.” I was like, a kid. To think I did a show with him, what a wild ride.
Being at Motown…
Sheppard: It was strange. Berry Gordy discovered me. When you think of Berry Gordy, you think Michael Jackson, The Supremes, the Commodores and Lionel Richie. He signed me and I had my first Number One country hit. Maybe I am Forrest Gump. It was a strange way for Motown and myself to break into the country music business, but they managed to do it.
What he listens to…
Sheppard: I love all kinds of music, from R&B to Pavarotti to Michael Bublé. I’d love to see him in concert. I love everything from Kenny Rogers to classical—I like it all. My favorite artist of all time is Sting. I think he’s the most ingenious guy, a poet almost with his melodically written songs.
Sheppard the songwiter…
Sheppard: I’m not known to be a hit songwriter, but I’ve written Number One songs. I’ve probably written more music in the last few years than ever before. I tend to leave the songwriting to people who do it everyday of their lives, real craftsmen. I’m so sporadic. I may wake up in the middle of the night with a couple of great lines, put it away, then months later, write another couple of lines to go with it—and do it that way until it becomes a song.
Songwriting is a full-time job, something you have to hone and craft on and work at. I don’t have the patience. But I think inside everybody there’s a hit song.
Sheppard: I’ve learned that you can’t take yourself seriously. I’ve learned that it’s important to take time to smell the roses and don’t get caught up in who you are. Everybody’s equal. I’ve never thought of myself as better than someone else or someone else is better than me. We just all have different jobs.
I learned one thing from Elvis that has been the slogan I’ve lived with all my life. He said, “If you ever forget where you came from, you will never get where you want to go.”
I’m also a big dreamer. I think when you stop dreaming, you die.
One that got away…
Sheppard: I was at the Arizona State Fair in Phoenix, opening for Kenny Rogers. I was getting ready to record an album and the record company wanted me to release a song that they thought would be a big record. I thought, I just don’t hear it. I don’t think it’s there.
On the night after the concert, Kenny asked me if I’d give him a ride to his private jet, which I did. So he says, “Let me play my new record for you,” and he puts the earphones on me. It was my song that I was getting ready to release, “She Believes In Me.” I sure missed on that one.
Did you ever get criticized for not being country enough?
Sheppard: Oh, God, are you kidding me? They shot me through the ringer. They said it was too slick, too pop, and not really country. I was fortunate to change things up enough every few songs. Sometimes it was strictly country and sometimes it wasn’t. I didn’t stay with the same sound every record.
Eventually I convinced people I was a country act.
Sheppard: I got into country music through Waylon Jennings, who told me, “Hoss, you need to be a country singer.” So I took his advice.
Sheppard: I did a duet project with Willie Nelson and he says, “do me a favor. Don’t tune, leave the notes bad, because that’s the way I sing. Leave them alone.”
I respect that. Sometimes the music is a little too perfect and you loose the feel and the magic.
MOE BANDY AND T.G. SHEPPARD
Riverside Resort, Don’s Celebrity Theatre
Wednesday-Sunday, November 13-17. 7 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)