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Bellamy Brothers Biography
Although the Bellamy Brothers are the most successful duo in
country music history, they have never been favored by the critics.
That doesn't mean their music was rote, by the book, and formulaic
country-pop. More than most acts of the late '70s and '80s, the
Bellamys pushed the borders of country music, adding strong elements of
rock, reggae, and even rap. Nearly a decade after their first hit --
the 1975 pop chart-topping, Southern rock-tinged Let Your Love Flow
-- the brothers had earned a stack of best-selling records, and
critical respect came by the late '80s. By that time, they had firmly
established themselves as the top duo of the '80s, both in terms of
popularity and musical diversity.
Howard and David Bellamy were raised in Florida. Their father, Homer,
played traditional country music around the house and performed with a
Western swing band on the weekends. In addition to the country music
they heard in their house, the brothers were drawn to the calypso music
of the neighboring Caribbean islands. However, nothing provided as much
attraction as the rock & roll they heard on their sister's records
and the radio. From the Everly Brothers to the Beatles, the Bellamy
Brothers soaked up the sounds of contemporary pop and rock. In their
late teens and early twenties, they once again became infatuated with
country music, thanks to the music of George Jones and Merle Haggard.
Both Howard and David learned how to play a variety of instruments in
their childhood. Neither child had any formal training, but Howard
managed to learn the guitar, banjo, and mandolin, while David learned
the piano, accordion, fiddle, banjo, organ, and mandolin. Both brothers
went to college at the University of Florida. While they were students,
they had their first paying gigs -- playing fraternity parties. Howard
and David both earned degrees at the University of Florida; Howard
majored in veterinary medicine, while David earned one in psychology.
During the late '60s, the two performed in a number of bands, both
together and separately. In 1968, they moved to Atlanta, forming
Jericho. Performing in such a large number of bands meant that the
brothers perfected a number of different musical styles, since they
were expected to please the tastes of many different club audiences.
Playing in a never-ending series of bands and clubs proved tiring, and
the brothers moved back home to work on their songwriting.
In a short time, the move paid off. In 1973, they met a friend of
singer Jim Stafford, who directed the vocalist to David's Spiders and
Snakes. Stafford was immediately taken with the tune, releasing it as
his next single; the humorous retelling of David's boyhood farm
experiences would eventually sell over three million copies. The
success of Spiders and Snakes gave the Bellamy Brothers enough money
to move out to Los Angeles, where they began to concentrate on a
full-time musical career.
In 1975, the brothers signed to Curb/Warner Bros., releasing their
first single, David's Nothin' Heavy. The song flopped. Dennis St.
John, who was a friend of the Bellamys and Neil Diamond's drummer,
suggested that the duo record a song written by Larry E. Williams, one
of Diamond's roadies. After some encouragement, the Bellamy Brothers
recorded and released Williams' song, Let Your Love Flow. The song
broke the doors wide open for the brothers, topping the pop charts and
climbing into the country Top 30, as well as being a major hit in
Britain, West Germany, and Scandinavia.
The Bellamy Brothers quickly released their debut album, also called
Let Your Love Flow, which became nearly as successful as the single.
Instead of concentrating on a domestic follow-up, the brothers spent
their time in Europe, touring off and on for the next two years, which
led to a great deal of financial success. Soon, they were able to pay
off their debts and install their mother, Frances, as their financial
manager. Their second album, 1977's Plain and Fancy, was a major
success in Sweden and Norway, but it didn't make much of an impact in
The following year, the Bellamy Brothers moved back to America and
returned to the family farm in Darby, FL. Not only did they change
their address, but they changed their musical direction, moving closer
to a straight country sound. The shift in style paid off, even if
Slippin' Away, the second single they released after they returned to
the U.S., only made it into the country Top 20.
The Bellamy Brothers' country breakthrough happened in 1979, with the
tongue-in-cheek If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It
Against Me. Initially, the song was a hit in Ireland, convincing the
duo's American record company to release it as a single. The song
rocketed to number one on the country charts, which led to the Top Five
success of You Ain't Just Whistlin' Dixie. The Bellamy Brothers'
success continued to roll forward in 1980, as they scored two straight
number one hits, Sugar Daddy and Dancin' Cowboys. They earned a
Grammy nomination for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group and
the CMA named them the Most Promising Group of the Year. Throughout
1980 and 1981, the group continued to rack up the hits, including Do
You Love as Good as You Look and They Could Put Me in Jail.
Curb switched the Bellamy Brothers' distribution from Warner Bros. to
Elektra at the end of 1981. Coincidentally, the change in distribution
coincided with Howard and David's desire to experiment with their
music. After they released the number one For All the Wrong Reasons,
the brothers followed with Get into Reggae Cowboy, which was a
groundbreaking country record that incorporated Jamaican rhythms. In
1982, the group was given a Lifetime Membership of the Federation of
International Country Air Personalities, as well as being named the Top
Country Duo by Billboard.
Throughout 1983, the brothers logged a number of hits. The following
year, Curb signed a distribution deal with MCA, which had no effect on
the continuing success of the Bellamy Brothers. For the next three
years, the brothers were at their peak, both popularly and
artistically, scoring a number of hit singles that showcased their
continuing musical development as well as their increasing lyrical
sophistication, as indicated by the Vietnam vet anthem Old Hippie and
Kids of the Baby Boom. The Bellamy Brothers continued to have hits on
Curb/MCA until the end of the '80s.
By the turn of the decade, their audience had begun to shrink, leading
the duo to switch record labels to Atlantic. After one album with
Atlantic, 1991's Rollin' Thunder, the Bellamys left the label, founding
their own record company, Bellamy Brothers Records. The Latest and the
Greatest (1992) was the first album released on the label. Although the
independent record label meant that the group wasn't charting as
frequently as it used to, that was also a reflection of the shift of
the country audience's taste. The duo could still have minor hits, like
the Top 25 Cowboy Beat, which proved that the Bellamy Brothers
continued to hold on to a dedicated group of fans in their second
decade of performing. Reggae Cowboys followed in 1998, and a year later
the duo resurfaced with Lonely Planet. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All
Written by Stephen Thomas Erlewine