orchestra leader from Nashville, Tennessee, where he cut his teeth, quite
literally, on the lip of his grandma’s Victrola
He grew up,
like many children, being entranced by the sounds of the Grand Ole Opry. At
the age of nine, he started his own shoeshine business and one of his
patrons was Jack Drake, who played bass for Ernest Tubb. Bob pestered him with questions
about the bass guitar, and Jack encouraged his interest by teaching him
everything he could about the instrument. At ten years of age, Bob was playing
guitar and singing on a radio program entitled Goober and the Kentuckians, which aired on WSIX.
meeting with Owen Bradley when he was twelve would eventually lead to an
unparalleled career in music recordation. Owen asked Bob to make a
direct-to-disk recording at The Ryman and it was only a portent of things
In 1952, he
got a gig on Red Foley’s television program, Ozark Jubilee, on ABC-TV.
The only problem was, the show aired in Springfield, Missouri, and
at the time Bob was working with Marty Robbins back in Nashville, as
well. For two years, he did a
thousand-mile commute between the two cities, and eventually quit the show
due to exhaustion.
It turned out
to be a very good decision.
Owen Bradley had become a big noise in Music City, and when he inked
a deal with Decca, young Bob was not far behind. He soon became an integral member of
Nashville’s A-team, oftentimes leading the sessions on which he
Some of the
artists with whom he worked include Paul Anka,
Chet Atkins, Debby Boone, Patsy Cline, Bobby Darin, Mac Davis, John Denver,
Connie Francis, George Jones, Brenda Lee, Don McLean, Willie Nelson, Elvis
Presley, Johnny Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers, and Hank Williams, Jr..
In 1959, he
and Fred Foster established Monument Records, and one of their artists was
Roy Orbison. These were the
salad days of his recording career, as well, often working twelve-hour
days, every day of the week.
One year, he appeared approximately 300 recordings, and that was
just on the Mercury label.
He formed his
own orchestra in 1960 and they recorded an instrumental entitled
“Mexico” and it went gold and peaked at #7 on the Billboard pop
chart and spent one week atop the easy listening chart. Another one of his most well-known
recordings was Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”, which
features a prevalent bass line.
His bass line
has featured on more than 17,000 recordings, purportedly the most of any
country and western bassist, possibly more than anyone in the world. It is small wonder that Life magazine dubbed him the #1
country bass player, ever. In
2007, Bob was most deservedly enshrined in the Musicians Hall of Fame.
Hargus “Pig” Robbins recordings
Chunky People (Jim Vest/David Chamberlain)
Kenny Rogers recordings
Gambler (Don Schlitz)
United Artists UA-X1250-Y (UAST-20122)