When going through the collection of stories that fill the pages of Let Your Love Flow, the new autobiography of The Bellamy Brothers, what surprises the siblings the most? Howard Bellamy begins with the most obvious.
“I think that the fact that we’re still alive to tell these stories,” he wryly says to Billboard. “I think the thing that is the most surprising is that we that lived to tell,” he begins before pausing, “….what we can.”
The book, co-authored with veteran music journalist Michael Kosser, details the unlikely career trajectory of the Bellamys from their growing up years in the Sunshine State all the way to their string of hit records and their newest endeavor – a reality series, Honky Tonk Ranch, which premieres next Sunday (April 8) on The Cowboy Channel. Their stories of coming of age in the late 1950s and 1960s might sound cliched, but David Bellamy insists that the experiences they sang about in many of their biggest hits were very much real.
“I think that songs like ‘Baby Boom’ and ‘Old Hippie’ are very much how we grew up. We sat up on Saturday nights and drank moonshine and played music. Then, on Sunday mornings, we could always be found in the church. That was really the way we were raised.”
The duo’s parents, Homer and Frances Bellamy, figure prominently in the pages of Let Your Love Flow, as once can imagine. But David insists that their mother and father didn’t put any pressure on the two to succeed. “If we would have had a gig at the VFW on Saturday night, it would have been a big deal in our family. Going out, cutting a record, and having big hits was something that was so far out for us to aspire to. But, they were always encouraging about pretty much everything. They would tell you that you might ought to have something to fall back on if things didn’t work, but they would never put you down or stop you from doing what it was that you wanted to do. I think that in that respect, they were exceptional people.”
Stepping back and looking at how the Bellamys’ success story played out over the years, one would seem to surmise that their life has been — to retool another book title — A Series of Fortunate Events. David agrees with that assumption – before throwing up a suggestion of his own, saying “That’s the way our life has been. We’re like Hillbilly Forrest Gump. There’s just always been this sense of us being around when something was about to happen.” Howard sees it much the same way, saying, “Fate seemed to lead us around by the nose. But in a lot of ways that description would be true. We just don’t mention the unfortunate events,” he said with a smile.
Take, for instance, the success of “Spiders and Snakes,” the million-selling hit for Jim Stafford that David penned for the singer. His luck was not going well, when the title just happened to catch Stafford’s eye. “It was a very lucky break at a time when we needed one really badly. It probably shouldn’t have even happened, but it did. The song had been pretty much rejected all the way down, and Jim Stafford saw the title on a tape box. That’s why he picked it up and looked at it. But, from that point, everything else worked and it became a huge record.”
Most of the huge records that have had the Bellamy names attached to it, however, were recorded by the duo – beginning in 1976 with multi-format success of “Let Your Love Flow,” and continuing through the 1990s with such hits as “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me),” “Redneck Girl,” and “I Need More Of You.” Success has helped them to log many miles spent touring in the United States – and beyond. “We’ve played in seventy-two countries at this point, and it’s so amazing from where we came in Florida,” says Howard. “We never started traveling until we had our first big hit. Since then, it’s been endless. I can remember being at remote places in the world and thinking ‘Well, I will never see home again. You just get those feelings. But, we’ve had a guardian angel that has stayed with us and seen us through our story. There has to be.”
And their story continues with the debut of Honky Tonk Ranch. Of the series, David Bellamy says “I think we just lost our minds again. What I remember about the original seed was when we were doing a video with the Bacon Brothers. Kevin got lost in the prison that we were shooting in. That sent a little ripple through the crew, and everybody got nervous because we had a Hollywood A-List actor missing in a prison. He came wandering back, and was fine. It wasn’t a big deal, but after the shoot was over, my wife said ‘You guys need to shoot a reality show, because nobody would believe the stuff you go through.’ That was when we started talking about it, and I’m not sure if we were even serious then. That was back in 2010 or 2011. We’d be in a country like Dubai or India and think ‘We need to shoot some of this because it’s so crazy.’ So, we finally began to take the idea seriously. A lot of it had to do with running into the guys who started the Cowboy Channel because it was the perfect home for it.”
However, there are some moments that have happened to the duo over the years pre-television that would have made for interesting viewing, says Howard. “We were asked to do a show by the George Bush campaign at Weeki Wachee Springs, which is a tourist attraction in Florida. It was an impromptu thing, where we were unplugged. We didn’t have all of our equipment. We were putting things together in our mom’s Suburban, packing everything down and hoping that it would all work and sound good when we got it set up. It was only about sixteen miles from the house, and the minute we opened the door, our mother’s favorite cat jumped out of the car, and took off into the spring area. To this day, we never found the cat. It had to be her favorite. Things weren’t good for us around home for a month or two.” However, some of Howard’s children were able to good-naturedly pass the blame around. “My other kids told my youngest kids that Jeb Bush stole the cat because he was speaking at the event.”
Has working on the series or the book given Howard or David any new insight on each other?
“I think I knew most everything about Howard. His motto is ‘Let’s not make a job out of this,’” said David. “I think that everything that we do, we just have tried to have fun with it. It does get into work. After you spend a couple of years on a book, then embark on a reality show, there’s a lot of work involved. But, I think that we learn every day – a little more about ourselves and each other.”
Let Your Love Flow will be released April 17.