Bobby Lord is a native of Sanford, Florida, which was known then
as the "celery center of the world". He was a singer,
songwriter, and guitarist and television star. He had his own
long-running syndicated television show in the 1960s,
produced by WSM in Nashville.
His musical career began as teenager in Tampa, FL. There, he had his own
television show in Tampa while still in high schoolThe Bobby Lord
Homefolks Show. He got this show when he was asked to be a guest
on a local show, so he did this for two weeks. Then he got a call
from the program director and was asked to take over the show - he
was told at the time that the star of the show had suddenly 'taken ill'
and wouldn't be able to host the show anymore. They asked Bobby if he
could get a show together by the next night. He managed to find
a pickup band for the show. Since he had no backup band of his
own, he had to call around and find musicians, which he did - he found
an accordion player, a couple of guitar players for the then 30-minute
show. They then gave him an hour show for Saturday nights. They reported
that he did up to 27 numbers in that one hour's time!
His first big break was an appearance on Paul Whiteman's
TV show in New York as the result of winning an amateur talent contest.
In 1953, the legendary songwriter, Boudleaux Bryant
had a tape Bobby had cut in Nashville and had it played for
Don Law at Columbia records, who then signed Bobby with Columbia
Records. He recorded several "Rockabilly" hits (many of which have been re-released several
times), as well as several country chart records for Columbia.
At the same time, he became a regular on The Ozark Jubilee (an ABC television show
hosted by Red Foley based out of Springfield, Missouri), where he stayed for
five and a half years.
When The Ozark Jubilee went off the air in 1960, that meant Bobby could
make the move to Nashville. Bobby joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1960, where he was a featured performer
(i.e., hosting multiple segments each night he was in attendance)
through the 1960s into the mid-1970s.
In 1961 he began recording for the Hickory label. In 1967,
he moved to the Decca label, where had several additional top 10 and 20
He was perhaps best known for The Bobby Lord Show,
a nationally syndicated TV show produced at WSM in Nashville.
In a 1967 article, Bobby noted proudly that his syndicated show
was being seen in 40 markets in the USA and in 34 countries
around the world. In May of either 1966 or 1967, he made his
first European tour, another career highlight and he got a great
reception by the audiences as they were familiar with his show.
The syndicated show featured The Jerry Byrd
Band, which included:
- Jerry Byrd, the legendary steel guitar player
- Jerry Whitehurst, piano
- Spider Wilson, guitar
All three were among the finest musicians Nashville had to offer and each
of them played on countless hit records recorded in Nashville studios.
If you went to an Opry performance during the 60ís into the 70ís,
these guys were the Opry "house" band that backed up everybody who didnít
bring or have their own band, which many performers on the Opry
Bobby also had a late afternoon LIVE country TV show on WSM during this same
time frame. That show began as a popular daily afternoon show on Channel 4 on
September 9, 1963. That show was the idea of Elmer Ally, Brad Crandall
and Bayron Binkley and others who wanted an afternoon show that
featured country music. The concept had been tried before, but not
succeeded, even with different artists each week. This time they
tried it with an emcee, a regular band and to have guests.
Jerry Byrd and the band also did the live show, which was one hour.
While video of the syndicated shows is still available, it's too
bad there are no tapes of those daily WSM shows that Bobby hosted, because
lots of interesting stuff happened. The first time
Mel Tillis ever spoke on TV was on this show when they had
time to fill at the end and Bobby asked Mel
to tell a funny story he had told off the air. It was funny, but
the switch board at WSM lit up with angry callers about how Bobby had
embarrassed Mel. But as we know, Mel went on to great things in
his singing and songwriting career and fans came to understand
the stuttering that became part of his act.
In the early '70s he grew tired of the road, and wanted to spend more time
with his family. He semi-retired from music, returned to his home
state of Florida, and developed very successful real estate and
insurance businesses. However, he wasn't through with show business.
Bobby was well known as an avid outdoorsman, camper, fisherman,
hunter, etc. and had a reputation as an excellent interviewer
from his TV shows. With that background, TNN asked him to host
one of it's original shows, Country Sportsman, which was later called
Celebrity Outdoors after ABC got a little upset about the show's
original name name being too similar to its show, American Sportsman.
The show had a very long and successful run and Bobby got paid to travel
the world, fish, and visit with old friends.
After several years, he retired from the show in 1989 because
he was about to have two new grandchildren within a month
of each other, and he wanted to be home to enjoy them.
The show continued on for another season with another host,
but the ratings were not what they once were when Bobby hosted
the show and was subsequently cancelled.
A practicing Christian, Bobby wrote a book entitled Hit The Glory Road,
published in 1969 by Broadman Press (Library of Congress Catalog Card Number
73-83309). It's an interesting book on the grassroots gospel behind country
music. It includes interviews with Roy Acuff, Bill Anderson, Bobby Bare,
Jim Ed Brown, songwriters Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, Skeeter Davis, Ralph
Emery, Jeanie C. Riley and Tex Ritter among others.
He currently lives in Jensen Beach, Florida, with Mozelle, his wife
of over 40 years, and near all three of his children and seven
grandchildren. He has a house on a lake in central Florida,
where he regularly host many of his old
buddies for bass fishing trips (Bobby Bare, Jerry Reed, Mel Tillis, and
Jimmy Dickens are all "regulars" at the lake house).
Credits & Sources
- Country Songs and Stars; March 1967;
Charlton Publishing Corporation; Derby, CT
- Additional biographical information and
discography provided by Rob Lord, Bobby Lord's son.