Bellamy Brothers: The country duo are raising eyebrows with their new album

Wednesday 12th December 2007

Tony Cummings reports on the hit making country duo BELLAMY BROTHERS whose latest album 'Jesus Is Coming' has caused quite a stir

Bellamy Brothers
Bellamy Brothers

In the US the Bellamy Brothers are recognised as the bestselling duo who've helped push back the borders of country music, adding elements of rock, reggae and even rap to the genre. In Britain, pop music aficionados will remember their tongue-in-cheek, salacious hit "If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me". But now, with the Bellamy Brothers entrance into the country gospel arena Christians are being asked to respond to such eyebrow-raising songs as "Lord Help Me Be The Kind Of Person (My Dog Thinks I Am)", "I Ain't Goin' To Hell" and "Jesus Is Coming" (with the hookline "Jesus is coming and boy is he pissed"). David Bellamy spoke about the latter song to Billboard magazine. "I wanted the line to have an impact but at the same time I wanted it to be a real gospel song. Beyond having the novelty hookline, it's really country, like an old hymn."

Intriguingly, its appearance on the Bellamy's 'Jesus Is Coming' album isn't the first use of the song. The duo first recorded it on their 1997 album 'Sons Of Beaches' which takes a look at how mankind has abused the environment and mistreating each other. It also mulls over how displeased Jesus must be with such behaviour. "It can really strike a nerve," said Howard Bellamy about the "Jesus Is Coming" song. "I'm sure there's going to be some controversy about it, but hopefully the broader-minded audience will really see the sincerely of it."

Speaking to Phantom Tolbooth, David Bellamy spoke about who he thinks will respond to their gospel album. "Although we have nothing against preaching to the choir, we hope that it doesn't just preach to the choir. We hope there are a few sinners who listen to it along with the believers, because it is a gospel album for people who. . ."

". . .aren't hypocrites," Howard finished the sentence. "I think the hypocrites will find this ('Jesus Is Coming') the hardest to accept."

"If you do reach that outsider, I think that is very important. When you play in a nightclub, there are some great people there," said David.

Howard continued with, "Sometimes they just get sidetracked, like we did."

The album track "Faith Came Back To Me" is a personal account of Howard and David's return to their roots. "Ya' we backslid and did a little of everything to be honest. We did what everybody did. It seemed normal at the time, but as you get older, you see things from a different perspective. You start thinking maybe grandma was right. When you are imprinted at a young age, it comes back, it really does," said David.

In the song "Grandma's God", Howard and David pay tribute to their childhood days, when the seeds of faith were first sown. The lyrics speak to the long, winding road that took them away from those roots, and the road that brought them back.

Bellamy Brothers:  The country duo are raising eyebrows with their new album

Continued David, "'Grandma's God' is really true. Our grandmother was what they used to call a holy roller, a Pentecostal. If you had breakfast at her house, she would be listening to the preacher on the radio, while she had her hand on the radio praying. We grew up with that. She was a very strong woman. That's really the roundabout circle. We were hippies in the '60s, [however] we made a big circle, and came back to where we started."

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; 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.

In 1979 the Bellamy Brothers had the country music breakthrough with "If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me" which hit first in Ireland, persuading the record company to release it as a single. More number one hits "Sugar Daddy" and "Dancin' Cowboys" continued in 1980 and by 1982 they were named Top Country Duo by Billboard. The Bellamys continued to have hits on Curb/MCA until the late '80s. By the end of the decade their audience had begun to shrink and after one album with Atlantic Records the duo formed Bellamy Brothers Records on which they released such albums as 'The Latest And The Greatest' (1992), 'Sons Of Beaches' (1997), 'Reggae Cowboys' (1998) and 'Lonely Planet' (1999). But now the Brothers have ruffled conservative church feathers with the release of 'Jesus Is Coming'. On its release Billboard asked them who they saw as the audience for this most unconventional of gospel records. "Way back in the woods," Howard responded with a laugh. "I think the audience for this album is people like us and I don't know how broad that is or how narrow that is. . . When some people think of something spiritual, they put saints on one side and sinners on the other side. That's not the way it is. Most people are both. We have made a lot of our living playing honky-tonks and still do. Some people who go to honky-tonks will be at church on Sunday. That's the way we were raised. We'd frolic with our dad's musician buddies on Saturday night and be in church singing Sunday morning."

One of the many memorable songs on 'Jesus Is Coming', recently released as a single, is "Drug Problem". The clever lyric refers to celebrities taking trips to rehab and finds the Bellamys sharing their "drug problem" in a chorus that states, "I was drug to church on Sunday morning/I was drug to family reunions/I was drug to grandpa's farm to work ever summer/If kids today had these kind of drug problems, the world would be a better place." Wrote Billboard, "It's a nostalgic look at a bygone era, delivered with the Bellamys' trademark charm and panache."

'Jesus Is Coming' represents coming full circle in more than one way, as David had the opportunity to record the track "You're The World" with his sons Jesse and Noah. David spoke about that recording, "That was a lot of fun. We have been doing some shows with the boys. They are touring around Texas. It was great to work together, especially on a gospel album. The great news about that song is there is a girl in Denmark who cut that song also, and Howard and I sang on it. Her album just went gold. That was really nice for Jesse because it is the first royalty money he ever made. It helps him pay the rent for the moment."

Phantom Tolbooth asked the duo whether there was some risk in the group recording a gospel album at this point in their career. Said David, "There might be some risk, but I don't think we care much, because we have sung gospel music all of our lives. We have sung gospel music for as long as I can remember. I can't remember anytime when we didn't sing gospel music."

Added Howard, "I think actually this record will really help clear up who we are, because I don't think people ever knew that. I think that it has taken 31 years for people to figure out this is where we are coming from. We are coming from several different directions, but this is really our outlook."

David Bellamy admitted to Billboard that some believers might see the group as "outlaw Christians." "That's OK. A lot of early Christians were real renegades. Jesus was the biggest renegade. He was the original nonconformist." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


Reader Comments

Posted by Michael in Oklahoma @ 14:41 on Nov 22 2008

Jesus - the original outlaw. Somebody ought to put that on a t-shirt. Be sure and give David credit.
As a preacher who loves Jesus and doesn't think much of "church as we know it" I LOVE these songs, especially the title track.
'Bout time someone had the guts to make a public statement like this.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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