2013: Bobby Bare’s Big Year
Though founded in large part to honor the legacy of the late Eddy Arnold, Plowboy Records did issue one album before the June 4 release of You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold.
The three label founders were brainstorming when Don Cusic, Director of Special Projects, had an idea. “When Johnny Cash did those guitar/vocal albums at the end of his life, I thought, ‘If anybody could do that, it’s Bobby Bare.’ But I just kept it to myself. Until we created the label, I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Cusic, a celebrated author and professor at Belmont University, was working on a book project at the time. That research turned into Roger Miller: Dang him!, released in 2012. “So I had two reasons I wanted to talk to Bare,” he explained. “I wanted him to tell me about Roger Miller for the book I was writing. And I wanted to talk about this idea for an album with him.”
“I’ve known Bobby since I got to town in 1973,” Cusic continued. “I was living in my car next to his office at 19th and Broadway. I had long hair. I was a nobody, a homeless guy. But he was always intrigued by weird people, and he was nice to me. That’s the kind of man he is.”
By then, Bare was already a Grammy Award winner. He’d been honored in 1964 for “Best Country & Western Recording” for “Detroit City,” which was characteristic of his folk/Country style on hits including “500 Miles Away From Home” and “Four Strong Winds” (1964). Many other hits followed, as well as his own TV show, “Bobby Bare and Friends,” on The Nashville Network, and more recently acceptance into CMA’s Country Music Hall of Fame.Cusic wound up in the studio audience making crowd noise on Bare’s landmark LP of Shel Silverstein songs, Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies (1973).
It had been seven years since Bare had recorded an album, but he was intrigued by Cusic’s suggestion of reviving old folk songs. Sessions were set up at the historic RCA Studio B, where Bare had begun his Nashville career by recording “Shame on Me” in 1962.
The result was Darker Than Light, co-produced by Bare and Cusic, and Plowboy’s inaugural release. “That album was a way of planting the flag, establishing ourselves,” said Shannon Pollard, the label’s President.
“We needed credibility, and Bare gave us credibility,” Cusic added. “I told Bobby that one of my goals for this thing was to get him into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He’d never even been nominated.”
“I was on spring break in Key West when I found out that Bobby Bare was going into the Country Music Hall of Fame,” Pollard continued. “I started hooting and hollering in the street.”