In a business known for chewing up artists, the Bellamy Brothers continue to feast. Brothers Howard and David have been writing songs, making records and touring all over the world for more than 40 years, proving that longevity is possible in the topsy-turvy world of music. Hailing from a hard-working Florida family background, they became quick pop sensations and, beginning in the 1980’s, transitioned to country, where they rolled out a consistent chain of hits and scored multiple CMA Award nominations.
The Bellamys have chronicled their amazing career in a newly-published book, “Let Your Love Flow: The Life and Times of the Bellamy Brothers,” written with music journalist Michael Kosser. The book is available now at retail and online outlets.
Obviously, the brothers have quite a story to tell. Howard, the older brother by four years, and David recently visited with “Sports and Entertainment Nashville” to talk about putting the book together and some of the memories, pleasant and otherwise, that stand out in their career. “Let Your Love Flow” details the Bellamys story in fairly chronological fashion, starting with their childhoods in Florida and continuing up to present day. That alone proved quite an accomplishment, as David notes.
“We’ve never done anything that’s in a complete straight line,” he laughs. “We tried to make it an honest accounting of what happened in our career, and that starts with the way we were raised. So, we tried to go in order. A lot of people have been saying that we should write a book,” David adds. “We decided we should probably put it all out there because it has been 42 years.”
An incredible number, to be sure, but brother David is right on the money. The Bellamy Brothers first captured the national spotlight in 1976 with their breezy pop single, “Let Your Love Flow,” which hit the top of the charts. It became a crossover success, peaking just outside the Top 20 on the country chart. Howard and David enjoyed a second crossover hit in 1979, only the other way around. The cleverly-titled “If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me” reached No. 1 in country, while barely scraping the Top 40 on the pop list. That essentially kicked off their lengthy run as a solid, hitmaking country duo.
“Let Your Love Flow” was also a huge international hit, allowing the brothers to make some headway overseas. But “Beautiful Body” met with a completely opposite reaction, at least at first. “Our label sent it to the UK, because ‘Let Your Love Flow’ had been so big over there,” David recalls. “And the label guy in England hated it because it had a steel guitar on it.” Howard chimes in, “They wanted nothing to do with country. But there was a promotion company in Northern Ireland that got hold of the song and they loved it. There are a lot of those kinds of stories in the book.”
David actually crafted “Beautiful Body” from a quip by the legendary Groucho Marx, who tossed out what became the song’s title line on the quiz show he once hosted. In the book, he even relates that he wrote the lyrics while his son Jesse was being born. The brothers also went through a period in the 1980’s where they wrote and recorded socially conscious material like “Old Hippie” and “Kids of the Baby Boom,” their tenth and final No. 1 country single.
“I don’t know if that was a time of reflection or anything like that,” David says. “It just seems like as soon as soon as we finished one song, we’d move on to another. Actually, ‘Kids of the Baby Boom’ was something I had left over from ‘Old Hippie.’ That song had a lot of verses when I first wrote it and there was a line in there about the kids of the baby boom.”
The memory gives Howard a laugh, as he remembers a line from “Old Hippie” that read, “He’s just too friggin’ old.” The “friggin’” word sent off shock waves to their producer, who ordered the guys back into the studio to record over what he felt was an offending word. Nowadays, the task could be completed by simply sending a computer file, but no such luck back then. “He called and said we had to change that word,” Howard recalls. “We had to fly all the way into Nashville to do it. To us in Florida,” Howard tacks on, “that was an old beach word. It can mean a lot of things. But it had never been used in this context.” The replacement word, “damn,” was used for the radio cut, while most album versions still feature the original term.
Such trials and artistic headaches form part of “Let Your Love Flow.” In often hilarious fashion, the book also chronicles some wild times, characters the brothers met over the years and escapades with fellow entertainers. Chapter subtitles like “Stories We Shouldn’t Even Be Tellin’” and “Crazy Great Songwriters” should give some inkling of what you might find in the 300-plus-page book. Also included are several archival photographs of the brothers with their family members and artist buddies.
“Let Your Love Flow” pays considerable attention to the Bellamy Brothers’ enormous popularity worldwide. Their records sell in the millions in places like the UK, Germany, Australia and Japan. Overseas tours, which they still conduct to this day, play to sold-out venues.
“It was all because of ‘Let Your Love Flow.’ That opened the doors and we realized it,” notes Howard. “That was a pop hit in 15 different countries. We almost killed ourselves touring over there so much. But it has paid off.” David adds, “By the late 1970’s, we were almost a European band. We knew we could work there all the time. And we still go back every year.”
Writing a book, particularly one covering such an expanse of material, proved a challenge markedly different from songwriting. “It was harder than I thought it might be,” David agrees. “It’s definitely not like writing a three-minute song.” David reveals that he considered penning the book himself but their ever-busy touring schedule was taking up any free time. “I was like, this is never going to get finished,” David says. When Kosser was recommended to the brothers, they enlisted him to help. “If we hadn’t come across Michael,” David assures, “it probably would not have gotten done.”
“It’s amazing how you start telling one story and it reminds you of another,” Howard reflects. “Some things were written down in notebooks and others just came from our memory. It turned out to be a pretty good process. We tried to be entertaining and I think we accomplished that.”
“Let Your Love Flow: The Life and Times of the Bellamy Brothers” is available now. The Bellamy Brothers also star in their own reality TV series, “Honky Tonk Ranch,” which airs on the Cowboy Channel.