Moe Bandy came to an honest realization some years ago. There would be great-grandchildren that he might possibly never get to know, or even meet. So, the legendary country singer decided to share his life story, which he’s detailed in his book, “Lucky Me: The Autobiography.”
In many ways, Bandy feels that the title accurately sums up his life. He survived a tough Texas childhood, losing his record deal, battles with alcoholism and other challenges to forge a successful country career that still thrives today. For a time, Bandy even competed in rodeo events like bull riding before shifting gears to music. Beginning in 1974, Bandy was a consistent figure on the charts, with such hits as “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life,” “It’s a Cheating Situation” and the No. 1 single, “I Cheated Me Right out of You.” He achieved a rare feat by becoming part of a successful duet team with Joe Stampley. Together, they scored the No. 1 hit “Just Good Ol’ Boys” and won the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year award in 1980.
It’s an inspiring saga to be certain, one that he wanted to pass on to the next generation. “I wrote the book so my grandkids and great-grandchildren would know what I did,” Bandy says, after settling into a booth at the Edgehill Cafe off Nashville’s Music Row. “I’ve been blessed and lucky to do what I’ve been able to do. That was my thought going into this project.” Bandy expands the idea in the book’s dedication. He writes, “I dedicate this book to my great grandchildren. I want my grandchildren’s kids to be able to get to know their Grandpa Moe by reading this book.”
Fans will readily discover that Bandy faced obstacles literally from the start. His birth was difficult, physically, for him and his mother. He grew up in San Antonio with a father who could be equally mean or tranquil, depending on his level of sobriety. “I thought it was very important to tell people where I came from,” Bandy reflects. “We had some hard times and things were pretty rough. My dad was a tough guy. I’ve seen him clean out bar rooms. He’d whip everybody in there while I would hide under the table, like you would see in the movies,” he adds, laughing. “We all said that made us stronger. He and I healed up our differences and we had a great relationship after that.”
The book delves into Bandy’s decision to give up the rodeo life for a career as a singer. Bandy was one tough hombre, but no match for what rodeo cowboys had to endure. “I rode a bull and got thrown off and broke my collarbone,” he recalls. “They put me in one of those figure-eight wraps, but the following Saturday, I got on another bull. That’s not what I should have been doing.” Bandy broke his collarbone again, and at age 20, that became his last ride. He attended a Hank Thompson show at a local club, which proved the life-changer.
“From that point on, I dreamed of walking onstage just like Hank did,” Bandy writes. “Once I had started playing music, I knew that it was something I wanted to do in a big way.”
Bandy hit it big right off the bat. His debut single, “I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today,” reached the Top 20 in 1974. For the next decade, it seemed that Bandy always had two simultaneous songs on the charts, one going up as the other was on its way down.
“I came in during an era of country music that I thought was the greatest,” Bandy says. “I got to work with people like Ernest Tubb and Faron Young. You don’t have characters like them anymore.” Bandy owns up to some wild times in the book, including one nearly harrowing adventure with George Jones after a night of drinking. Fans often had no idea what country stars were up to in that era, as the internet and social media were years from existence.
“We did a lot of crazy stuff,” Bandy will admit. “But we always made it to the shows. If they had the cell phones back then, we would have all been in trouble. It was just a different time. Now, everything you do gets on Facebook or something. But it has made artists more aware of behaving themselves. You do something crazy now, it can cost you.”
Bandy opens up about his battle with alcohol abuse in “Lucky Me,” candidly detailing the events that led to his downward spiral. He stopped drinking more than 30 years ago and states in the book that he has not had a drop of alcohol since that time. He also quit smoking, a habit that he once felt powerless to stop.
On the up side of his life, Bandy glowingly describes his friendships with Larry Gatlin, Gene Watson, Dottie West, Merle Haggard and several other stars. He recalls his close relationship with President George H.W. Bush, a huge fan of Bandy’s music, and First Lady Barbara Bush, stemming from his performance of his hit “Americana” at a campaign rally in 1988. Barbara Bush wrote the Foreword to “Lucky Me,” which seems especially poignant now due to her recent passing.
For a rough-and-tumble Texas kid, being friends with a U.S. president and his wife was almost beyond his comprehension. “I spent the night in the White House twice,” Bandy recalls, still somewhat amazed at the memory. “When I was starting out, I could have never imagined something like that.”
Fans will surely delight at Bandy’s many anecdotes, along with the vintage photos that dot the book. “I had kept a lot of those pictures, and I’m glad I did,” Bandy says. “Most of the stories came from memory.” With a satisfied smile, Bandy adds, “I’m just very excited about the book. I went through quite a bit in my personal life, but I wanted people to know that you can overcome it.” Spoken like a true survivor.