Trying to get a straight answer out of Linden native and long-time professional musician Richard Bowden is not easy. The driving force behind Linden’s famous Music City Texas loves to tell stories and make people laugh. To Bowden, making people laugh is second only to making great music. Bowden grew up with The Eagles’ Don Henley. He toured with Kenny Rogers and Linda Ronstadt. He counts Jackson Browne as one of his friends. Bowden took time from his schedule to talk about his life in music, how he came to form a new band and the success of Music City Texas.(Richard Bowden (center) with Moon & the Starz band members (left to right) Mark Vidito, keyboards and vocals, John Early, acoustic and electric guitar and vocals, Bowden, electric guitar and vocals, Greg (Moon) Attaway, drums and vocals, and Pat Roberson, bass and vocals. The band will be at the Crossroads Music Company in Winnsboro on Jan. 9.)
News-Telegram: How long have you been performing?
Richard Bowden: I believe my first musical type performance was being put on a platform at age 5 to direct the high school band during half time at one of Linden’s home football games.
After that, I sang occasionally in the
annual Lion’s Club variety show.
In the seventh grade, I did an Elvis impersonation at the Lion’s Club show that brought the house down.
next Monday at school, I was treated
like a “star” and that pretty much
hooked me on performing. I’m 64 now, so
that makes it 59 years if you count the
football game. On the national level,
I’ve performed since 1970.
N-T: How did you get your start in the music business?
RB: Jumper cables! No, seriously, I started out joining jam sessions at home with my dad and his cronies. Then we started playing at rodeos and various local events where we’d pass the hat for money.
Eventually we phased out the older gentlemen as I added friends like Don Henley to the band and we started to get paying gigs. As we got better, so did the pay.
Once we were on top of the pile of popular Texas bands, we met Kenny Rogers, who took us under his wing and got us a record deal. In California, we had to stage a breakup to get out of a bad management deal and that led to Henley, my cousin Mike Bowden and me getting a gig with Linda Ronstadt. Glenn Frey was also hired for her band.
After about a year, Don and Glenn left to start the Eagles. Mike and I stayed with Linda for a couple more years.
After that, I got gigs with Roger
McGuinn, lead singer for the Byrds, Dan
Fogelberg, Johnny Rivers and the Burrito
moved to Nashville to write songs and, instead, started the comedy team of Pinkard & Bowden. (Pinkard & Bowden are famous for their parodies of country songs like “She Thinks I Still Care [She Thinks I Steal Cars] and “Mama, He’s Crazy [Mama, She’s Lazy]), We had a really good run for 16 years.
N-T: You toured for a long time with Linda Ronstadt. What was that like?
RB: Linda is an amazing singer, and still one of the best in my book. We became good friends and were seat buddies on most of the flights (We didn’t do the tour bus thing back then).
Beside playing guitar for her, I sang
background vocals with her, so I got to
learn about singing techniques, phrasing
and such from the best. She also
featured me in her show with a couple of
comedy tunes I had written. That gave me
the confidence to later go on to have a
successful career with Pinkard & Bowden.
N-T: Tell me about Moon and the Starz?
RB: I actually had the concept for Moon & the Starz shortly before I retired Pinkard & Bowden and moved back to Linden from Nashville.
Greg “Moon” Attaway, also a Linden native, had been with me in Roger McGuinn’s band in California in the 1970s. He was back in Linden and playing in a band that performed in the annual Lion’s show I mentioned.
John Early, who has headed up the Bluegrass band Hickory Hill for 30 years, was also in the Lion’s Club show band.
Pat Roberson joined us. We got a keyboardist, Mark Vidito, who had moved from Los Angeles to Waxahachie, and eventually became a permanent member.
I must say that Moon & the Starz is one of the best outfits I’ve been associated with, as everyone in the band is a great singer and songwriter and instrumentalist.
We do get as much mileage out of my comedy tunes as we can, but we also have a great repertoire of legitimate tunes, ranging from country and rhythm and blues, to classic rock and gospel. Everyone in the band gets featured on stage, so you get a little bit of everything at one of our shows.
(Moon & the Starz has released a CD,
“Rising Over Texas.”)
N-T: Who are some of the artists working today that you admire?
RB: I admire groups like the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, the Bellamy Brothers — mostly for their longevity and being able to keep up with the times throughout their careers.
Of course, one of my old friends, Jackson Browne, has been able to remain a viable force in music throughout the years. He just did his second benefit appearance in Linden in December. His donation will enable us to stay open a while longer.
There are a few “New Country” artists
that I like, but basically country music
today is really what we were doing back
in the seventies known as “country
N-T: When did you move home?
RB: I left Nashville to return home to Linden at the end of 1998. I mainly came back to be near and assist my mother for the last years of her life.
non-profit organization, Music City
Texas Inc., had already been formed and
its mission was to establish a concert
venue in Linden to boost tourism. I
joined up with them and shortly was
appointed chairman of the board.
N-T: What made you decide to form Music City Texas theater?
RB: When the efforts failed by Music City Texas, Inc. to build an amphitheater in Linden’s newly developing city park, we had to go to plan B.
Not having one, we decided to try a Lumberjack Festival, ending with a musical concert, for a couple of years, but never got the big corporate lumber companies’ support.
The third year we canceled it, as it was scheduled to be the weekend of the 9/11 tragedy.
found out the old American Legion Hall
could be leased from the city, so we
leased it for 10 years, deciding that it
would be a great concert venue.
N-T: Talk about the restoration of the old building.
RB: With seed money from our local Lion’s Club, we rolled up our sleeves, and, with the help of many volunteers from town, we began the restoration.
Local artist Brad Attaway was put in charge of design. Tearing out the flat sheetrock ceiling, we discovered these beautiful, hand-made arched truss wooden beams. Leaving them exposed improved the acoustics in the building by about 90 percent. We reused lumber from the ceiling demolition to build these cool wall columns and light sconces that Brad designed. These changes gave the space a theater look.
We’ve since added new restrooms trimmed out with recycled lumber from the high school’s old gym bleachers. It is still a labor of love and a work in progress.
N-T: What do you hope your audiences take away from a Moon and the Starz show?
RB: Several thousand dollars worth of our T-Shirts and CDs.
No, really, I want them to leave feeling that this was the most they’ve been musically entertained and laughed in a long time. I want them to take with them the desire to have us back. But mostly, I recommend that they take home the same woman they came with – poor Tiger.
Richard Bowden with Moon and the
Starz will be in concert on
Saturday, Jan. 9,
at Crossroads Music Company - 216 North Main Street - Winnsboro.
Tickets are $20 for reserved seating, $15 in advance and $18 at the door.
Doors open at 7 p.m. Music begins at 7:30 p.m.
For more information,
please visit crossroadsmusiccompany.com or call 903-342-1854