The tenuous balance between the soft ballads and uptempo numbers characterized the early period of Goldsboro's hitmaking. He hadn't yet found a writing niche and was scrambling to get airplay on each and every record.
"For a long time," he explains, "I was making the kind of records that didn't have much lasting impact. I was only as hot as my latest record, which was true of a lot of artists ans still is."
The singer ably met the challenge for four years, hitting the charts hard once or twice a year with singles. In the meantime, Jack Gold was hired to head Columbia's A&R department in Hollywood and it soon became impossible for him to continue working with Bobby. Goldsboro met up with his current co-producer, Bob Montogomery, soon afterward. Bob ran UA's country A&R office in Nashville and dropped by a demo session Bobby was doing. A working relationship envolved and Montogomery has been involved in every Goldsboro disc since. He and Bobby now have some mutual business interets too.
In late 1967, Bobby and Bob were looking for material to break the longest dry spell Goldsboro had yet been faced with. Larry Henley, lead singer for the Newbeats, now a songwriter who has been a long-time friend of Bobby's, had heard some new Bobby Russel material which he thought Goldsboro would like. Russel at this time was still struggling to get his writing career off the ground and had a couple of strong ballads he'd just written, "Little Green Apples" and "Honey". Roger Miller had just covered the former while Russell had produced the Kingston Trio's Bob Shane on the latter.
"I heard the Shane record, " Goldsboro says, "but I thought a lot of the lyrics were covered up by the arrangement, so we had Russell come over and play it on a guitar. Bob Montgomery and I flipped over it and asked if we could do it. Russel told us we would have to promise not to released it as competing single. we agreed to wait for four weeks.
"The sessionon 'Honey' was unreal," continues Bobby. "We cut it right the first take, tried it again just to see if something was wrong, and it came out just as well the second time. So we went with the second take; the musicians stayed around to hear the playbacks, the first time they'd ever done that on one of my sessions. We didn't even have to remix the track. It came out in January of 1968 and went a million in about three weeks, finding me a completely new audience in the process. It opened up entirely new areas of television and performing to me; where before I'd been liked only by teens, 'Honey' appealed to a larger mass, the people who watch Mike Douglas and Jonny Carson."
TV exposure broke Goldsboro's career wide open; he's nearly become a regular on the Douglas show, co-hosting it several times.
"That show and the 'Tonight Show' have probably done more to keep my career on a pretty even keel than anything else, " he explains. "They allow you to prove you can do more than just sing one song. You become a personality, not just a voice they hear once in a while over the radio. And that involvement with you as a personality is what makes them want to come see you when you appear in a concert or club. This sort of exposure, plus my own TV show which grew out it, help tide me over during the periods when I might not have a 'hot' record."
It was quite a change for someone who had been taking exposure where he could get it. The teen-oriented dance-party television shows, the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours, those had been his only major outlets until "Honey" became the world's biggest-selling record in 1968, beating even the might "Hey Jude." It didn't take Bobby long to realized what had happened.
"'Honey' was the first big record I'd had that people would likely remember for a long time," Goldsboro notes, "and it meant I could release more serious material on singles."
Interestingly enought, Bobby had been writing more serious material for quite some time, but that age-old problem of image had kept him from releasing many of them. When he'd tried, as with "Bromstick Cowboy" in 1965, he paid for it; ABC had banned that song from "American Bandstand," accusing Bobby of adding to the glut of protest songs then in release.
"At the time, adds Bobby, "it was something I didn't have much control over. I mean here was Dick Clark telling me it was the best record I'd ever done but his bosses wouldn't let him play it. Times change, obviously, but there are some general rules of thumb which have become more clear to me too.
"I've been doing some soul-searching of a sort the last couple of years," he continues. "Nowadays, I do have a little more control over the risks I'm willing to take. I've got the TV exposure, the steady live gigs; if I want to, I could go out on any limb I wanted to with the songs I write and the records I make. I'm not saying thet'd sell, or that anyone would cover my songs. But it's somthing I feel I'm capable of doing now, which is good thing to have going for you.
"But when it comes to my own singles and albums, it's pretty clear that I've got a recognizable style my audience is used to. And I've come to the conclusion that if the purpose of singles is to get airplay to sell both singles and albums, then I might as well make single that are nore apt to get that airplay. Since I've usualy got the programmer's ears, why should I scare them off? I make an album or two a year, and I do the television show, which gives me plenty of room to experiment. After ten years I don't have to prove I can do one style or another; I've done them and I've prove it. The people who really care have probably bought the albums and have found out that I can. So there's no point in putting out something strange on a single just to put it out; if I feel it can be a hit for me, that I've made a good record, then I will release it."
The course of Bobby's recording career since 1968 has shown his ability to tackle both the "sure things" and the experiments with equal vigor. And indeed, his writing style has become distinctive enough that some of his "sure things" are his most interesting, challenging efforts. As far as creativity is concerned, it would be an understatement to say that Goldsboro, the artist, puts as much effort and thought into the obscure album track as he does the smash hit single. the musical concepts spring, sometimes full-blown, from his head, through his guitar and verbal descriptioned, to the session men and his band. And the results show the mark of such care.
Bobby 's band, led by his friend and manager Jan Kurtis on drums, has been a relatively recent addition to his operation. Before 1970, Bobby had to take what those who hired him provided. For someone with Bobby's standards, it was an entirely unsatisfactory way of dealing with a consistent feel, was the answer, and it was an answer he could now afford.
"I was playing and road managing for Judy Lynn in Reno," recalls the tall, sturdily built blond Kurtis, whose past includes some jazz sessions with such the Fleetwood, the Ventures, Terry Stafford and running his own studio in Seattle. "Bobby was in town, and would drop by where we were playing to watch. He finally began talking to me about my maybe going on the road with him. When he made an effort that was better than what I was getting, I accepted."
After trying to tour with hired Nashville session men(anexpensive proposition since most of them would rather be in the studios getting paid double scale), Bobby and Jan ultimately decided to round out their combo with a permanent bassist and keyboard player-arranger. Thei first acquisition was Tommy Tow, a seasoned bass player Jan had met in Nevada.
"I'd been doing rock" Tow says, "playing with B.B.King, James Brown and local bands, but Bobby made me a good deal. I was a bit wary at first because I thought there wouldn't be much challenge, and I liked to plenty of time left for myself."
The last to join the current lineup was the maestro, Timmy Tappan. An acquaintance of both Kurtis and Tow, Tappan was also working with Juddy Lynn when he was called up by Goldsboro. His multi-faceted abilities have proved invaluable both on stage and in the recording studios. He translates Goldsboro's head arrangements and conducts, often simultaneously. Curiously enough, prior to his becoming a working musician, he'd been teaching math ans science to high school students.
"We have a groupe with a variety of backgrounds," explains Kurtis, "and the ability to go in different directions, which is ideal for someone like Bobby. We 're establishing Bobby solidly in the 'good music' field, but we can 'get it on' when we want."
Kurtis has good reson to be pleased with the musical output of he and his colleagues, but his own reputation as a manager is quickly earning him widespread respect.
"I'm not really a manager," he says, "but rather a friend and an intermediary. Bobby knows what he needs, but there are certain things the artist can't, and by all rights shouldn't have to, do for himself. Since I'm always on the road with my 'client' and up on stage and in the studio, it's more like we're co-managers, or maybe president and vice-president of a company. I've had requests by other artists to manage them, but Bobby and I agree that there's enough to do right here."
Watching Bobby Grow 1