LifeNotes: Bob Montgomery

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• December 4, 2014
Bob Montgomery in 1988.

Bob Montgomery in 1988. Photo: Alan Mayor

MUSIC-INDUSTRY GREAT BOB MONTGOMERY PASSES

By Robert K. Oermann

Bob Montgomery, one of the key figures in Nashville’s evolution into Music City USA, has died at age 77.

During his six-decade career, he made major contributions as a songwriter, record producer, music publisher and label executive. Bob Montgomery’s song catalog includes such standards as “Misty Blue” and “Love’s Made a Fool of You.” He produced records that boosted the careers of Vern Gosdin, Janie Fricke, Bobby Goldsboro and Joe Diffie. He published such iconic songs as “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” He created hit-making rosters for the record labels United Artists, Epic and Columbia.

Born in West Texas in 1937, he first made his mark as the 1949-1955 duet partner of future Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member Buddy Holly. “Buddy & Bob” became local radio stars in Lubbock, TX and opened the concert there by Elvis Presley. Montgomery subsequently wrote or co-wrote such 1950s Holly evergreens as “Heartbeat,” “Love’s Made a Fool of You” and “Wishing.”

He became a recording engineer in the Clovis, NM studio of producer Norman Petty, working with such artists as Holly, The Crickets, Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs, Buddy Knox and Roy Orbison. Montgomery also played rhythm guitar on recordings at the facility.

He moved to Nashville in late 1959 and became a staff songwriter for Acuff-Rose Publishing. His early successes there included Sue Thompson’s 1962 pop hit “Two of a Kind,” as well as songs for The Everly Brothers, Jim Reeves and Bob Luman.

Montgomery formed Talmont Music as his own publishing company in 1963. Among the company’s key copyrights was Montgomery’s “Back in Baby’s Arms.” It was originally sung by Patsy Cline and later revived by Connie Smith, Sissy Spacek, Emmylou Harris and many others. He also struck gold with “Misty Blue.” This Montgomery song has been a hit for Wilma Burgess (1966), Eddy Arnold (1967), Joe Simon (1972), Dorothy Moore (1976) and Billie Jo Spears (1976) and has been recorded by hundreds more.

Montgomery sold Talmont in 1967 and next became the head of the United Artists Records country division. He hit his stride as a record producer by guiding hits for the label’s Del Reeves (1969’s “Good Time Charlie’s”), Johnny Darrell (1968’s “With Pen in Hand”) and Buddy Knox (1968’s “Gypsy Man”), among others. His most notable UA client was Bobby Goldsboro, for whom Montgomery produced the massive 1968 pop and country smash “Honey,” as well as “Watching Scotty Grow,” “The Straight Life,” “Summer (The First Time)” and Goldsboro’s other hits of that era.

Pictured (L-R): Vern Gosdin and Bob Montgomery in 1989. Photo: Alan Mayor

Pictured (L-R): Vern Gosdin and Bob Montgomery in 1989. Photo: Alan Mayor

In late 1969, Montgomery and Goldsboro formed the publishing company House of Gold. Within five years, it was one of the top song firms on Music Row. Staff writers included future Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame members Kenny O’Dell and Larry Henley, plus Steve Pippin, Danny Morrison, Sam Lorber, Bobby Springfield and Van Stephenson.

In addition to “Behind Closed Doors” (Charlie Rich) and “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (Gary Morris, Bette Midler), the company’s hits included John Conlee’s “Rose Colored Glasses,” Tammy Wynette’s “Til I Get it Right,” Alabama’s “Love in the First Degree,” The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Bobbie Sue” and Tanya Tucker’s “Lizzie and the Rainman.” Others who scored big hits with House of Gold songs included Brenda Lee, Dave & Sugar, Eddy Arnold, Cristy Lane, Crystal Gayle, Jack Greene and Bobby Bare.

House of Gold singer-songwriter Razzy Bailey had a long string of hit singles that Montgomery produced. The company also competed in the pop field with songs recorded by Dr. Hook, Sister Sledge, Player, Millie Jackson, Exile, Lobo, Gladys Knight, The Pointer Sisters, Sheena Easton and others.

During the 1970s, House of Gold was ranked second to Tree International as the most successful independent publisher in Nashville. Warner Bros. Music bought the company in 1982 for a reported $3.5 million. Montgomery moved to Tree as its Director of Creative Services.

Razzy Bailey 1978 RCA w Bob Montgomery & Jerry Bradley. Photo: Alan Mayor

Razzy Bailey 1978 RCA w Bob Montgomery & Jerry Bradley. Photo: Alan Mayor

When Sony bought Tree in 1988, Montgomery became a vice president at CBS Records. He signed Joe Diffie, Doug Stone and Collin Raye to the company’s imprints, Columbia and Epic.

He also continued to produce records. Montgomery’s name is on 1980s discs by B.J. Thomas, Waylon Jennings, Shelby Lynne and Merle Haggard, among others. “Rocky” by Austin Roberts (1975), “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy” by Janie Fricke (1982), “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox” by Joe Diffie (1993) and “Some Memories Just Won’t Die” by Marty Robbins (1982) are among the many hits with Montgomery’s production touch. So are such iconic Vern Gosdin performances as 1988-89’s “Chiseled in Stone,” “Set ‘Em Up Joe” and “Who You Gonna Blame it on This Time.”

With Bob Montgomery’s support, his wife Cathy Montgomery established another publishing company, Noosa Heads Music, in 1992. Its successful songs to date include the Tim McGraw hits “Down on the Farm” (1994) and “Maybe We Should Just Sleep on It” (1996).

The couple moved to Australia in 2005 and lived there for seven years. The Montgomerys returned to Nashville 18 months ago. Bob Montgomery had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He died quietly at home around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 4.

He is the father of pop singer-songwriter Kevin Montgomery, who has recorded for A&M Records and achieved particular success in the U.K.

Bob Montgomery is also survived by his wife and business partner Cathy Montgomery and by daughters Echo Annette Garrett and Dee Dee Dawn Cooley.

Arrangements are being handled by Woodlawn Funeral Home on Thompson Lane. Visitation is scheduled there for Monday evening, 5-8 p.m., and the funeral will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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