‘If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me’….. many of those who watched and listened to the legendary Bellamy Brothers live in Colombo last week must have been humming these words as they drifted into the night. It was a great performance — could have even been a breathtaking [...]


The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

When Bellamy Brothers let their music flow


‘If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me’….. many of those who watched and listened to the legendary Bellamy Brothers live in Colombo last week must have been humming these words as they drifted into the night.

It was a great performance — could have even been a breathtaking one, if not for glitches in the sound.

Close your eyes…..… listen to the familiar tunes and suddenly you wake up to the reality that the Bellamy Brothers are on stage at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on February 8.

There was no heart-stopping moments, no crazy dancing on the aisles (anyway too dangerous) but a stupendous performance for a Bellamy Brothers’ fan or any aficionado of country music.

Bellamy Brothers: Great show if not for glitches in sound. Pic by Susantha Liyanawatte

The icing on the cake was left for the end when they moved in finally, to the popular ‘Beautiful body’ followed by ‘Let your love flow’ which got the crowd dancing on different levels at the stadium.

It was old country at its best. Wally Dentz, the harmonica player had the trademark twang as he made his instrument work. He was also the bassist in the band, a rare combination in a country band where usually it is the guitar player who doubles up with the harmonica.
Missing, in my view, was an acoustic guitar, an often-found instrument in country bands. David and Howard Bellamy, said to be the most successful duo in country music, played electric guitars, unusually green.

Flaws? The sound vibrated, the bass couldn’t be heard and voices at some point were drowned by the sound. So much so that when the bassist switched to solo harmonica, no one missed the bass playing. Unfortunate, because here were two great voices in perfect harmony.

It was the venue that upset the acoustics and according to a spokesperson for the band, they were also feeling the impact on stage.
Country music is all about clarity, clear voices and meaningful words. That’s what stands out in this kind of music – the clarity, the simplicity….… no strutting around. These were great voices, two of the best in the game in over four decades.

Nevertheless, they made up for the hiccups with a masterful rendition of their two best loved songs drawing the audience to sing. “Great … you sounded even better than Mumbai,” said Howard, referring to the response of the audience at their previous concert before arriving in Sri Lanka.

The seats on the stands were uncomfortable and the steps too steep. This is a 1970s band that draws a crowd in the 40s to 70s age group and asking this generation to walk up a flight of steps was asking too much. Even, to watch their idols in action.

While Wally has been with the band for 30 years, guitarist Randy Hiebert, who did some good solo runs, has been with the Bellamy’s for 20 years. Frank Swiech – keyboards, Jim Heep – pedal steel and Gregg Stocki – drums, made up the rest of the band.

The good news is that the Bellamy Brothers will be returning to Sri Lanka in 2015 for another concert, according to tour promoter Judy Seale who said the local promoters have promised a different venue. That’s something to look forward to. “The local promoters really did a great job of hosting us,” she told the Sunday Times.

‘Country Roads’ will remain evergreen for another 150 years

The Bellamy Brothers, the most successful duo in country music history, said last week that John Denver’s perennial favourite ‘Country Roads’ will remain popular for another 150 years or more.

“Today’s country music has become disposable. You hear it a few times and throw it away. On the other hand, you like an old song and hang onto it (like Country Roads). That’s what we learnt about our music. We ran into people in India who knew our songs since they were children…… that was pretty wild,” said David Bellamy, younger of the Bellamy Brothers with elder brother Howard by his side at the Kingsbury Hotel. Their US promoter, Judy Seale, was also present along with the local organizers.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, print media sponsors of their February 8 concert at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, the easy-going, happy-go-lucky brothers who grew up on a Florida ranch in the US, shared some thoughts on the evolution of country music; meaningless tunes today; discipline in musicians as well as individuals; and the death of Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, the most successful country duo of that era:

Why Sri Lanka?
David – Well we have been getting a couple of calls over the years as to when we would be coming here and here we are.
On the evolution of country music:

David — We are considered one of the most successful duos in country music. We do what we do. We are country, we love country and we grew up on that music. But we also have many other influences – pop for example. We introduced reggae to country music. No one knew what reggae was … some called it ‘reggie’.

We steer clear of Nashville (home of country music) which like Washington DC is political.

All our records are made on our ranch in Florida. We have a studio in front of my house.

On the Everly Brothers:

David says with emotion — Phil’s death was tragic. I saw the Everly Brothers on the last Simon and Garfunkel tour around 2000. Paul Simon had Phil come out in the middle of the show and they did five songs. The man seated in front of me was crying. That was the kind of effect that band had on everybody’s lives.

On country music and its lyrics:

David – There are some songs that remain true to the ages but country (unfortunately) has got diluted a lot just like pop music – each generation dilutes it.

It’s like have a shot of whisky and they keep pouring water over it! The pureness is gone. I guess that’s the way it is. I don’t know what to do about it (trends). We don’t have an answer – we play what we play, what we love.

On challenges:

Howard – we carved our own niche and remained true to what we did. We don’t need to compete (with others). In the early 1990s, we started our own record label as we didn’t fit into the era of music at the time. We have been doing the opposite of what country (music) is doing.

The new country (music) has ruined artists. I sometimes wonder how we survived (laughs).

Everything has become disposable today – not just music. It’s the lifestyle.

On working together for 40 years:

Howard – We were raised on a ranch in Florida and had a lot of chores and were taught to be disciplined which is missing today. We were taught to work together. We have a natural chemistry.

On other members of the family:

David – we have an older sister who does sing with us. She joined in a gospel album we just did.

Howard – We are doing our 40th year anniversary album. We still write and 15 songs on it are brand new with the other 15 being hits.

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