Lonely Boyhood: When his father went to fight the war, he placed Bobby in a foster home. When he returned, his father remarried and told Bobby he couldn't stay. Rather than being adopted out, he had to plead with his mother to let him live with her because she told him she could hardly make ends meet for herself. Margaret worked as a part time waitress in Philadelphia (she was a lovely woman and got good tips when she could locate work). There were many times they had no place to stay, so he became accustomed to sleeping on the benches of all-night bars, in cars, or at occasional hotel rooms. " When she could, my mother would give me a dollar a day, and I could stretch that into two or three meals a day," he revealed, "but it was a very lonely existence."
Things got a little better when she met a construction accountant who took them along to various assignments in New Jersey, Missouri, and Kansas. "Before I was 20 years old, I had moved 20 different times and I grew to depend on music to help get me through some of the difficult parts of my life. It was depressing to continually have to say goodbye to short-term friends I desperately needed. The positive aspect was that I got a good cross section of the different types of music across the nation. Once, my mother took me to a gala country music show and I was impressed so much that a new dream directed my life."
Mother's death: When she was diagnosed with cancer of the cervix, she agreed to undergo experimental radiation therapy. "I stayed with her over the next three months and remember her suffering and my sense of helplessness. She told me the only regret she had was that she would not see me grow up to be a man." She passed away at the age of 33 when he was only 15. "I had some hard times with her, but, the loneliness without her was much worse - the sense of loss grew more intense as I grew older."
School Days: Bobby's uncle, Donald C. Bowman, took him in as a son and he went to school in Levittown (Long Island, New York). "He gave me a permanent home and that meant a lot to me." His uncle bought him his first guitar in 1957. Bobby's first public erformance was at a High School contest (Ricky Nelson's There'll Never Be Anyone Else). "I took education seriously and graduated in the top 5 out of about 200 students. I wanted to be a teacher, but the draft was something that jeopardized any plans for college." Bobby worked as movie usher for a while.
Army Volunteer: During a 3-year tour in the U.S. Army right after graduation, Bobby appeared in one local rendition of the play MAME and learned some fancy licks by jamming with many guitarists from around the country. At Ft. Devens, in Massachusetts, he was promoted to Specialist 4th Class and worked in the accounting office. Not long afterwards, Bobby got a "Dear John" letter from his intended back in New York. "I really felt like my world had just crumbled . . . and with fellows from my unit being killed in Cambodia, my idealism turned to fatalism and I was indeed sad and depressed for an extended period. Again, playing music on my guitar turned out to be a salvation for me, but the word " BLUE" took on new meaning (I guess that's why I picked that as a performance trademark)."
Early Musical Endeavors: His passion for playing the guitar and writing songs began to intensify and he was greatly influenced by Elvis Presley. He helped form a band called the Impacts in New York (later part of the University Boys). Bobby paid for a recording session which included two of his songs (AND I BELIEVED along with I CAN'T STOP). They appeared on TV and were being considered for a record label (Holten Records, label for Connie Francis) when the bass player was drafted and everything went downhill. Bobby was subsequently offered a solo recording contract by Atlantic Records but had second thoughts at the last minute. He continued to play gigs in New York and New Jersey.
"The best gig was at the Surf N Sand resort on eastern Long Island. We were there for two months and it was like an extended vacation, but some shows were not as glamorous. One night in a Hempstead bar, the owner made a group of bikers pay to get in, knowing that our contract was to stop playing one half-hour later. There was such a commotion when we stopped that a fight ensued and the lead guitarist was beat up. Although I was hit by some attackers, I barely got out unharmed."
In 1966, Bobby sent a copy of the song he had written and recorded with his band to WINC radio station, and it won that station's top award of four orchids. The name of that song was MAYBE I'M GOOD. That version was his first county-style song but because of legalities, he decided to modernize the song later and release it along with others on the Internet (scheduled for May 2011). In New York, Bobby met Chuck Berry and got some good tips about the music business.
College Days: To advance in the telecommunications industry, he started taking evening classes at Nassau Community College in Long Island. He eventually got an Associate in science degree and designed a digital drum machine which he used in his own home studio. He later became a technical writer then design engineer. After a failed marriage and discouraging encounters in the bars circuit, I took a good look at my life and realized then that I had left my heart in Virginia."
Return to Virginia: After taking a technical writing assignment in Sudan (Africa), he returned and took a job as planning technician in Front Royal, Virginia, then opened a recording studio in Stephenson, Virginia where he held many jam sessions. He continued to perform locally and developed many ideas which would serve for many later outstanding songs.
Bobby worked for Capitol Records in Winchester for eight years before the plant relocated to Illinois. He helped them produce cassette tapes for recording artists and studied the mechanics of what it takes to make a hit. He wrote many songs during that time period.
In 1979, he went to Nashville and produced a 45 RPM record (DON'T WASTE ANOTHER NIGHT & GONNA LOVE YOU A LONG LONG TIME). Again a contract was offered, but Bobby wasn't ready for a full-time commitment. In the process of researching his family tree, and after he was rebaptised, he met and was married to Beth in 1984 (after a 5 year engagement). He writes all his love songs for her - and she accompanies him in the studio. After Capitol Records moved from Winchester, he got a second college degree (Computer Information Systems) as part of a federal retraining program and took lastest courses in Communications from Old Dominion University, completing four years of college.
His dad's passing put Bobby in a more reflective stage and he engulfed himself into work to a point where he did not have time to even enjoy music for years. When his 5-year position as Coordinator of Technology terminated, Bobby reevaluated the role of music in his life. He felt that an album was a quest he had to follow.
1998 Actions: He wrote SURPRISE ME and ANY TWO PEOPLE CAN LOVE (LOVE KNOWS NO STRANGERS) in 1998 and entered a song called VIRGINIA - FOREVER FREE in the Virginia State Song contest (arranged in part by his oldest son). Tom Farrell, recording engineer at Apple Blossom Sound Studio in Winchester, helped Bobby and his lead guitarist, Keith Clevinger, achieve the right album sounds.
Peter Dillon at WAZR in Woodstock, Virginia interviewed Bobby and played several songs on the air and The Shenandoah Valley Herald carried an article about his "comeback."
Bobby took additional college courses and is working on a novel about the European Exodus (release planned for June 2011). "It is all about sharing life's philosophies and ideas whether writing novels or songs (which are simply musical poems)."
Idols/Favorites: Song: Without You (Bread); Groups: Eagles, ABBA; Singers: Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Elton John, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, Olivia Newton John, Celine Dion, among many others.
Causes: Technology Advocate: Created a Free Educational Technology website for everyone's benefit (including musicians and songwriters): http://www.user.shentel.net/rbowman (the freeware section is most useful); Historical Preservationist - Looking for support to preserve the Christian Bauman (forefather and first settler on Sandy Hook) cemetery near Strasburg, Virginia. A book about Christian will be published in May, 2011 and a book about the colonial history of Strasburg will soon follow.
ID Advocate - I praise God: - Wrote a formidable essay entitled YOU ARE NO ACCIDENT (under the category of homeschooling in his website above).
Copyright© 2011 Bob Bowman - All photographs, drawing, album cover, and text are under copyright - all rights reserved.