Born in Meridian and the grandson of the railway yard manager where Jimmie Rodgers worked, Moe Bandy became one of country music’s most popular singers of the 1970s and ‘80s. A master of honky tonk as well as cowboy songs that reflected his early rodeo work, he was successful as a solo recording artist, as a member of the “Moe and Joe” duo with Joe Stampley, and later as a prime live attraction in Branson, Missouri.
Moe Bandy was born Marion Franklin Bandy, Jr., in Meridian on February 12, 1944. He was the grandson of the man who employed Jimmie Rodgers at the local railway yard and the son of a guitar-playing father and piano-playing mother who always had Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams records playing. The Bandy family relocated to San Antonio, Texas, when Moe (as his father nicknamed him) was six. Raised as a working cowboy, he would occasionally appear with his dad’s country band but focused more on his main early interest, bronco busting and bull riding, competing in rodeos professionally by age sixteen. His brother Mike became a celebrated bull rider, and the brothers were inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2007, but Moe, injured too often in the competitions, did most of his cowboy work in song. He started a long-time job as a sheet metal worker after finishing high school, and at night, beginning in 1962, appeared in San Antonio clubs with his country band, Moe and the Mavericks.
He would see regional television success, but several small label recordings went nowhere. When Bandy self-financed sessions with producer Ray Baker in 1972-’73, one recording, “I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today” was picked up by GRC Records and became a No. 11 national hit. Honky tonk themes of drinking, loving, losing, and cheating and the traditional sound of fiddles and steel guitars marked Moe’s highly praised, soulful solo singles of the decade that followed, his national prominence growing when he signed with Columbia Records in 1975. Such celebrated songwriters as Dallas Frazier and Whitey Shafer now provided him songs, and Moe also made his first headlining Jimmie Rodgers Festival appearance that year here in Meridian. Over time, Bandy would have over fifty charting singles, thirty-four of them top ten hits. In 1979 alone, he had his first No. 1 solo record, a hit honky tonk duet with Janie Fricke, and was first paired with look-alike label mate Joe Stampley, whom people often mistook for his brother. The first of their string of successful good time “Moe and Joe” singles, “Just Good Ol’ Boys,” went to No. 1; they were the Country Music Association’s Vocal Duo of the Year for 1980.
With a move to MCA/Curb Records in the mid-1980s, Bandy’s recordings, such as the patriotic hit “Americana,” took on a more updated country sound, and he more often explored gospel songs and cowboy ballads. Having become a popular attraction in Branson, Missouri, he opened Moe Bandy’s Americana Theatre there in 1991. He continued to be a popular live performer there and on the road internationally for decades after.
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