By Ron VandenBoom
An elder statesman of country music graced the stage at Havre's Police Protective Association Concert Thursday night to offer a rare taste of family humor and classic country tunes.
"I'm an old dog," said country singing star Bobby Bare, with a tongue-in-cheek reference to "Old Dogs," one of his recent albums recorded with three other country legends, Jerry Reed, Waylon Jennings, and Mel Tillis.
But old dogs, like old wine, can improve with age and Bare, like the wine, proved to Havre audiences Thursday that there's still some bark in this classic "old dog."
Bare reminisces with humor about his humble beginnings in the music business.
"I recorded my first record about three days before I went in the Army back in 1958," Bare said before last night's concert. "It was an early rock and roll tune called All American Boy.'"
The tune was about a rock and roll guitar player that gets drafted. It was another bit of Bare's tongue-in-cheek humor that made light of the fact that Elvis had been drafted about six-months before.
"I did it as a joke and it was an over-night smash hit," he said. "By the time I came out of basic on leave four weeks later that was all you heard on the radio."
The joke was compounded by the fact that while Bare had recorded the A side of the record a man named Bill Parsons had recorded the less popular B side and Parsons name had been used on both sides of the record.
"I never did take that record seriously," he said in a casual Tennessee accent. "Even though it was a smash hit it was a novelty and it wasn't what I wanted to do."
The record was both a curse and a blessing to Bare in that it succeeded in launching his recording career, but it also stereotyped him as a rock and roll pop star.
Bare went on to record "Miller's Cave," "500 Miles," and "Detroit City" which all worked their way first up the pop charts before meeting with success on the country side of the aisle.
By 1964, Bare had had enough of the California pop scene and moved to Nashville where he linked up with Chet Atkins and joined the "Grand Ole Oprey."
"That's when I started to have some serious hits and knew I wasn't going to have to get a day job," he said.
Bare said over the years he has reinvented his career about five different times everything from pop star to song writer to TV star to co-hosting a show with Ralph Emery.
But behind the consummate professional entertainer is found Bare's true profession fisherman.
"That's all I do is fish," Bare said. "I love to fish.
And Bare's fishing pole is no stranger to Montana's waterways either. He has drowned more than a few worms in this state's lakes and rivers.
"I love Montana," he said. "I've fished everywhere you can think of from Red Lodge to floating the Bitterroot."
The one career option Bare refuses to consider however is hosting a fishing show.
"I've been asked a number of times to do a fishing show," he said, adding that he wouldn't touch the idea.
"Then it would become a job," he said. "And if I ever lost my passion for fishing I would be heartbroken."
Fishing Montana was one activity he used to enjoy with his close friend Hoyt Axton before he passed away in 1999.
"I used to visit him all the time," Bare said. "His mama lived by me and I used to take him out to dinner whenever I came to visit."
Bare noted that during his last few visits Axton was in a wheelchair and it finally became so difficult for him to get out that on his last visit before Axton's death he just went over to his house and fixed him dinner.
"He was a good friend," Bare said.
Many more years of Bare's warm, down-home country humor and song are likely to be available to those who enjoyed Thursday's show. Bare has no intention of retiring.
"Retire from what," he said, when asked whether he had ever considered retirement. "What I've been doing all of my life is what people retire to do. This is all I've ever wanted to do."