Bobby Flores FIDDLIN' (& SINGIN') TO THE TOP OF SWING
And the 2017 winner for Western Swing Male Vocalist is…. Mr. Bobby Flores. Bobby Flores graced the cover of Texas Polka News in December 2014, and since then he has been inducted into five different halls of fame in either the Western Swing or Country category bringing a total of at least seven halls of fame throughout the Southwestern United States honoring him for his musical prowess.
His most recent honor came from the Academy of Western Artists at its annual awards presentation on March 15 in Fort Worth. (See related story on other winners.)
Bobby is now in the company of Willie Nelson, Clint Black, Little Joe & La Familia, Bob Wills, Ray Price, Johnny Rodriguez, and George Jones just to name a few. He has a Grammy Award hanging on his wall (arrangements on Freddy Fender album La Musica de Baldemar Huerta); has contributed music to the Tommy Lee Jones movie The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and scored the documentary The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez that took first place in four different film festivals, and was nominated for an Emmy Award in Outstanding Journalism.
His accolades are far more than the above listed. However, Bobby never forgets who won him this acclaim - his fans. He still performs at homegrown venues such as the Floresville Opry and the Farm Street Opry in Bastrop to thank his fans for their devotion. While he had the opportunity to do the Nashville star thing, he chose to stay near San Antonio with his family.
A LIFE OF MUSIC
Bobby’s life has been a life of music. He once recalled that he remembers being bottle-fed while his uncle’s band (Mike & The Del-Rays) were playing. When he was six, he broke his dad’s guitar riding it like a horse. At the age of seven, he started singing gospel duets with his mother around the San Antonio area and once opened for Johnny Rodriquez. In 1971, at the ripe old age of nine, he began playing guitar professionally with George Chambers and the Country Gentleman, a popular Texas band. His Ventura 12-string guitar was taller than he was. The crossover from gospel venues to honky-tonks was fairly easy, as his parents had frequented the family-friendly icehouses with Bobby in tow.
The 1970s saw Bobby, at the age of 13, fronting his own band, playing any venue that would book and pay them. His fan base began to grow and the “buzz” in the music industry was that this young man had the vocal and instrumental licks to move forward career wise. Bobby, with different country-flavored bands, began opening for stars such as Conway Twitty, Johnny Rodriguez, and Tanya Tucker. By performing with different bands, styles, and venues, Bobby was being exposed to many different facets of musical styles and learning the business side of the “music business.” He soon found himself in the studio where he recorded four charting country singles on San Antonio-based Joey Records.
In 1980, Bobby was the show opener and fiddler in Johnny Bush’s band, The Bandoleros. When Bush’s band disbanded, Bobby headed in three different directions: one to pursue his love of classical music, two, explore trendy 80s music, and three, to start a family band.
He began formally studying music theory and classical violin, while performing with the Trinity University Community Orchestra in San Antonio. Bobby’s love of classical music was evident when he was asked what was on his stereo when he arrived at a country opry to perform Bob Wills and Western Swing-style music; his answer was Rachmanioff. Sergei Rachmanioff was a renowned Russian classical composer and pianist who died in 1943 at the age of 70.
Bobby spent some time in pop, blues, and New Wave bands like The Boiz (think parachute pants), and started a family band with his sister, Sandra, and brother Greg, named Angel Fire. The group spent nine years opening for the likes of George Strait and Garth Brooks. He also was introduced to national country audiences by TV shows on TNN and syndicated radio shows.
Bobby is the master of many instruments: fiddle, violin, guitar, mandolin, keyboard sequencing, and bajo sexto.
The fiddle is his primary instrument and when asked who living or dead he would like to play a duet with, he mentally went through the short list of great fiddlers and came up with Tommy Jackson, a session fiddler in the 1950s and 60s. If you ever heard a Hank Williams, Bill Monroe or George Jones recording, you probably have heard Jackson. Jackson also played in Ray Price’s band, in which Bobby filled his position for 14 years after Jackson left. When asked whom he would like to sing a duet with, Bobbie’s choice was Ray Price.
During this time, Bobby’s prowess as a fiddler and his skill as a recording session arranger made him in high demand as a studio musician and producer. The demand for his talents reached the point where he was in three different recording studios a day. This demand, while financially and musically fulfilling, took its toll on his energy. The solution was to launch his own recording studio, Yellow Rose Recording Studio, along with his own record label Yellow Rose Records, which in 2007, was named Independent Record Label of the Year.
Bobby and his band, The Yellow Rose Band, recently performed at Texas Folklife’s Festival of Fiddling event at Twin Sisters Dance Hall in Blanco (which just got a new roof, yea!). After a full day of different ethnic fiddling styles, Bobby and the Yellow Rose Band set the dance floor on fire with triple fiddles, and Dennis Kubos (see TPN January 2018) on drums. Recently, the sound of a Texas fiddle has returned to the dance halls of Qhihi, Schroeder, Mercer Street, and Kendalia as Bobby and his band have played music as it should be played in these Texian temples of dance.
One of Bobby’s proudest accomplishments is not any of the numerous awards that have been bestowed upon him, but the music school he founded, Bulverde Academy of Music (BAM!). BAM! is a school that only accepts budding musicians who are disciplined and serious about growing their musical abilities. At the Academy, top notch musicians work with students in an individualized flexible program teaching them music theory and musicianship with a focus on live performances. Bobby himself teaches fiddle, guitar, mandolin, steel guitar, Dobro, and violin when his touring schedule permits. This reporter had to ask “What differentiates a fiddle from a violin?” and Bobby responded:, “It’s the way the same instrument is played.”
Interesting facts about Bobby: he was an instructor and owner of the Blanco Tae Kwon Do Academy, and his last “day” job was a machinist in his dad’s shop, but he quit after realizing he could lose a finger or more.
Bobby’s successful career has always been about giving a great performance to the people who have followed him through the years, and that is what he gives whether it’s to a small opry crowd or a large festival stage. Congratulations to Bobby, all the winners and nominees who make sure that the Cowboy Way remains the way to live life.