Bobby Lord was a working musician when he could be, which in the ‘50s and ‘60s turned out to be at television stations. Making his way on a southern circuit, he appeared regularly on TV around Florida, Missouri, and Nashville, and such exposure in the music city lead to a recording contract with Columbia where he cut a bunch of rockabilly singles in the late ‘50s that never attracted much attention, although his frenzied rocker “No More, No More, No More” subsequently gained a cult following. Lord soldiered on with a career as a country television presenter, first on a local Nashville station in the ‘60s then as an outdoorsman on The Nashville Network in the ‘80s.
A native of Florida raised in Tampa, Bobby Lord received his first big break when he headed to Philadelphia after winning a talent contest at the 1951 Florida State Fair. Returning to Florida, he performed regularly on local television, as well as playing live, gaining an audience and the attention of songwriter Boudleaux Bryant, who kick-started the singer’s signing to Columbia in 1954. At his first session he cut the wild “No More, No More, No More,” and over the next year, he alternated between this loose-limbed rockabilly and lean honky tonk, sometimes finding songs that split the difference between the two, such as “Hawk-Eye,” which received a big push in 1955. Any momentum Lord may have had with “Hawk-Eye” was undercut by a competing cover by pop crooner Frankie Laine, but neither turned into a significant hit. Still, the 45 gained some attention for Lord and he threw himself into rockabilly in 1956, taking a version of Wanda Jackson’s “Without Your Love” into Billboard’s Country Top Ten, then his direction shifted toward sweeter pop and ballads, which also didn’t garner much chart action. Throughout his chart struggles, Lord performed regularly on the Red Foley-hosted, Springfield, Missouri-based TV and Radio show Ozark Jubilee, sometimes filling in for Foley himself.
Once the rockabilly and teen pop failed to pan out, Lord devoted himself to country, making his home in Nashville and joining the Grand Ole Opry cast. He signed to Hickory after his Columbia contract expired, but he made a greater impact hosting The Bobby Lord Show on WSM-TV beginning in September 1963. It was successful enough that it headed into syndication in 1965, but it came to a close in 1968. Shortly afterward, Lord curbed his music career, concentrating instead on developing vacation and recreation properties in Florida, but he still played, signing with Decca where he had a Top 20 single in 1970 with “You and Me Against the World.” Lord sporadically recorded in the ‘70s as he transitioned to businessman, coming back to TV in 1983 to host The Nashville Network’s Country Sportsman, a show that combined his outdoor and music interests. It was renamed Celebrity Outdoors, and Lord hosted it until 1989 when he decided to retire from performing. Over the next two decades, he continued to work his various business projects, eventually dying from a stroke on February 16, 2008. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine