100 Greatest Men: #56. Bobby Bare

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

With a career that has spanned seven decades, Bobby Bare's body of work has made him one of the genre's most influential and critically acclaimed recording artists.

Raised in poverty by his widowed father, Bare was on his own by age fifteen.  He built his own guitar and played in a Springfield, Ohio band before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a music career full-time.  His first single, “The All-American Boy”, was recorded under the name Bill Parsons.  It became a surprise pop hit, reaching #2 in America and the top thirty in England.

His pop career was short-lived, thanks to being drafted into the army.  When he returned from service, he resumed performing under his own name, pursuing a singing and songwriting career in the pop music field.  He shared an apartment with Willie Nelson and toured with some big pop acts, before turning his attention to country music in the early sixties.

Chet Atkins signed him to RCA in 1962, and he had a string of  big hits for the label, including classics like “Detroit City”, “The Streets of Baltimore”, and “500 Miles Away From Home.”  Bare began incorporating elements of the folk music scene into his music, and by the end of the decade, he'd established a reputation for tackling challenging material on record, including the controversial “(Margie's at) the Lincoln Park Inn.”

A brief stint on Mercury Records in the early seventies continued the streak of critically acclaimed albums, but he returned to RCA shortly thereafter. It was on that label that he released the landmark album Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends, and Lies.  The double album showcased the songs of Shel Silverstein, including the #1 hit, “Marie Laveau” and a duet with his son on “Daddy What If?”  Thus began a fruitful partnership with Silverstein that resulted in more critically acclaimed albums, though none of them would approach the commercial success of their first collaboration.

As the seventies progressed, Bare became aligned with the Outlaw movement, and by the early eighties, he was drawing on the catalog of writers such as Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.  After releasing his 1983 album Drinkin' From the Bottle, Singin' From the Heart, Bare took more than a decade off from recording. In recent years, he has returned to prominence through the Americana scene, and is now viewed as one of the forefathers of that fledgling musical movement.

Essential Singles:

  • Detroit City, 1963
  • 500 Miles Away From Home, 1963
  • The Streets of Baltimore, 1966
  • (Margie's at) the Lincoln Park Inn, 1969
  • How I Got to Memphis, 1970
  • Daddy What If? (with Bobby Bare, Jr.), 1974
  • Marie Laveau, 1974

Essential Albums:

  • Detroit City and Other Hits, 1963
  • 500 Miles Away From Home, 1963
  • (Margie's at) the Lincoln Park Inn, 1969
  • This is Bare Country, 1970
  • Bobby Bare sings Lullabys, Legends, and Lies, 1973
  • Down & Dirty, 1980

Next: #55. Roy Clark

Previous: #57. Kenny Chesney

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List



  1. Bobby is one-of-a-kind. I met him about 7 years ago when he was in Minnesota. Then I saw him about a year later in Illinois. He knew I was from Iowa and asked me to sell merchandise for him that year when he played the Iowa State Fair. I was thrilled! We’ve kept in touch since then and I hope to see him later this year.

  2. I’ve seen Bobby perform a number of times – his dry sense of humor makes his shows different from anhy other performer out there today

  3. For some bizarre reason that I’ve never quite figured out, he wrote and performed a song in Melodi Grand Prix this year, a show that chooses the Norwegian entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest.

    He and his duet partner Petter Øien qualified for the Norwegian final, and finished a creditable third.

    His song is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDIF2gOyQzc

  4. The only song familiar to me is Detroit City.

    I see that “Daddy What If?” (with Bobby Bare, Jr.), is one of the essential singles. Bobby Bare Jr. is appearing May 1st at the Bluebird Cafe with Eef Barzelay (9 o’clock show).

  5. He’s my favorite Country singer, you can pick any of his albums from the 60s to the 80s or also 2005s ‘The Moon was Blue’ and find some great songs there.. the Shel Silverstein collaborations are unmatched as a songwriter/singer-relationship..

  6. …i’m not exactly sure, whether i’m a born-sucker for songs that have city names in it, or whether it was bobby bare’s “detroit city”, which was showing up regularly on all kinds of non-country radio playlists here in europe, that opened my young ears further for the genre.

    that song fittet in very well with french chansons, italian canzone or with the bee gees’ “massachusetts”, scott mckenzie’s “san francisco”, glen campell’s “wichita lineman” and “galveston” or dave loggins’ “please come to boston”. by the time the eagles were hangin’ around on a street corner in winslow, arizona, taking it easy (which could be taken as early recorded evidence that “chillin'” is possible even in hot places), i surely had passed the point of no return, when it comes to city name-dropping.

    bobbie bare was in the line-up of the mervin conn country music festival tour coming to london, frankfurt and zurich regularly in the springtime of the late seventies and early eigthies. i remember that particular april still and how i just wanted to hear him sing “detroit city” live. discovering the “streets of baltimore” on the same occasion was probably an early “bonus track” experience for me. splendid artist, bobbie bare is.

  7. Bobby Bare is a songwriting genius. I point my students to his work as one example of why country music songwriters are among the greatest. (Though I must confess that I think he should rank higher than #56, LOL.)

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