Born Robert Allen Austin on May 4, 1933, in Wenatchee, Washington, after working in local
bands, Austin moved to Los Angeles in 1955 and was soon was involved in the local country
music scene, first recording for the small Sundown label in 1958.
In 1960, he released his first single on Challenge Records, 'Polynesian Baby.'
He subsequently joined labelmate Wynn Stewart's band and played bass on recording
sessions for Buck Owens (Capitol Records) and Wynn Stewart (Challenge).
The band of Wynn Stewart followed their bandleader to Las Vegas and the Nashville
Nevada Club as the house band through 1961-1964. The earliest version of the group
fondly known as the Nashville Nevada Club Band featured Roy Nichols (guitar),
Ralph Mooney (pedal steel), Bobby Austin (bass), Peaches Price (drums), Jim Pierce
(piano) and bandleader Wynn Stewart (guitar, vocals). At the club the band was augmented by
singer Jackie Burns. The core band worked in the studio with Stewart, but sadly no live
recordings of this group have survived.
The closest document we have of this fantastic group are on most of the recordings of
Wynn Stewart from 1960-1963, and an interesting 1961 session for vocalist Burns, which
have surfaced on the Wynn Stewart box set on Bear Family Records.
In 1961 Jackie Burns, Wynn Stewart and the whole Nashville Nevada band entered the
United Recording Corporation studio in Las Vegas to lay down some demo tracks in the
hope of gaining a record deal for singer Burns. Stewart and Burns dueted on a version
of the Hank Thompson classic "Breakin' The Rules,’ while Jackie sang lead on several
songs "Wild One"’ "Pennies From Heaven"’ and "The End Of The World".
A vocal group known as the Cut-Ups (Joe Grant, Eddie Seals, Sam White); were added to
fill the sound.
These rare and tasteful West Coast styled country-pop numbers, none of which
secured Burns a solo deal, remain an interesting insight into the versatile nature
of one of the first 'modern' West Coast country bands of the 1960s.
In 1962, Capitol Records signed Bobby Austin to a solo contract, he soon left the
employ of Wynn Stewart to concentrate on his solo career. His early outings on Capitol
failed to ignite the charts and Bobby continued to work the Las Vegas club scene, as
well as playing through California on mini tours and one nighters.
In the mid 1960s Bobby signed to Fuzzy Owen and Lewis Talley's small Tally label,
which had been the home to Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens prior to their Capitol
contracts in 1964.
The label also provided another Capitol artist when they signed Austin in
1966 mainly due to the local action that his Tally single "Apartment No. 9,"
was attracting. The song he had co-written with singer Johnny Paycheck
was Austin's first chart single, topping out at No. 21 in 1966 once Capitol
had bought out the single from Capitol. It was named the Academy of Country
Music's song of the year for 1966 and was the first to receive that honor from the
Academy. The following year, Tammy Wynette's version became her
first hit at the No. 44 slot.
Austin's other chart singles were "Cupid's Last Arrow" and "This Song Is Just for
You" (1967), "For Your Love" (1969) and "Knoxville Station" (1972). His albums
include Apartment No. 9 (Capitol ST 2773) 1967;
and Old Love Never Dies (Capitol ST 2915); 1968, both are strong sets
of West Coast country music with Ralph Mooney on steel guitar and Fuzzy Owen
handling the production duties
After his initial hits, his last Capitol single was issued in the early 1970s.
In later years Austin admitted that his reluctance to tour was a large factor in his
inability to keep placing singles in the charts. Instead of joining the package tours
of West Coast hitmakers Merle Haggard or Buck Owens, Bobby preferred to play the
Nevada and Californian club scene, happy enough to use local house bands, sometimes
taking Ralph Mooney or another old bandmate to play gigs
Throughout the 1970s Austin continued to record for labels like Triune, Atlantic
(who's short lived country division included Willie Nelson, Darrell McCall and
Wynn Stewart alongside Austin), Hurrah, Syndicate and Design.
Bobby relocated to Washington state in the early 1980s, retiring from performing
he built a career as an artist, becoming well known for his numerous paintings and murals.
At the time of his death he had been in ill health for several years, in December of 2000,
Bobby underwent his second pacemaker implant. At the age of 68 Bobby Austin passed
away on Sunday, January 6, 2002 in Camas, Washington, . He is survived by his
wife, Fern, and his children, Linda, Robert Jr., William and Steve.