Bobby Barth (born December 5, 1952 in Coffeyville, Kansas) is an American singer, songwriter and record producer.
Barth attended several elementary and middle schools including St. John’s Military School in Salina, Kansas. He finished his formal education at Fountain-Fort Carson High School in Fountain, Colorado.
He began playing drums in 1960, working weekend and one-night shows in 1963. Barth learned guitar basics from his stepfather, and in 1968 he left home and began to play music full time. Barth joined the Colorado group Wakefield in 1969 as lead guitarist and singer. Wakefield was made up of Pueblo, Colorado natives Charlie Ferrill on drums, Carl Marcon on bass, Mike Carrol on trumpet, Ron Struthers on sax and flute and San Francisco native Paul Zamucen on congas and timbales. The band performed in clubs across the country until parting company around 1973.
Barth launched Babyface around the same time, with Colorado drummer Bobby Miles, California bassist Mike Turpin, and Wisconsin keyboardist Mickey Larson. Larson’s family lived in Eau Claire WI and allowed the band to take over the above garage apartment at their home. Mickey was an expert at older blues based rock, but over the years, Barth began to go into a different direction, more of what would later be called AOR or POMP rock in Europe. This drove a wedge between Barth and Larson. Edgar Riley, Jr., a student at the university there, was hired to replace Larson.
Babyface, having undergone a member change, signed and recorded their first and only record for now-defunct ASI Records. Although the band felt betrayed by the producer, who changed the direction of the record after the band left the studio, the record produced a top 20 song on the Billboard A/C charts. The band, which considered itself to be a cerebral rock band, was stuck performing for crowds that expected to hear its top 20 hit, was forced to disband in 1978.
After a short time Barth, Turpin and Riley joined forces with guitarist Michael Osborne and drummer Teddy Mueller to reform the Babyface concept without the intrusion of ASI Records and emerged in Gainesville, Florida as Alien. In 1979 MCA Records penned a deal with pop music label Curb Records to form a company that would co-produce rock bands. Alien was the first band to sign with the MCA-Curb label and, after a quick name change to Axe due to the release of the motion picture Alien, gave birth to two records, Axe and Living on the Edge. Barth recounts that both records were poor representations of the band (despite the song “Battles” being played by album-oriented rock stations), due to their lack of studio experience and “dreadful” choice of producers.
After the industry-wide bloodbath of 1980, like so many other bands, Axe found itself without a label. Working with Roger Probert of Atlantic Records, the band set a deal with Atlantic. Details are confusing, but overnight the band managed by Jim Dawson and Arnakata Management and produced by Thom Allom of Judas Priest, found itself on Atco Records instead of Atlantic, with a new manager and producer. Albums produced under that contract included Offering and Nemesis. Offering brought the band to the attention of American radio, with “Rock and Roll Party in the Streets”, when the single, without any real support from Atco, made the Billboard Top 100 songs for their year ending charts, and the album making the Billboard top 75 albums of the year charts, both for 1982.
The band continued to tour and record, until in 1984 Osborne and Barth were involved in a fatal car crash. Barth escaped with spinal injuries, but Osborne was killed in the crash. Barth recorded his solo record, Two Hearts One Beat, as a tribute to Osborne in 1985.
Barth, and sometimes Osborne, were brought into the studio to partner with Medlocke and Spires, in an attempt to move Blackfoot from their Southern Rock base into a more radio friendly style. Looking back, Barth told me that he thought it was out of desperation that all rock bands feel, as their record sales start to decrease rather than increase. Barth worked along side Medlocke, Spires and producer Eddie Offord on SIOGO and Vertical Smiles. After the accident in the summer of 1984 Barth joined Blackfoot full-time. He played with Blackfoot until their breakup in 1986. After the breakup of Blackfoot, Bobby continued to tour with Blackfoot’s Ricky Medlocke until leaving in late 1986.
Barth moved back to Los Angeles and partnered with UFO drummer Andy Parker to open Satellite Sound Recording in Burbank. He credits his friendship to Warren “Pete” Moore from the original “Miracles” with Smoky Robinson, with giving him his first real chances to produce. Barth started to engineer and produce projects when his studio located next door to Pete’s Satellite Records, joined forces and began to produce records for that label. Later, Barth joined forces with Bruce Nazarian, relocated to “The Complex” in West Hollywood where Nazarian, bassist for “Brownsville Station” and “Was Not Was” as well as producer for Barth’s solo effort on Atlantic “2 Hearts 1 Beat”. Bruce was one of the world’s most talented pioneers with digital recording and the team used a large Synclavier Direct to Disc system, this introduced Barth to the possibilities of High Level Digital Recording and Editing. The two became involved with writing and producing music for major films until 1990 when Barth was recruited to play guitar for Angry Anderson.
After recording Angry’s record Blood From Stone, Barth moved to Australia to tour with Anderson. The record garnered 2 top 10 hits and a tour with Aerosmith and an extensive tour of Australia. Upon Barth’s return to the USA, after living through the L.A. riots and two large earthquakes, Bobby and his wife left Los Angeles and moved to Denver to start NEH Records. Barth produced several records for MTM, Toshiba-EMI, and Japan’s Zero Corporation Label, as well as countless indie projects. In mid-2001, Barth and his business partner Michael McPherson separated the label’s retail sales from the studio and Barth moved the studio to New Orleans.
In 2004, the original members of Blackfoot (minus Medlocke) asked Barth to reunite and to tour again. From 2004 till 2010, Barth and Blackfoot were touring. Barth remained in the frontman role, until sidelined by health issues.
Going back on an oath, to never own another studio, in 2010 Barth bought a Protools studio and started writing again. In 2012, came two opportunities, one to place the Axe recordings that he owned under one roof, giving rise to an anthology called “Axeology” on Cleopatra Records and a chance to record a live DVD of Axe, the only milestone missing from Axe. This was completed in the winter of 2012. Axeology and Axe Live 2012 can both be purchased at the website he started in the early 1990’s www.nehrecords.com
With the near collapse of the economy in 2010, touring became harder and harder to justify. So a new venture “Barth Tracks” is now up and running, info is on this site.
Barth continues to keep his band the Louisiana HooDoo Krewe together and goes out to perform as a solo or duo performing some of the 100’s of songs he has written with “A Night With An American Songwriter.”
Other interests: Although a working musician all his life, Barth says his greatest accomplishment was receiving the Colorado Master of the Year Award in 1998 while serving as the Worshipful Master of Denver Lodge #5, Colorado’s oldest Masonic Lodge. He continues to be active in Freemasonry and in the rebuilding of New Orleans.
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