Bellamy Brothers find fit in country

Photo provided by BellamyBrothers.com -- The Bellamy Brothers
Photo provided by BellamyBrothers.com -- The Bellamy Brothers

The Bellamy Brothers’ first record, a smoothly rolling 1976 pop-country hit, “Let Your Love Flow,” took them to No. 1 in 15 countries.

Decades after the international popularity of “Let Your Love Flow,” the Bellamys remain in worldwide demand. For instance, they just booked a show in Sri Lanka.

“That’s song’s popularity still amazes me,” Howard Bellamy said from his home in Darby, Fla. “For a song to be that big in that many countries, that’s a pretty rare thing. We’ve toured in 65 countries through the years because of that song.”

Written by one of Neil Diamond’s roadies, Larry E. Williams, “Let Your Love Flow” also entered the American country Top 40. As huge as the song’s pop success was, the brothers found their future in country music.

Disco music’s dominance in the mid-to-late ’70s, Bellamy said, was one reason the Bellamy Brothers went country.

“The disco era was a terrible time to be in the pop field,” he explained. “And there was a lot of mob involvement in music in those days. Being two na├»ve country boys, we were some of the unfortunate ones who were kind of signed into that.”

By the late ’70s, the Bellamy Brothers rebounded with their wryly titled No. 1 country hit, “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me).” It was the first of their 15 chart-topping and 35 Top 10 country singles.

Going country was a natural move for Howard and David Bellamy. Raised on a ranch north of Tampa, on land that’s been in their family since 1870, the brothers grew up with the country and western swing music their father and his friends played every weekend.

“They were good old Southern Baptists,” Bellamy said. “Drank moonshine on Saturday night, went to church on Sunday morning.”

Darby and west-central Florida is cattle country, which means country music is simply part of the environment.

“People have just one impression of Florida, that it’s beaches and holidays,” Bellamy said. “But there’s a lot more than that. It’s one of the Top 5 cattle states. And a lot of farming goes on here because of the good weather. So, yeah, we’ve got a lot of country and rednecks,” he added with a chuckle.

Many may be surprised, too, by the diversity of music the Bellamys heard in Darby. Their father, for instance, played with musicians from the local Czechoslovakian settlement.

“They had accordions in their group,” Bellamy said. “They’d play everything from polkas to swing to country, old Bob Wills and Jimmie Rodgers.”

Church hymns and early rock ’n’ roll were in the mix, too.

“Probably everybody was affected by Elvis, the whole rockabilly thing,” Bellamy said.

Along with ’60s pop music by the Beatles, Joni Mitchell and, another duo, Simon and Garfunkel, Jamaican music is among the Bellamys’ more exotic influences.

“We love reggae music,” Bellamy said. “Our dad used to us get out there in the groves picking oranges with the Jamaicans. They used to migrate to Florida to pick fruit. The Jamaicans sang those island chants all day long.”

Long before Kenny Chesney and other country acts caught island fever, the Bellamy Brothers released 1982’s “Get Into Reggae Cowboy.”

“Yeah, we’ve been doing that for years, but everybody came along and did that same kind of style.”

When they’re not touring, the Bellamys write new songs and record them at their studio in Darby. Their latest release, Pray For Me, is an all-gospel record.

The Bellamys also continue singing their signature sibling harmonies.

“It’s so natural,” Bellamy said. “We didn’t really work at it, because it was there from the beginning. It truly is a gift, something neither one of us can take credit for. So we never take it for granted.”