Imagine having a younger brother who’s a talented musician. He can sing and write songs, and eventually has someone turn one his tunes into a hit. You wish you were that good too. In fact you want to be a musician like him, but you don’t really have it. Nevertheless you hang out with him, support him and try to do what you can to stay in the game. Then from out of nowhere you can get a shot to sing a song and it goes straight to #1. How the hell did this happen, you say to yourself? That’s what Howard Bellamy, a guy who had never stepped foot in a recording studio before, said on May 1st, 1976, when Let Your Love Flow topped the charts. Here’s what happened.
David Bellamy was writing songs in Florida, when singer-songwriter Jim Stafford heard one he knew would be better than anything he could come up with. He recorded Spiders and Snakes and took it all the way to #3 in 1974. This prompted David Bellamy to move out to L.A. with brother Howard following him. He hooked up with Phil Gernhard who was Stafford’s manager and producer. He liked to use Neil Diamond’s touring band for recording sessions and thought David could cut a few tracks with them while Diamond was in between gigs. Diamond didn’t hit the road that much back then, which left everyone with a lot of free time of their hands, including the roadies. One roadie in particular was a struggling songwriter named Larry Williams who wrote a nice little country pop ditty called Let Your Love Flow. He played it for Gerhard who offered it to Neil first. Neil probably laughed and told him to fuck off, cracklin’ rosie all over his skull [or simply said, no thank you kind sir].
Genrhard took it to David Bellamy and said sing this and make me rich, to which David said, ‘you’d rather me sing a song a roadie wrote rather than my own?’ After hearing the recorded results, Gernhard thought it sucked and locked it in the vaults. With Larry Williams’ and David Bellamy’s chance at fame and fortune now on the wane, Larry went back to waiting for Neil Diamond’s next concert at the Greek and David went back to writing and playing for Jim Stafford. Howard needed a job too, so David got him one…as a roadie for Jim Stafford.
Then something fortuitous happened. Stafford was getting ready to tape a live show for a TV special when the weather grew grim. Gathering storm clouds made everyone nervous that the show would have to be cancelled, so they told Howard to do some quick sound checks. Gernhard heard Howard’s voice and immediately heard cash registers ringing. Howard has the voice he needed to turn Let Your Love Flow into a hit. Nevermind that Howard wasn’t really a singer or had ever been in a recording studio before. Or that Gene Cotton just recorded and released the first official version a month earlier. Gernhard knew he found the voice he was looking for.
Cut to early 1976. Howard has recorded lead vocals on the track with David singing harmony.Warner Brothers released the 45 under the Bellamy Brothers and 14 weeks after it hit the Hot 100, it knocked Johnnie Taylor’s Disco Lady out of the number one spot. Gene’s version didn’t even chart. The Bellamy Brothers were barely a band. Now they were a bicentennial smash hit. And that’s when everything went south, seemingly. They disappeared as quick as they showed up, only grazing top 40 once more in 1979 with If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me). While the pop charts said don’t let the door hit you in the ass when you leave, country radio let the Bellamy Brothers flow all over the place, racking up 10 Country #1 singles. And all Howard had to do is show up and say, testing 1-2-3…..
And grow that sweet mustache….