Interviewing surpassed his country singing

By Stephanie Hayes, Times Staff Writer
Published February 20, 2008

TAMPA - Bobby Lord was a star in his own right. But he had an even bigger knack for chatting up other famous folks and breaking down their guards.

"He was so funny and full of stories," said country singer Mel Tillis, a friend of Mr. Lord's for 50 years. "We'd just compete to see who could out-tell each other. He could use dialects. He'd talk like the person he was telling the story about."

Mr. Lord, a country singer and songwriter who hosted several TV shows, died Saturday after a series of illnesses. Over the years he battled cancer, heart attacks and strokes. He was 74.

As a teen growing up in Tampa, he entered talent contests, wowing crowds with his edgy rockabilly style. He only lost one talent contest, said his son, Rob Lord - to a little girl baton twirler.

He was popular with Tampa's young crowd, playing concerts at dance halls. At Plant High School, he met his wife, Mozelle, whom he married when he was 20. After graduating from Plant, he landed his own television show, the Bobby Lord Homefolks Show.

"Dad joked that no one had a TV antenna in Tampa at the time," said Rob Lord, 49.

Another talent show awarded Mr. Lord an appearance on Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club. In 1953, he signed with Columbia Records. He went on to record with several labels, producing hits including Without Your Love, Life Can Have Meaning and You and Me Against the World.

"He never really hit the big time with his music, but he did with his personality," Tillis said.

He shone on television. He was a performer on The Ozark Jubilee, hosted by Red Foley. In 1960, he joined the Grand Ole Opry. On The Bobby Lord Show, he interviewed such stars as Dolly Parton and Waylon Jennings.

But when he was 35, he left show business saying he missed his wife and three kids.

"He didn't want to be on the road. He didn't like not being there and missing things," said Rob Lord.

Mr. Lord settled in Jensen Beach near Stuart. He found success in real estate and insurance, living quietly and driving modest cars. But in the 1980s, celebrity came back to him.

The Nashville Network asked him to host Country Sportsman, later called Celebrity Outdoors. He traveled the world, fishing and interviewing country stars like George Strait, Johnny Cash and Jimmy Dean.

It wasn't far from real life, his son said. Mr. Lord spent many days floating down the river with his kids, catching a fish if one came along. Mostly, they'd talk.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or 727 893-8857.


Bobby Lord

Born: Jan. 6, 1934.

Died: Feb. 16, 2008.

Survivors: wife, Mozelle; children, Rob Lord, Sarah Williams and Cabot Lord; brothers, John and Steve Lord; grandchildren, Nicole, John-Robert, Zachary, Olivia, Allie, Cabot II, Katie, Kelly, Erin and Katie; great-grandchild, Tristan.

Services: visitation 5-8 p.m. today at Forest Hills Memorial Park and Funeral Home, 2001 SW Murphy Road, Palm City. Funeral at 1 p.m. Thursday at Tropical Farms Baptist Church, 1555 SW Kanner Highway, Stuart.