The Bellamy Brothers may be the most popular act among American servicemen and women all over the world, and on Easter Sunday, they will prove why all over again with a show in war-torn Kosovo.
The scheduled show reflects the importance the Bellamys attach to playing for U.S. troops abroad.
"It's really pretty special," David Bellamy said during a rare moment off the road. "Last year we did Bosnia, and I think we kinda caught the bug then. It's really amazing to see the Texas flag flying in the middle of Bosnia."
The Bellamys Howard, 54, and David, 49 have gained a large international following via heavy touring and such smash hits as "Let Your Love Flow" (RealAudio excerpt) (1976), "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body
Would You Hold It Against Me" (1979), "Redneck Girl" (1982) and "Old
Hippie" (RealAudio excerpt) (1985). Much of their touring has included stops at military bases.
The Easter show will unfold at Camp Bond Steele in Kosovo, and it will be the first time the base has allowed a full band to play there.
Some Risk Involved
The stop isn't without potential danger. During this trip the Bellamys also will play for U.S. men and women at a remote camp in Macedonia. But the Kosovo adventure presents some unique problems, and military officials are taking no chances.
"They're picking us up in a Chinook helicopter and taking us over to Kosovo," David Bellamy said. "Our guys will set up and do the show and then come back the same day. You're not actually allowed to spend the night."
They're going, David Bellamy said, because they've come to realize the need for a little familiar entertainment for the soldiers who are serving their country thousands of miles from home. And they've been gratified by the warm welcomes they've received.
"Their appreciation level is enormous," he said. "One of the places we played was an airplane hangar in Italy, and it was the first time they'd let entertainment come in since the bombing stopped. They had been on red alert and had been going full force for two or three months. This was the first time they could bring out their families."
"They are really excited to have us," he added.
Nashville-based Judy Seale of the band's management company has set up this and countless other tours of military bases since 1991. Within months of American troops' arrival in Bosnia in 1995, she had arranged for artists Mark Collie and Lisa Stewart to play there.
"The way I look at this is that it's my charity work," Seale said. "It is wonderful. I have learned so much. These soldiers are a forgotten entity. They are 18- and 19-year-old kids, and they are serving our country. We stayed in a Holiday Inn in Sarajevo, where a few years before they'd had the Olympics. Now, there are bloodstains on the carpet and bullet holes in the bed."
Traveling Pays Off For Band
One of the reasons for the Bellamys' amazing staying power next year will mark the 25th anniversary of "Let Your Love Flow" is their fierce dedication to performing on the road. They work about 200 dates a year, and in 1999 they played in 12 foreign countries.
Australia and the South Pacific even islands like New Caledonia have become hotbeds of support for the band, which has been largely ignored by American radio the past few years.
"I think the reason those fans appreciate us so much is mainly because the music is just not pigeonholed like it is in the States," David Bellamy said. "They just like what they like, and they don't like what they don't like."
Yet, as Howard Bellamy said, the Bellamy Brothers' international success hasn't happened by accident. "We've never toured with smoke and mirrors," he said. "We'd rather let the music speak than the smoke. We've gone with the idea that we're going to have fun and the audience is, too. So we've always been known as a live act."
But the Bellamys especially relish the responses that come from soldiers. "The reaction's incredible," David Bellamy said. "They want to come over and see the show themselves. Others say their buddy is on guard duty, and they bring over an album from him to have it autographed."
From Kosovo, the Bellamys will play Camp Able Sentry in Skopje, Macedonia, and then go on to concerts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia.