When I met Bobby Lee Springfield at Al's and Vic's last week, I didn't come prepared for an interview. To be honest, I didn't know what to ask.
Sure, there are things I knew about Springfield beforehand, like that he wrote at least 28 top 100 country songs between 1975 and '94, including Roy Clark's "If I Had to Do It All Over Again" and Johnny Duncan's "A Song in the Night." I know people in hiked-up Wranglers skidded across sawdusted dance floors to his original lyrics for the better part of the 1980s, and that he once shared a stage with Wynonna Judd. I know he's from Texas, hates to be called Buddy and wears three pairs of pants at the same time.
More recently, he might have written some songs that became hits overseas. He might have come to Missoula in 2000, where he installed himself as Al's and Vic's' in-house entertainer. Springfield's timeline gets a little hazy, and I wasn't interested in clearing it up. Bobby Leeor "Boy Veteran," or "Boy King," or the self-proclaimed "best two-string guitarist this side of the Volga"doesn't really care about the past. He has new material, and he's teaming up with local artist Jack Metcalf for a "First Thursday" performance at Real Good Art Space.
In keeping with what Missoula has come to expect from Metcalf's projects, Springfield's performance will be interactive, colorful and sufficiently weird. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to talk with Springfield, and Springfield will likely respond in song. In addition, Metcalf will be pressing screenprints of Boy King's face on shirts and posters. Bring some cash, a question for Springfield and you could leave clothed and satisfied after hearing such recent tracks as "You and Your Mother" or "Pin the Blame on the Honkey."
Springfield's repertoire spans topics from babies to politics to marijuana, but always leans to the humorous. Like most discerning listeners, he thinks contemporary country music has lost its footing, and he's trying to get it back.
- photo by Cathrine L. Walters
- Bobby Lee Springfield serves as the unofficial in-house entertainer at Al’s and Vic’s.
"These are songs that have stood the test of time," Springfield says. "It don't matter if the guitar's out of whack or what, I'll be playin' that thing like a snare drum."
Whatever that means, Springfield's ready to play, and Metcalf's ready to emcee.
Saying Springfield is odd is a vast understatement, but he's odd in a way that's inviting, warm even. Metcalf has formed Real Good as a kind of laboratory for his own strange, artistic fantasies, and so it's no surprise that these two found each other. Sometimes art means letting things unfold as they may, and that's just what Springfield's good at.
To gauge the extent of Springfield's impromptu musical prowess, I conjured up a few arbitrary questions of my own. I gave him the option to pass, answer and, if he had one, name the song he would play come Thursday. I rattled off the ridiculous inquiries, such as: How fast can a cow run? (Not fast enough.) Was Jesus left-handed? (Yes.) Does Obama like peanut butter? (No.) How many ants are there? (Too damn many.)
I got deeper: What do dreams smell like? How does green sound?
Springfield answered them all, with confidence, and had a song for most. He sat up straight in his leather jacket, hummed a few bars, then moved to the next, unflinchingly. Springfield's a performer, a world-class talker and listener, but to get the full experience, you'll have to ask him yourself.
Jack Metcalf hosts An Evening with "Boy King" Bobby Lee Springfield at Real Good Art Space, 1205 Defoe St #1, Thu., April 2, at 9 PM. Doors open at 8:30.