Bobby Livingston is an intense man with a lot of things he’d like to get off his chest. Never having come to grips with the death of his parents and his divorce drove this music scene dabbler to become a respected singer-songwriter in his own right. “My parents died when I was young,” he said. “To this day, I’m still drowning in the sorrow of losing my parents. It’s just never gone away, and I never dealt with it. My father died when I was alone with him, all by myself, and it changed my life. I watched my father. It just; I can’t even fucking talk about it.” Livingston began choking up, sobbing intensely. “I can’t talk about it, man. This happened in 1982 so it’s still an emotionally powerful thing.”
It was something he could tell people about but he couldn’t look
inside. For cathartic release, Livingston had to sit down and put it in a song. Personal pain and struggle drove him to become a singer-songwriter. Local New Hampshire music fans will be able to judge for themselves the quality of his songs when his Bobby Livingston Band celebrates its new High And Away album at its CD Release party at Tupelo Music Hall on November 5th.
Other acts will also play before Bobby Livingston Band, formerly known as Napoleon In Rags, takes the stage. Another act will play after them before the whole thing likely turns into a huge jam.
Livingston, as a blossoming songwriter, had gone through a tortured trial and error, some years ago, working with a musician who couldn’t help him get his divorce story into a song. After that person changed his song around until it became unrecognizable to even himself, Livingston turned his frustration into something positive. He went home and wrote the entire song himself, his way, in only that one night.
BobbyLivingston4“It just pissed me off,” he said. “It had nothing to do with my original story. I went home and I was angry, angry at the songwriting process. I went home and I wrote the damn thing myself. It was dark, and it was a dark story. When I wrote it, I knew it was good. It felt good.”
Soon after, Livingston began working with Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s uberman guitarist Chris Lester because the seacoast guitarist could find the nuances in his songs. Livingston next tapped New Hampshire vocalist Lisa Guyer to co-produce the CD, with a focus on the vocals.
“Bobby’s songs can be extremely vulnerable while telling a great story at the same time,” Lester said. “He is a captivating performer, and story teller, and there is an underlying honesty to his work that I find very compelling.”
Livingston’s song, “Beverly,” is about his time living in Los Angeles experiencing an earthquake and romance in the hills of Beverly. It’s a fun rocker about a girl he was with in an earthquake. “It’s one of those story songs that come from different parts, but I like ‘Shake, shake, shake.’ It’s just a double entendre.”
His song “You Came Alive” was spawned by a friend Livingston was trying to pull through a tough time. “I watched this person be happy,” he said. “Sometimes, people don’t want to get better. Some people like the negative attention more than they like the positive. That’s what that song is about. The last verse is ‘You hang your head because you came alive,’” he said.
BobbyLivingston2“Honestly Lies” is a song Livingston wrote about a woman who lied to him while she was lying beside him. “It’s one of my favorites,” he said. “It’s got that imagery that I really enjoy. I just liked the hook: ‘You honestly lied to me when you lied right next to me.’”
Livingston was involved with Boston’s music scene in the early 1980s while he attended Boston University. Boston’s popular music scene singer Laurie Geltman was one artist he was often around, assisting, during his time in the Hub. Livingston kept in touch with Geltman over the years, and she’s been featured in a yearly fundraiser he hosts on behalf of the Brad Delp Foundation.
“He’s a true friend and as close to a brother as is possible without the blood ties,” Geltman said. “Although when we met over 30 years ago, we noted our eyes and circles under looked like we may have come at least from the same village in Russia. Anyway, I wrote a song about him ‘Bobby Called From Texas’ about 20 or so years ago when I didn’t know he would one day become a musical front man. The way he has reinvented himself, and done such a truthful job of it, is remarkable. He is, to our benefit, a late bloomer who waited until he had amassed a life of real sorrow, grit, and defeats to write songs of staggering rawness and meaning. I am proud of him, like a sister would be.”
In the 1990s, Livingston was living in San Antonia, Texas while working with his short lived band The Grande Boys. His music life changed dramatically when he got married, though he was still going to jams.
Years later, Livingston came to live in Hollis, New Hampshire, a suburb of Nashua, and hung out at J’s Tavern in Milford, New Hampshire. He was inspired to get up on stage at J’s Tavern one night after listening to two barroom embellishers tell ridiculously heroic tales about their Vietnam war efforts. Keyboardist Gardner Berry was playing when Livingston decided to show up the two storytellers.
“After three weeks of hearing these bloated, obviously exaggerated tales, I said ‘Well, I can sing ‘St. James Infirmary Blues.’ I wrote down the chords on a napkin and I handed it to Gardner. I said, We’re gonna do this blues in D minor.” Livingston performed the song, stunning the roomful of friends and fellow bar patrons who had no idea of his talents. Berry then invited him to come to a Monday night jam Berry was then hosting at Whippersnappers in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Sure enough, Livingston caught on like wild fire in Londonderry.
From there, Livingston put together Napoleon In Rags, a band inspired by Bob Dylan and other artists from Dylan’s 1960s and 1970s heyday. Being a humanitarian and a businessman, Livingston used his skills to transform his first Napoleon In Rags concert into a fundraiser for the Brad Delp Foundation, the charitable organization formed by the late singer’s adult children to continue their father’s lifelong philanthropy.
“Londonderry and (Delp’s last town of residence) Atkinson are close,” he said. “You start to meet people who knew Brad Delp. A lot of my friends would talk about this man. I never met this man. But everyone said he was kind and giving of his time and unassuming, and it influenced all of them. I always did these events for charities when I was in Texas. That’s what I used to do in Texas. I had to find a charity. I had a poster made. I had the bands. I just didn’t know who to give the money to. Then, it just made sense; I’m going to give it to these people, and I’m glad I did. They support music programs in schools.” Livingston roughly estimates he and his fellow musicians might have raised, over the last few years, about $15,000.00 for the foundation.
Livingston’s November 5th show will also be the introduction of the newly named Bobby Livingston Band, retiring the name Napoleon In Rags. “Journalists just can’t get it out of their minds,” he said. “I’ve gotta get it off me. I gotta get that name off of me.” He then broke out in a maniacal giggle, leaving this interviewer wondering if he was mocking the madness of being misunderstood or if he has actually come unhinged by his frustration with the press..
The Bobby Livingston Band will be comprised of the same exact band members as N.I. R., guitarist Scot Gibbs, rhythm guitarist Kim Riley, drummer Mike DuPont, keyboardist Steve Baker, and bass player John Bruner. Opening acts, each playing a 45 minute set of originals, will include New Hampshire notables Tammy Lynn & Miles High, Famous Jane(Kim Riley and Hank Decken with a band), and Chris Lester’s band Monkeys With Hammers. These bands will be playing their original music and selling CDs at this event which will be wrapped around Livingston’s release of his High And Away CD.
By day, Livingston is Executive Vice President of RR Auctions, an Amherst, New Hampshire based company that sells high end memorabilia, like items that once belonged to presidents, NASA, items that have been on the moon, and obscure manuscripts. After these items are certified by world renowned authenticators, they sell for six figure amounts. Livingston is regularly featured in the media through his day job, including frequent appearances on the Today Show. His song “Son Full Of Holes” was inspired by the guns that belonged to Clyde Barrow that Barrow had in his possession when he was gunned down by law officers of his day. Livingston had authenticators verify that these guns had actually belonged to Barrow and were in the legendary outlaw’s hands when he and his accomplice Bonnie Parker died in a hail of bullets.
Barrow’s mother wrote to the Texas Ranger who shot down the infamous outlaw couple, asking him to return her son’s guns to her. “’Mr. Hamer, You killed my boy. You shot my son full of holes.’ She actually wrote that to the Texas Ranger who gunned down her son. That was powerful,” Livingston said.
Livingston, through R.R. Auctions, also manages the estates of the deceased members of The Ramones, another way his job keeps him connected to music. “It all relates,” he said.
Bobby Livingston is certainly an interesting man. There isn’t much more to say about him, except stop calling him a Bob Dylan tribute act and check out his CD Release Party at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday night, November 5th at Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, New Hampshire.