LifeNotes: Bob Beckham Passes

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• November 11, 2013
Pictured (L-R): Bob Beckham, Johnny "Dog" McRae, Jon Wilson and Steve Singleton

Pictured (L-R): Bob Beckham, Johnny “Dog” McRae, Larry Jon Wilson and Steve Singleton. Photo: Alan Mayor

Pictured (L-R): Rick Blackburn and Bob Beckham

Pictured (L-R): Rick Blackburn and Bob Beckham. Photo: Alan Mayor.

[Update]: Sellars Funeral Home in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. will host a visitation on Wednesday (Nov. 13) 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., with a brief graveside service following. Family asks that donations be sent to Alive Hospice in lieu of flowers.

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Legendary Nashville music publisher Bob Beckham has passed away at age 86.

Beckham discovered singer-songwriter Tony Joe White, among others. He mentored generations of songwriters during his tenure as the head of Combine Music, 1964-1989. Among the composers whose lives he touched are Kris Kristofferson, Larry Gatlin, Bob DiPiero, John Scott Sherrill, Dennis Linde (who became his son-in-law), Dolly Parton, Bob Morrison, Jerry Reed, Billy Swan, Chris Gantry and Johnny MacRae. He also launched the careers of such industry figures as Woody Bomar and Blake Chancey.

His influence was such that in 2008 he was given the very first Mentor Award by the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Nashville Entertainment Association presented him with its Master Award in 1988.

Born Robert Joseph Beckham in Statford, OK, he began entertaining audiences at age 8. He also appeared in several films as a juvenile actor. Following a stint in the army as a paratrooper, he worked as a pop singer.

He signed with Decca Records in Nashville and made the pop charts in 1959-60 with “Just as Much as Ever,” “Crazy Arms” and “Mais Oui.” On the road, he was an opening act for pop superstar Brenda Lee.

When his singing career waned, producer Owen Bradley suggested that Beckham try song publishing. Beckham became the Nashville song plugger for the Atlanta-based Lowery Music in 1961. He next worked for Shelby Singleton Music.

Fred Foster hired Beckham to run Combine Music in 1964. Founded in 1958, it was initially the publishing division of Monument Records. Beckham became president of Combine in 1966.

By the 1970s, Combine was one of Music Row’s major publishing houses. It was notable in that it worked in genres ranging from Arthur Alexander’s r&b songs to Thomas Cain’s gospel works, in addition to pop and country copyrights. He was also shrewd in placing Combine’s copyrights as ad jingles.

After leaving Combine, Bob Beckham founded HoriPro Entertainment in Nashville in 1990. This is a division of Japan’s Taiyo Music, which is that nation’s largest publishing business. Beckham retired in 2006.

He was a master raconteur who kept listeners spellbound during happy-hour sojourns at Maude’s Courtyard, Valentino’s Restaurant and other local watering holes.

Bob Beckham died Monday morning, Nov. 11, at Summit Hospital in Hermitage, TN. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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