A Texas performer’s never-ending world tour
In the early 1970s, when Texas singer-songwriter Bob Livingston was forming the legendary Lost Gonzo Band, backing up and recording with the likes of Jerry Jeff Walker and Ray Wylie Hubbard, and contributing to the formation of the Austin outlaw country scene, he was known as “Cosmic Bob.” Today, in other parts of the world, Livingston could very well be known as the “Buddy Holly of Bangladesh” or the “Texas Troubadour of Tunisia.”
As part of his never-ending world tour, Livingston, backed by the U.S. State Department (and the city of Austin), has become an official ambassador of American music, traveling the world over, including to India, Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa.
By way of live, musically interactive and historically relevant storytelling performances about the origins and evolution of American folk music, Livingston is bringing America’s music to the world. Many of Livingston’s shows include a performance of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” with musicians from all over the world, playing all kinds of instruments, from the 40-stringed Indian sarangi to the African kalimba.
Fittingly, Livingston was raised in Buddy Holly’s hometown of Lubbock and carries the deeper message in Holly’s lyric, “love that’s love — not fade away” around the globe, spreading good will through music.
As the Bob Livingston big picture unfolds to reveal a massive worldwide influence, the smaller picture of the day in the life of a Texas singer-songwriter continues to evolve in new and interesting ways. Recently, Livingston, 66, performed at two historic Texas music venues, Anderson Fair in Houston, and the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe in Galveston’s downtown.
“I don’t know if I was a little intimidated or what, but I texted my son after playing my first set at Anderson Fair and said, ‘I just played the worst set of my life,’” Livingston said.
It’s hard to imagine a performer with as much mileage and acclaim going through any kind of confidence crisis or actually having any such thing as a “bad set.” Livingston’s 2011 CD “Gypsy Alibi” won Texas Music’s Album Of The Year.
But it may be this kind of thing that keeps Livingston developing his craft and searching for the greater meaning in what he does.
“The music of India rubbed off on me to the point where I open each show with a song I wrote there called, ‘Original Spirit,’” Livingston said. “It puts me in the zone. I start thinking about India right away. I’ve written lots of folk and country songs with the idea of a higher purpose in mind. Kind of like George Harrison did with ‘My Sweet Lord.’ I follow a lot of Hindu philosophy. I’m always trying to find the higher purpose.”
Livingston had performed at the island’s Old Quarter once before, but especially impressed owner Wrecks Bell this time around.
“Bob’s a great performer,” Bell said. “He told some great stories. He kept the audience on their toes. I’ll be asking him back this summer for sure.”
Much of Livingston’s work and travel has been recorded on video, and a documentary is in the works through the nonprofit Texas Music International, which he heads.
That nonprofit’s mission is to educate, empower and entertain audiences through a sense of brotherhood and cross-cultural understanding, he said.
Visit www.BobLivingstonMusic.com to learn more.