“We didn’t know we were making history”
Senator Bobby Denton still seems amazed, but there he was. It was 1957 and the Muscle Shoals “Sound” was just getting tuned up. Bobby Denton wasn’t a state senator then; he was a teenager with a beautiful voice and a big dream. He recorded with the pioneers, made records with the big names. James Joiner wrote “A Fallen Star,” and called the Cherokee High School student to record it.
Recorded live at WLAY, then the best studio in the area, “A Fallen Star” is believed to be first master tape in Alabama from which a single was pressed and released. It was February 1957 and the Muscle Shoals music industry was launched.
“A Fallen Star” became a regional hit for Denton, and he went on to record additional singles. He signed first with Tune Records, then Judd Phillips (brother of Sam Phillips), and appeared on the Dick Clark Show in New York.
In 1960 Denton put his musical career on hold in order to pursue other interests. He was active in business and with Northwest Shoals Community College. He was elected to state office and continues to serve the people of Alabama’s 1st Congressional District in Montgomery. He is Alabama’s senior senator, reelected in November of 2006 by an impressive margin. “People here have been good to me,” Denton says.
Although Denton’s career was on hold, his talent could not be denied. In 1997 he returned to his musical roots and recorded “My God & I,” a thirteen song gospel album. It was followed a year later by “Hope,” also an album of gospel favorites.
Denton was recording with top names in the industry: James Joiner, Rick Hall, Buddy Killen, Terry Woodford, Jimmy Johnson, and Ava Aldridge. In 1999 he released an album of love songs. Denton, the Singing Senator, was back and sharing his voice and talents with audiences of all ages: those who remembered him and those who were just hearing him.
His “Alabama Welcomes You” album came out in 2001. Two years later he released, “If There’s Still Time,” a collection of religious songs. “I Wish I was 18 Again,” debuted in 2005. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the Muscle Shoals Sound, he has released, “Memories Are Made of This.”
The Senator has been interviewed for an upcoming documentary, “The Tune Sound” about the early years of Muscle Shoals music. Watch for its premiere in April at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame as part of the Talent Expo 2007.
Today Denton appears at functions and gatherings all across the Tennessee Valley. Check out his website, www.bobbydenton.com for booking information and sound bytes from his music.
He and his wife Barbara have been married almost 50 years. That’s a significant achievement, too, and clear evidence of his ability to make beautiful music in every aspect of his life.