Horton Used Diverse Samford Education To Build Music Career
by Sean Flynt
Bobby Horton '72 returned to the library he said he avoided as an undergraduate for the Homecoming 2010 Live at the Library event. Horton is widely known and respected for his preservation of American song and his extensive film work, including The Civil War, Baseball, Lewis and Clark and The National Parks with director Ken Burns. He is also a member of the group Three On A String, founded at Samford more than three decades ago.
Horton, an accounting major and MBA, said he has used every bit of his Samford education. Noting that he took "about a hundred classes " with audience member and former history professor Wayne Flynt and David Vess, whose son John was there as well, Horton joked, "I loved history and music so much that I majored in accounting". He has combined all three in an exceptional career.
Horton's multi-instrumental musicality and encyclopedic knowledge of American music certainly were on display for the lively and lighthearted event. He played five instruments during the hour-long set, swapping them out every few songs.
Most musicians accept roses from the audience at the end of their concerts but Horton offered his audience roses before he said hardly a word. The Rose of Alabama and The Yellow Rose of Texas blended seamlessly and Horton performed the virtuoso trick of providing his own live soundtrack for an impromptu lecture about the origin of the latter song. He did have to stop playing the recorder just long enough to explain that "Goober Pea" (peanut) is derived from the African-American Gullah language.
And so it went, through a diverse selection from the great American songbook, with music and history from literally the first secular song published in colonial America, through the Civil War to Horton's own original compositions for film.
Calling to the stage School of the Arts voice professor G. William Bugg--in his last year of teaching at Samford--Horton noted that Bugg has been both a friend and a collaborator, leading Horton to the central musical theme of Lewis and Clarke. Bugg added his baritone to Horton's 1927 Martin guitar for the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger" and Horton's own "Don't Look Back". Horton advised the audience not to take the latter title too seriously. "Music and history are tied together because man has always had a need for music, and has looked to music to tell his story, and to turn to in the hard times".