Bob Powel

I’m finding this very hard to write, but I’ve just heard of the passing of Bob Powel. For those unfamiliar with the name, Bob was a true stalwart and larger-than-life figure within country music in the UK throughout the 1970s and 1980s. For many years he was the editor of Country Music People, the host of the long-running London Country on BBC Radio London and also owned and run the CMP Shop in Footscray, compiled albums and wrote the sleeve notes for various major and independent record companies and also built up a strong friendship with many of the legends of country music from Tex Ritter to Tom T. Hall and dozens more.

I first met Bob back in 1967. At the time I was editing and publishing Country Music Monthly and also Record Collector (a country music publication). Over the years we built up a close friendship as well as being working colleagues in the days when I wrote for Country Music People. An easy-going, affable guy, nothing seemed to faze the somewhat bumbling Mr Powel. He gave the impression of being slightly disorganised, but I can tell you from personal experience, that a disorganised person could not have edited and guided a magazine like CMP month after month the way that Bob did.
Watching and working alongside Bob I learnt the importance of knowing your subject. His knowledge of the stars that he interviewed would often amaze them as he came up with little-known facts that they had either forgotten about or were unaware of. It is something that over the years I’ve tried to emulate. Because of Bob I work on the theory that you can never know enough about someone—both their life and music. 

I think it would be fair to say that good ol’ Bob was never the greatest writer or journalist. But he was passionate and blended with his unequalled knowledge his words jumped off the page and engaged the reader. In my book, you can’t ask for better than that.

It would be true to say that Bob’s personal life was something of a mess. I often visited him in his bungalow and with Bob you had to take him as he was. There was rarely a chair uncluttered that you could sit on. His filing system was non-existent; some of his records were all carefully arranged in racks and were easy to find, but the majority were in stacked piles, on the floor, the chairs, and sometimes even the bed.  Then there was back garden garage/shed, which housed his slot machines and jukebox. A keen collector, he loved these gaming machines, because he never lost any money on them.

Bob moved to the UK in the mid-1960s from Quebec, Canada. He worked for a time in Spitalfields Market before he turned to country music as a full-time vocation. For close on 25 years he dedicated his whole life to his country music. He lived and breathed it. Visited Nashville on numerous occasions and during his hey-day of the 1970s he was almost certainly the most knowledgeable and informed country music critic in the UK and amongst the leading ones in the world. 

In the early 1990s he moved to Thailand to live and never involved himself in country music activities again. He moved back to the UK a few years ago and settled in Sidcup. Though he suffered from ill-health he always appeared ebullient. Apparently Bob hadn’t been seen for a week or so and his neighbours informed the police, who broke into his Sidcup flat and found his body.

I have so many funny and oft times hilarious stories about my time spent with my good friend and mentor Bob Powel. They are the kind of happy memories I will cherish. The eccentric Bob Powel was a dedicated country music aficionado. Like so many of us from those far-off distant days, it was not about the money, it was all about the music …