Originally created 08/15/97

Ramblin' Rhodes: There's nothing funny about singer's aspirations



Few country singers want to be treated like a dog, but Jeff Bates wouldn't mind, according to one of his songs.

In his up-tempo, comical number (I Want A Woman Who'll) Treat Me Like A Dog, Mr. Bates says he wants that special lady to "pet me, feed me, love me in spite of my faults. All she'd have to do is whistle, and I'd come when she'd call."

The song is part of Mr. Bates' seven-song demo album, which his managers are shopping around for a record deal.

It was produced by Eric Paul, whose producing and co-producing credits include working with Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker and Kathy Mattea.

"We've got four record companies who seem interested in me," Mr. Bates said Monday. "Meantime, I've got a band called Southern Storm, and we've been playing all over."

Mr. Bates has a big foot in the office door of Pam Lewis, who heads his media team. It was Ms. Lewis who joined Bob Doyle seven years ago in guiding Garth Brooks to superstardom.

With his depth and growls, Mr. Bates' vocals are often compared to those of the late Conway Twitty. That comparison especially comes through on Mr. Bates' warm ballad I'm the Only Thing I'll Hold Against You, in which he tells his beloved that he's big enough to forgive any problems that might come between them.

Mr. Bates was born in Mobile, Ala., but moved at an early age to Columbia, Miss., 30 miles west of Hattiesburg, where he grew up with five brothers and three sisters.

He first started singing with his mother, Barbara, on the steps of their home as they waited for his father to come home from his logging business. They sang songs of Loretta Lynn, the Wilburn Brothers and the Chuck Wagon Gang.

"I never thought of my music as a special gift until I was 21 or so. I always had the dream, but I never knew how to get out of Mississippi," he said.

Sandy Vowell, a businesswoman in Seminary, Miss., made the initial contacts for Mr. Bates and persuaded him to move to Little Rock, Ark., where he met entertainment lawyer Philip Lyon.

From there, the pieces fell into place, with Mr. Bates meeting more and more people in the Nashville music community.

There is a really nice song on Mr. Bates' demo album, (I Bounce) Signals Off the Moon, in which he sings, "When the moon is full, I stare at it forever and pray you'll catch a beam that will bring us back together, and I never say never."

That's how Mr. Bates also feels about his music career.

He never wants to say never, because, like all Nashville hopefuls who believe in themselves, he expects to make it one day.

And with his Twitty-influenced voice, his great songs and his excellent management team, I'm betting that he'll do just that.

Sound bite

To hear Jeff Bates, call INFOLINE at 442-4444 and press 8101. You'll hear part of the song (I Want A Woman Who'll) Treat Me Like A Dog from his untitled demo album.