Bob Barton, 56, of Union, isn’t afraid to march to his own drums — perhaps, because he’s been playing drums at paid gigs for more than 50 years.
Barton, who comes from a family of musicians, started playing drums with his singer/songwriter father, Bob Barton Sr., when he was just 3 years old.
“I started with pots and pans and brushes. I played drums in my sleep,” he said. His mother also was a musician. She played piano.
By 5 years old, Barton had his own drum set and started performing with his father at Legion halls and other small venues.
“I started out playing old country, Hank Williams style,” he said, followed by western swing, country and rock ’n’ roll.
He plays new country on guitar, which he has been studying for about four years. He also played guitar when he was younger.
Barton last performed with his father when his father had reached about 71 years old.
“Every time I got to play with my dad was a real joy,” he said. “My dad was truly a great musician.”
Barton has a song his father wrote he hopes to record some day. He would love to have someone like George Strait sing the song, which was written about his mother after she passed away.
Now, Barton is semi-retired and doesn’t play as often.
Barton knew he had some kidney problems, but thought they had been resolved when he was a teenager. At 21, living in Nashville, he fell off a boat and hit his head.
He was taken to the hospital and later found out that if he hadn’t gone to the hospital, he said, he would have died within several days because his kidney condition had worsened.
After an operation, Barton only had a 50 percent chance of survival.
“I couldn’t really go on the road and play professionally,” Barton said, adding that he was forced to stay local because of his health condition.
While sick, Barton’s uncle, who also was in the music business, brought Ronnie Milsap to his room to try and cheer him up. One of his sisters had an Opryland book signed by various stars.
His uncle, George, continued to visit every day.
“My Uncle George taught me a lot about life. He was very caring and family oriented,” he said. “He was a very special person in my life.”
Others may know of Barton’s Uncle George — George Yandle — for a different contribution. His family inspired the Family Medical Leave Act.
Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote about Barton’s family, and uncle, in her syndicated column “Talking It Over” dated Aug. 5, 1998:
“Five years ago this week, the first bill my husband signed after taking office went into effect — the Family and Medical Leave Act.
“Before then, too many Americans — Americans like George and Vicki Yandle — had to choose between spending precious time with a loved one and losing their jobs.
“In January 1987, George and Vicki’s youngest daughter, Dixie, was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors amputated her left leg and immediately began chemotherapy.
“During Dixie’s illness, both the Yandles took time off from work to care for her — and both were fired from their jobs.
“In September 1992, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act and sent it to President Bush, who vetoed it. But the following year, my husband signed the FMLA, and in August, it became law.
“Sadly, though, this was too late for the Yandles. Dixie had died in April. She was 17.
“Since 1993, millions of Americans have taken advantage of the FMLA’s protections. The law allows workers in companies of 50 or more — 88 million people — to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent or to recover from their own serious illness. While on leave, the employee’s job and health insurance are protected.”
It is that family history that Barton takes pride in.
Barton would like to get his guitar signed by major country stars and by his aunt and uncle. His dream is to present it to former President Bill Clinton as a token of appreciation for signing the bill.
“I’m a musician and that’s the only way I can think of to honor them,” he said.
A movie, “Child’s Wish,” was made about the Yandles, however, his uncle’s copy of the movie was lost in a fire. The movie is not available in stores or online.
Barton is interested in finding a copy for his uncle. If anyone has a copy, they can email Barton, email@example.com.
For the last 23 years, Barton played with two area bands, Wild Country and Monty Dale Luke.
“I was born into the music world. It was happy times all the time,” Barton said.
Barton has been married to his wife, Bev Lamke, for 16 years.
“She followed me and watched me play. She got to be my best friend,” he said.
Barton said his favorite kind of music to play is new country. And though he can play any kind of music, he can’t read sheet music.
“I play by ear,” he said, adding that he watches videos and simply listens to learn the music.
Hunter Hays is Barton’s favorite young artist.
“It’s my life. Country music is my life,” he said.