by J Raleigh Jones
Bobby Hayden Jr. : A Junkie's Testimony
The first time I saw Bobby was at Nashville Cowboy Church when he was a guest artist for the Sunday morning service. He shared his story of the Cardboard Box Ministries and sang his original songs. It was a compelling message and performance. The next time I saw him was at the USAGEM (United States Association of Gospel Entertainers and Musicians) annual celebration of their organization. Bobby gave an outstanding performance and shared more of his story, through a song, with a phrase in the lyrics, "A Junkie's Testimony" .
Since then Bobby and I have become friends and I wanted to share his music and message here and in TV shows. I had promised a few issues ago that I would feature Bobby in this article. His performance video at the USAGEM Birthday Bash is on my personal facebook page. When I met Bobby at the Nashville Coffees, on Music Valley Drive in Nashville, to plan this article and other things, Bobby summed up his enthusiasm for his career in one sentence. He said "I am happy to be alive". Following is his story in his own words.
Bobby Hayden Jr.
When I was asked to write this article by Mr. Jones concerning my life in the music business and how Nashville played a role in my career, I was somewhat skeptical that I could tell it all in one article. After thinking and praying about it for a few days I decided to take a stab at it.
As far back as I can remember in my youth, I recall my mother preparing me for an upcoming gig. I remember local promoters from my hometown of Evansville Indiana booking me as an opening act for such people as Johnny Cash & Eddie Arnold. My parents would chat with the people who were close to these entertainers and gather information and strategies on how to proceed in the music business. At the ripe age of 8, after appearing on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour my parents headed for Nashville’s Music Row.
Upon arriving in Nashville we landed on the steps of the RCA building where we had an appointment with a Nashville talent agent. The meeting was a success and engagements started to pour in. I was a regular at The Grand O Opry, the Nashville Centennial Park Concert and a local Nashville TV show hosted by Mr. Ralph Emery. Printers Alley club owner Boots Randolph, who was a friend of my father gave us an open door policy to perform at his club “The Carousel”. National TV shows such as the Milton Berle Show jumped onboard and the touring was non-stop with trips to Hollywood, New York and Las Vegas.
By the late 1960’s music was starting to change and I was growing up. Our agent suggested that we do a few concerts in Nashville with acts like Paul Revere & the Raiders and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. My parents were totally against this new direction but agreed to do the shows. After having witnessed this new fad called Rock & Roll my parents returned to Evansville and immediately I was enrolled in Catholic High School.
My teen age years away from music scene didn’t work out well. I had gotten the show business bug for sure. There was emptiness in my very being that I tried to continually fill. I actually had become addicted to the applause and accolades that come with the pursuit of fame. I had legitimate needs and I tried to fill those needs in illegitimate ways. At sixteen years old I ran away from home to pursue music by playing in rock bands across the country. I had only one destination in mind, Hollywood California.
I arrived in Hollywood in 1979 ready to take the music business by storm. I found out quickly how important songwriting was. I knew I had some work to do. I formed the Bobby Hayden Band and played the Hollywood circuit and toured the country as well as a short lived MTV appearance. I recruited drummer Randy Castillo who later spent thirteen years with Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Rick Bozzo who had previously toured with Meatloaf. I landed a management deal with Ron Deutschendorf. Ron worked for the mega Management Three organization headed up by the late Jerry Weintraub. Ron was the brother of late John Denver. We continued for the next fifteen years perusing the ever elusive big time Recording Contract.
By 1995 the fast paced life of rock & roll had taken its toll on my craft and my mind and body. Years of social drinking had turned into alcoholism. My occasional cocaine use was a serious addiction and the worst was yet to come. In 1998 I became a homeless full blown heroin addict living in a cardboard box in LA’s skid row. I stood on the side of the freeway daily and begged for money to feed my addiction. I did not bath for a year at a time because I found out I made more money the worse I looked. I injected heroin five to ten times a day for almost ten years. I had been arrested many times for various offences and my life was totally out of control.
A friend who was concerned with my health came to me and asked if I ever prayed. He convinced me that I did not have long to live and suggested I start praying. While eating garbage in a dumpster one day in 2007 I cried out to God for hope. The next day a man by the name of Mr. Esperanza put me on a bus to a rehab in Arizona. I found out later that the name Esperanza in Spanish actually means hope. That was enough for me to continue with my newly found Faith.
Completely sober and drug free for the first time in thirty years my family reached out to me. In 2008 I returned to Indiana to teach music and start Cardboard Box Ministries. Our ministry toured the globe with a message of hope. The war on opiates open the doors to share at recovery groups, shelters, Christian TV, Churches, and allowed me access to speak into the lives of hurting people. After all, if it could happen to me, it could happen for anyone. Our message of hope was delivered through music and a powerful testimony of God’s grace.
In my wildest imagination I did not see any of this coming.
Two years ago my dear friend Kerry Pharr who hosts “ In Your Corner “ which airs on the Day Star TV Network ask me to come to Nashville and co-host some program. I started his Addiction Knockout recovery groups in a few areas and the ball just kept on rolling. I began speaking and performing in the Nashville area and became a regular at the Nashville Rescue Mission sewing into people’s lives. I was asked to perform at the Nashville Cowboy Church where I met people like Mike Dunbar, Pastor Harry Yates and his wife Jo Anne Cash Yates.
These relationships brought new relationships such as JR Jones and Nashville Country Music Magazine.
I currently reside in the Nashville area enjoying life one day at a time. I have just completed writing songs for a brand new record which include stories of homelessness and addiction. As we currently seek representation to further our music and message of hope, film people and book publishers continue to inquire and show interest. We pray that the right person with the right vision comes along to assist us for all the right reasons. I was recently married for the first time to a wonderful and beautiful lady by the name of Tammy, and believe me folks when I say, life is good my friends! I am a truly blessed man.
Bobby Hayden JR.