Country singer Bobby Marquez and wife Jennifer Herron are truly one of Nashville’s multi-media couples.
Marquez is a singer and songwriter who’s scored three Music Row chart singles plus a pair of Top 20 hits on the Texas Regional Radio Report, including the No. 1 “That’s Life,” while Herron is the traffic reporter on WSMV-TV4 and the former news anchor for country WSM-FM 95.5.
It makes sense that they met a country station, KCYY in San Antonio.
“The Program Director had me submit a 3-song demo and said it was okay to play it,” Marquez says in a phone conversation in late August. “Jennifer was the first DJ to play it that night.”
Bobby moved from his hometown of Freer, Texas, outside San Antonio, to Music City in 1998. Jennifer came too, and the couple has been married for six years.
“When I first moved here to Nashville, I wanted to be the Hispanic artist who could turn country around,” Marquez says.
That’s a proud tradition that country radio has sadly ignored for decades, and Music Row has as a result missed out on millions of potential fans and purchasers.
“I’m surprised they’re not tapping into that,” Marquez says. “Hopefully, I can do that.”
Johnny Rodriguez notched half a dozen No. 1 Billboard country hits between 1973 and 1975, including “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me),” which Rodriguez co-wrote with Tom T. Hall. And Freddy Fender, whose real name was Baldemar Huerta, rocketed to the top with his debut “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” the CMA Single of the Year in 1975 and still a classic.
But for more than 30 years, country radio has pretty much ignored Tex-Mex and Hispanic artists, much to the detriment of radio and the Row.
Bobby grew up in a family that loved country, listening to artists like Faron Young and the Texas Troubadour, Ernest Tubb. He was an outstanding baseball player as well, and began playing guitar when a cousin threw out a little Martin guitar.
“Give it to me,” young Bobby told his cousin. “I’ll learn to play it.”
He started with three chords, then began singing and playing in his room. Soon, Marquez was playing for family events, and by age 21 he was opening for top Row acts including Neal McCoy, Clay Walker, and John Michael Montgomery.
“I kind of got thrown out there, in front of 10,000 to 15,000 people,” Marquez said.
But soon he learned to get the fans on his side. “You have to figure out a crowd, that’s the main thing,” he says. “Every place is different. In the first two or three songs, you need to know what kind of crowd you have.”
He became a very popular live act in Texas, working both large concert venues and smaller dance clubs.
Jennifer, meanwhile, was studying journalism at Southwest Texas State University, also the alma mater of George Strait. She always loved country music, and now along with her TV work she gets to fulfill a lifelong dream by hosting the “Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree” on WSM-AM after the station’s broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry.
Bobby has played that program once or twice as well.
“I’ll tell you what,” he says, “that really is a thrill. I’d always admired Ernest Tubb not only as a great artist, but I also appreciate him as a man who always tried to help everybody and gave new artists a shot.”
Ironically, much of Bobby’s musical success has come not just at radio and on the road, but also on television, thanks to RFD-TV and other outlets. He’s appearing on the RFD program “Larry’s Country Diner,” and also on the “Late Night Nashville” program.
That’s perfect timing, since Bobby is finishing up his second album after his first one produced a trio of Music Row and Texas Regional Radio Report singles and was named Top Album of 2010 by Britain’s Country Music People Magazine.
“RFD-TV’s been great, it’s a lot like the old TNN,” Marquez says. “It’s terrific, especially for older artists and newcomers. You don’t have to pay to get on TV. It’s been good for me.”
So on Bobby Marquez goes, creating new songs and videos and hitting the road with a tour to Australia in November. He’s also writing his first Gospel song with the Statler Brothers’ Jimmy Fortune.
And one of these days, once country radio wises up, his music will be heard nationwide and begin attracting a whole new audience to the format and to Music Row. And Lord knows, considering the sales figures in recent years, country could sure use a major boost in its fan base.
By Phil Sweetland