It’s time for another article in our FORGOTTEN ARTISTS series and, this time, Clint West is back to remind us about Southern Country Rockers, Cowboy.
Cowboy were formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969. The nucleus of the band was songwriters Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton, whilst other band members came and went at fairly regular intervals. Prior to the formation of the band, Scott Boyer had played with Duane and Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks in The 31st of February, a band that Boyer had formed with Trucks and was later joined by the Allmans after they had recorded and released their only album.
Soon after their formation, Cowboy were recommended to Capricorn Records by Duane Allman and were duly signed. Their debut album ‘Reach for the Sky’ was released in 1970. Produced by Johnny Sandlin, who had produced The Allman Brothers Band, it was a record of gentle acoustic guitars and beautiful harmonies. It drew favourable comparisons with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Pure Prairie League. Cowboy set themselves apart from those contemporaries though, through the strong songwriting of Boyer and Talton, rather than a reliance on reworking old traditional tunes. Anyone seeking further points of reference might also find traces of Neil Young and perhaps inevitably, early Allman Brothers, woven into the band’s very strong debut album. During 1970-71, Cowboy went out on the road as The Allman Brothers support act.
The band’s follow-up album ‘5’ll Getcha Ten’ was released the following year in 1971. Once again produced by Johnny Sandlin, the album was recorded partly at Capricorn’s studios in Macon, Georgia and partly at the legendary Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama. It was, arguably, a more mature work than their debut, certainly with a more soulful feel to it. Among the songs on the album were Boyer’s ‘All My Friends’ which was later covered by Gregg Allman on his 1973 ‘Laid Back’ album and ‘Please Be With Me’ also written by Boyer and the band’s best-known song. Boyer claimed that the song was written in fifteen minutes to alleviate his boredom whilst in a hotel room the night before it was then recorded. The track featured Duane Allman on dobro in what was to be, other than his work with his own band, his last studio work before his untimely death. Two takes were made, one went on the Cowboy album whilst the other was included in the posthumous 1972 Duane Allman ‘An Anthology’ album. ‘Please Be With Me’ was also the title given to Duane’s daughter Galadrielle’s book about her father. Despite the Duane Allman connection, it was the inclusion of the song on Eric Clapton’s ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ in 1974 that brought it to the greatest public attention.
It was to be three years before another Cowboy album was released. However, the band were still busy. They played on Gregg Allmans’s ‘Laid Back’ album, toured again with the Allman Brothers. Boyer and Talton were recruited to the Capricorn house band, playing on albums by the Allman Brothers, Bonnie Bramlett and Wet Willie among others. In 1974 Cowboy toured as Gregg Allman’s backing band and are featured on his ‘The Gregg Allman Tour’ album from that year.
The third studio album, named after its principle members ‘Boyer and Talton’ was released in 1974. Pulling in the best of Capricorn’s roster of musicians, the album moved the band even further in the direction of a more soulful sound that set them apart from most of the increasingly formulaic guitar base of other Capricorn acts. Many have argued that the album was the band’s pinnacle, but in truth you couldn’t put a Rizla paper between any of the first three albums.
Cowboy’s last album for Capricorn was the self-titled ‘Cowboy’. Released in 1977, It was the first that Johnny Sandlin was not involved in, the band instead attempted to produce it themselves. It’s a very decent record but lacks the inspiration and polish of its predecessors and having failed to make a significant breakthrough, the band shortly afterwards called it a day. The previous year had also seen the release of ‘Happy to be Alive’ credited to Tommy Talton, Bill Stewart and Johnny Sandlin. Most observers agree that the disc was a Cowboy record in all but name and is certainly worth seeking out.
Thirty years after the release of their final album, Cowboy got together again in 2007 with all six of their original 1969 members participating in the recording of new material. For various reasons the music was not released at the time. Then in 2010, the band played a reunion concert in Macon, Georgia which was subsequently released the following year as ‘Boyer and Talton: Cowboy Reunion 2010’. Scott Boyer died in 2018 and later that year the 2007 recordings were finally released as ‘ 10’ll Getcha Twenty’ a clear play on the title of their second album.
Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton were a formidable pairing and both great songwriters and musicians. Cowboy have frequently been described as one of the most underrated bands of the early 1970s. However, anyone who discovered the band were usually smitten by them. A more apt description, therefore, might be that they were one of the great unheard or undiscovered bands of the 1970s. Its never too late to tune in to a good thing though.