Even with a 150-acre ranch at his disposal, Howard Bellamy had to get out during quarantine.
“I go to Wesley Chapel; that’s about as far as I get,” the Bellamy Brother said by phone recently from his family’s Darby estate. “Of course, I have to go to Whole Foods every now and then; I just have to make a Whole Foods run. But like everybody else, I’ve stocked up and laid low. I shouldn’t tell you a new song title I’m working on, but Lay Low and Stay High — that’s kind of what I’ve been doing.”
High or not — and with the Bellamy Brothers’ new medical marijuana line, Old Hippie Stash, hitting dispensaries this spring, anything’s possible — the Pasco County country veterans couldn’t lay that low for long.
In May, the Bellamy Brothers became one of the first notable bands to get back on the road post-coronavirus, playing a socially distanced show at a vineyard in Missouri. And on June 26, Howard and David Bellamy will perform with their band at the Dallas Bull, becoming the first truly national act to play a Tampa Bay concert since March.
The Let Your Love Flow duo had to postpone spring arena dates with Blake Shelton due to COVID-19, and they were supposed to be in Europe — where they still pack large venues — this month. A hometown show at a favorite haunt, Howard said, felt like a good way to ease back into their touring life.
“We can’t stay cooped up forever, so we thought we’d give it a shot,” he said. “No one really knows what to do. We’re all guessing. It seems like every day, we get new news that may not be so, or it may be so. You don’t know what to believe. No one knows what to believe. There’s so many things going on that you just don’t know. But how long can you stay in your house?"
Bellamy, 74, acknowledges he’s luckier than many. He and David, 69, live on the expansive ranch where they film their reality series Honky Tonk Ranch, which recently moved from the Cowboy Channel to the Circle Network. They’ve even managed to film parts of the show during quarantine, in addition to writing and recording new songs.
But they did take the pandemic seriously. Bellamy knew John Prine and Joe Diffie, who died from symptoms related to COVID-19, and is friends with Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson, who survived it this spring. He’s worn a face mask and done online pickup for his groceries at Publix, and for the foreseeable future, he won’t be signing autographs or holding meet-and-greets at concerts.
“I see the numbers rising a little as people do get out," he said. “That’s what concerns me.”
He knows some people want to jump-start the economy, including the music business. He also knows others want to get out and protest for the Black Lives Matter movement. He sees where both sides are coming from.
“Everyone’s nerves are on such edge,” he said. “They’ve just been cooped up so long, the emotions are running so high. And I understand all of it, every side. Nothing has ever been solved by the extremists, in any time. It’s always the people in the middle ground doing compromise and talking; that’s how things get solved. And I hope we can get back to that.”
Current restrictions in Florida limit bars to 50 percent of capacity, which at the Dallas Bull would mean around 1,000 fans or less. But it’s a start. While it may be a long time before large venues start booking shows, the Bellamy Brothers have dozens of smaller gigs lined up throughout the rest of 2020, as well as a European tour in 2021. They’re raring to go, even if others aren’t.
“We’ll all keep our distance, and we’ll see how it goes,” he said. “We may sound like hell, because we haven’t played in so long. But what do you do? Somebody’s got to be first to do it. I guess it’s a good thing to be the first to do it."
The Bellamy Brothers
$10-$15. 10 p.m. June 26. Dallas Bull, 3322 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 987-2855. dallasbull.com.