Singer, songwriter and bassist Bobby Austin died Sunday (Jan. 6) in Camas, Wash., at the age of 68.
Born Robert Allen Austin on May 4, 1933, in Wenatchee, Wash., Austin was perhaps best known for “Apartment No. 9,” the song he co-wrote with Johnny Paycheck . It was Austin’s first chart single, topping out at No. 21 in 1966. The following year, it also became Tammy Wynette ’s first hit, although she took it only to the No. 44 slot. It was named the Academy of Country Music’s song of the year for 1966 and was the first to receive that honor from the Academy.
According to information compiled by Barry McCloud for his Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encylcopedia of Country Music and Its Performers, Austin began entertaining publicly when he was 5 years old, influenced chiefly by the songs of Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow .
After working in local bands, Austin moved to Los Angeles in 1955 and soon was involved in the city’s vibrant country music scene. In 1960, he released his first single, “Polynesian Baby,” on Challenge Records. He subsequently worked in Wynn Stewart’s band and played bass on recording sessions for Buck Owens . In 1962, Capitol Records signed him.
Austin’s other chart singles were “Cupid’s Last Arrow” and “This Song Is Just for You” (1967), “For Your Love” (1969) and “Knoxville Station” (1972). His albums include Apartment No. 9 and Old Love Never Dies, both on Capitol, and ones simply titled Bobby Austin on the Hurrah, Syndicate and Design labels.
Austin is survived by his wife, Fern, and his children, Linda, Robert Jr., William and Steve.