Music publisher Robert Joseph “Bob” Beckham, who mentored the careers of Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton and many others, died Monday morning (Nov. 11) at Summit Hospital in Hermitage, Tenn. He was 86.
As an employee and later co-owner of Combine Music, where he worked from 1964 until the company was sold in 1986, Beckham was also a key player in the success of such songwriters as Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin, Jerry Reed, Tony Joe White, Bob DiPiero, Bob Morrison and Dennis Linde (who married Beckham’s daughter).
Beckham was born July 8, 1927, in Stratford, Okla. He began working in a traveling entertainment show when he was 8 and subsequently dabbled in movie acting in California before returning to Oklahoma. He became a U.S. Army paratrooper at the age of 17 near the end of World War II.
Beckham made his entertainment debut on the national stage in the late 1950s, recording as a pop artist for Decca Records and touring with the label’s then-child star, Brenda Lee. He scored two chart singles for Decca, “Just as Much as Ever” (No. 32, 1959) and “Crazy Arms” (No. 3, 1960).
Following his move to Nashville in 1959, he served as a songplugger for Lowery Music and then worked briefly for Shelby Singleton Music before settling in at Combine. In 1990, Beckham established HoriPro Music in Nashville, a division of Japan’s Taiyo Music publishing company.
He retired from HoriPro in 2006.
One of Music Row’s great storytellers, Beckham held court at his designated table at Valentino’s restaurant until shortly before his death.
Funeral arrangements are pending.