Growing up in the ’70s, it didn’t take PEC Building & Grounds Manager Bobby Beal long to realize that “girls like guys who play guitar.”
He picked up his first guitar when he was just 12 years old, mimicking chords from classic rock artists like Jimi Hendrix and ultimately teaching himself to play. To this day, he still can’t read music, but he can play the guitar flawlessly, and this raw talent led him to make it big with his high school buddies in a band called Painted Pony.
“My friends and I wanted to be the next Lynyrd Skynyrd,” Beal said. “But one of the hardest things was coming up with a name for our band. One day, we were listening to ‘Spinning Wheel’ by Blood, Sweat & Tears, and the lyric, ‘ride a painted pony’ just struck us. We thought, ‘How about Painted Pony?’ And surprisingly, we just got super popular with that name.”
Painted Pony started as a cover band in 1983 and opened for small acts through the early ’90s. Beal and his band’s fame grew in 1987, when they won the 99.5 Kiss Coca Cola Sound Search, and in 1989, when they received the best single of the year, “Show Ya,” in San Antonio Current magazine.
Soon after, their band went from playing in front of 15–20 people to tens of thousands of fans over the past 30 years, playing three to four times a week throughout the state of Texas and opening for bands like Foghat, Molly Hatchet, Nazareth, The Georgia Satellites, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Rossington Collins Band and even for their idols, former members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“We’ve done so many shows that I always forget which one is my favorite, but I think one of my greatest memories with Painted Pony was headlining at the AT&T Center for a San Antonio Spurs basketball game at intermission,” Beal said. “I had a truly wonderful career on the big stage.”
But Beal was a songwriter at heart. After 30 fantastic years on the run with Painted Pony, he and his bandmates were ready to settle down. Painted Pony now only performs at select shows, and even though his days of being famous are over, Beal says you can write songs at any age, at any place, at any point in your life.
“After my days with Painted Pony slowed down, I started focusing on enjoying music by genuinely listening to it,” Beal explained. “I think there was a part of my life where I wanted to be a performer all the time, but now, I’ve really learned to love music again for what it truly is.”
In addition to songwriting, Beal has performed with a PEC-created band called, “The Circuit Breakers,” which was composed of PEC employees, one being PEC Software Developer Blake Corley. The Circuit Breakers performed at the 2010 PEC Annual Meeting, and they also performed for other employee events and charities around the Central Texas Hill Country.
Beal hosts picker circles at Tapz 32 in Johnson City now, where musicians old and new gather and take turns playing songs. He still performs at wineries, charity events and at small, local venues with two friends as Bobby Beal & Friends.
“It’s a hobby, but really, it’s always been etched into my life,” Beal said. “It’s now something I can give back to the community that doesn’t cost me anything. It’s an absolute blessing, and if all else fails, I’ll always have music.”