R.I.P. Hellbound Glory, Hello Leon Virgil Bowers
Hellbound Glory, the raucous Reno, Nevada-based country band is no more, and the band’s long-time frontman and songwriter has taken on a new moniker.
R.I.P. Hellbound Glory and Leroy Virgil, and hello Leon Virgil Bowers.
The band had the internet buzzing on October 1st when they announced that Hellbound Glory would be killed off. “31 more nights”¦ till the death of Hellbound Glory” the band stated, leaving fans of the resurgent country outfit wondering what the hell would be happening next. Then on Halloween, friends and family gathered at the at the Buckhorn Lodge in Pioneer, California to lay Hellbound Glory to rest, complete with a Hellbound Glory flag-draped coffin symbolizing the death of a music era that saw the band play hundreds of shows coast to coast, tour with Kid Rock and Leon Russell, and release some of the best independent country songs in the last decade.
The rest of Halloween weekend left fans wondering what was going to happen next. Then on Monday (11-3), a new website was launched and the name Leon Virgil Bowers, the given name of Leroy Virgil, emerged as the new incarnation of Hellbound Glory.
Leon Virgil Bowers has been the only permanent member of Hellbound Glory since the band’s inception in 2008. The band’s first two albums Scumbag Country and Old Highs & New Lows became landmarks of independent/underground country music and still remain testaments to Leroy’s prowess as a frontman and songwriter, along with his newer albums, 2011”²s Damaged Goods, and the recent 2014 LP called LV, named after Leon’s initials.
A name change is something that worked very successfully for Sturgill Simpson when he dropped the Sunday Valley moniker. Sturgill’s name change is considered one of the keys to his meteoric rise. Country music is mostly a solo name business, and for some reason bands working under an individual’s name tend to do better.
“I’ve actually considered it a lot. We’ve talked about it,” Leon said when Saving Country Music interviewed him in May and asked him about going with his own name in the future. But he also showed reluctance at the time to drop the Hellbound Glory name. “There’s so much momentum going with Hellbound Glory and I’ve got so many years of work into it. Within a week or two of moving to Reno, I’d written the song and turned it into a band name. So it’s been something I’m stuck with. Part of me would like a change.”
But don’t throw dirt on the grave of Hellbound Glory just yet. “We tried to kill it, but it looks like the spirit of Hellbound Glory will live on,” the band posted through social network. As they allude, the music of Hellbound Glory will continue to be enjoyed by fans. And who knows, maybe the name will be resurrected in the future. But with Leroy’s greatest asset being one of the premier songwriters of the independent world, working under his own name may just be the right decision to help get his music to the wider audience it deserves.
Leon Virgil Bowers has also posted tour dates in March 2015 as part of the announcement. He will be touring with Blackberry Smoke who just announced a new album, Holding All The Roses.
November 3, 2014 @ 1:05 pm
Changing a band’s name like this can come with a significant risk of losing recognition from fans. For an up-and-coming artist without much name recognition, like Leroy Virgil, such a move can seriously endanger the artist’s career.
November 3, 2014 @ 1:39 pm
Or it could have the opposite effect. See Sunday Valley –> Sturgill Simpson. Make great music and you will be discovered.
November 3, 2014 @ 1:40 pm
Although the Bowers could’ve been left out in my opinion.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:12 pm
The simple fact is Hellbound Glory is still a very obscure band, and the upside potential of making new fans is much greater than the possible loss Leon may experience from any name change. Something that makes this instance a little more risky is that he’s not just dropping the band name, he’s also changing his own name. Sturgill Simpson was always known as Sturgill Simpson, so it was a little bit easier for fans to connect the dots. But overall I really can’t see how is going to hurt. In the end what is going to matter the most is the music that comes out after this name change and if it resonates with people. It’s up to music sites like Saving Country Music to help get the word out and ferry old fans to the new name.
See Will Oldham aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy. It will be fine.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:20 pm
Thats what I was thinking, Leroy Virgil would have allowed him to keep some of the name recognition he had built up with Hellbound Glory. I agree with you though, at the end of the day if the music is good the attention should come and the name change could lead to him finding more Country fans. I know when I would tell people to listen to Hellbound Glory they thought I was talking about a Black Label Society type Rock/Metal band.
November 3, 2014 @ 6:22 pm
Plus he’s had years to polish his craft. He won’t be coming out the gates alone and wide eyed. Opening for the best Southern Rock band ain’t gonna hurt him either. I’m just glad he didn’t quit to tend bar in Reno some where. Good luck Leon, and I’ll catch you at some BBS shows!
November 3, 2014 @ 1:16 pm
Just announced today that Leroy will be opening for Blackberry Smoke @ Joes Bar in Chicago… can’t wait for the show…gonna be fuckin epic.
November 3, 2014 @ 1:19 pm
Interesting note, the tour date links are all Blackberry Smoke dates. Is he going to be their opening act?
November 3, 2014 @ 2:12 pm
I believe that is correct.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:17 pm
I think he should have stuck with Leroy Virgil, but either way all I care about is the (hopefully) new album of material that is coming.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:44 pm
I fucking love Hellbound Glory. I still listen to all of their albums regularly. “Hank Williams Records” is my go to for Friday afternoon on my home from work. I even made “Bar Room Beauty” a ringtone for on my phone for my wife. I’ll listen to anything that Leroy, or Leon, puts out. I wouldn’t care if they called themselves The Possum Fuckers.
November 3, 2014 @ 11:59 pm
“The Possum Fuckers” is the name of my (theoretical) Hellbound Glory cover band.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:52 pm
I think this is a good idea. Even people I know who don’t listen to country music recognize names like Jason Isbell or Sturgill Simpson and will mention to me “Hey, that country guy you like was in Rolling Stone / on Jimmy Fallon!” but no one has ever said “hey, I read something about Hellbound Gloryl”. So I think at this point … what’s he got to lose?
The way I see it, right now he has his dedicated fan base who know exactly what is going on and are going to follow him with no problems and then there is everyone else. It just seems like most of the momentum that had been building up has kind of fizzled out, so why not more or less start over? Like I said, what does he have to lose, really? I do think that using “Leroy Virgil” or “Leon Virgil” would have been fine as well, but if he wants to use his given name, I have no problem with that.
November 4, 2014 @ 8:57 am
“Even people I know who don”™t listen to country music recognize names like Jason Isbell or Sturgill Simpson and will mention to me “Hey, that country guy you like was in Rolling Stone / on Jimmy Fallon!”
The fact that non-country fans recognize those names and are saying things like that represents huge progress in my opinion. As others have said, hopefully Leon Virgil Bowers will be the next name people start to recognize.
November 3, 2014 @ 5:34 pm
Hellbound Glory died when Chico got the boot.
While “Damaged Goods” and the “LV” EP were both excellent albums, they are distinctly Leroy Virgil’s solo style, and sound like more of a continuation of his band “Leroy Virgil and the Excavators” that was playing and touring at the same time as the original couple of HG albums.
Good move on his part. There is a lot of name recognition with Hellbound Glory, but it can be difficult to get some traditional fans into them simply because of the name (until they hear the music, that is).
Also, at least now there might be some sort of idea what you’re in for at the shows. Last few times I’d seen HG play, you had no idea what kind of set you were getting (or if it would be any good), there was never any question with the original lineup.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:24 am
Thank you TaylorHM, that’s the way I’ve felt, too. Although I wouldn’t say I got the boot! I left after our third national tour because it was too hard to try to keep a full time job and tour as much as Leon felt he needed to, and it felt like he wasn’t really feeling what I was laying down anymore. It was also frustrating when you knew the potential for greatness was slipping through your fingers due to no particular fault other than a dude’s gotta do what he can to survive.
We had some spectacular moments on stage together that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I remember Franks first gig with us at Old Ironsides in Sacramento. We still had Johnny with us on guitar and absolutely no rehearsal beforehand, but we just slayed, and it felt so good.
I’m glad Leon has moved on. It’s been a long time coming and we wish him the best of luck. We’ve talked of playing the old stuff together again in our old age, but I’m excited to hear what he comes up with when he doesn’t have to write with a particular band sound in mind. The world is his oyster.
November 4, 2014 @ 1:02 am
I apologize for the “Got the boot” statement, I’m glad to hear it didn’t go that way. A lot of second hand info flying around over the years, following all the member changes and drama that always seems to go with it.
Met a couple of times and shook hands at a few shows (I don’t expect anyone to remember a face or name after ridiculous amounts of touring), and I do miss the old days and sound of the band. Thanks for jumping on here and clearing that up. I look forward to any future projects you get involved in, because goddamn did you make a massive impact on the sound of the band in its original form.
November 10, 2014 @ 10:27 am
Hey Chico! Some of my best memories of HBG were the countless shows I recorded at The Crystal Bay Club and Old Ironsides. And also all the recording studio video I shot in Sacramento when you guys were making the Old Highs & New Lows CD. I still think of HBG’s glory days as being when you and Frank and Johnny/Nick were a four piece with Leroy. It’ll be interesting to see what Leon cooks up in the future. He and I once recorded some 30+ demos one cold afternoon in the middle of December in Newcastle. The man is a song-writing machine! Looking forward to his new stuff. He never disappoints.
November 3, 2014 @ 7:46 pm
November 3, 2014 @ 7:52 pm
i like the all three names his momma gave him name. that’s how the police address you too.
November 3, 2014 @ 8:23 pm
As a Reno scumbag I can’t help but be sad about the passing of our beloved Hellbound Glory. But as a fan of Leon’s, whatever it takes to get him a wider audience is alright by me.
November 3, 2014 @ 9:25 pm
The key to Leroy’s success will be new music, same as it was the key to Hellbound Glory’s success. Damaged Goods gave them a crowd outside of the “inside circle”, but for whatever reason they haven’t followed that up with any new albums, even though at least one album was recorded, just not released. I’m not sold that the band needs a name change, I’m sold that the band needs new albums, under whatever name they use.
November 3, 2014 @ 9:37 pm
I was afraid this was the end…of Hellbound that is…
Glad I got to see them–actually just Leroy and Ricco in some dive bar in Winchester ,Ca.
Maybe moving on was the right thing.. as much as we’d like the world change–Hellbound just never would have been accepted by the masses.. Seen the same with 357 String Band, the Replacements, Lucero, you name it. Good Luck Leon Virgil Bowers– I will buy whatever you produce. I will play “Live From Cracker Swamp” and wear the eagle eating snake Hellbound shirt tomorrow in your honor. Cheers– that’s whiskey–no ice….
November 4, 2014 @ 12:03 am
What’s the name-change story w/r/t Lucero?
November 3, 2014 @ 10:44 pm
Thought this change would be easy…
spent the evening drinking PBR and watching Hellbound Glory videos….
November 4, 2014 @ 6:42 am
he mite wanna thank about swichin the name to heven bound gLory so that way hes shure to get in to heven. Role tide!
November 4, 2014 @ 8:52 am
So when we having the reunion tour?
November 4, 2014 @ 2:40 pm
I could care less what its called. I’m more curious the direction the music is going to take. Another tour with a rock band.
November 5, 2014 @ 7:57 am
I think the name change is good. I’m a bit surprised he rolled with his full given name since many casual Hellbound Fans did recognize Leroy Virgil, but it will take a minute to figure out Leon Virgil Bowers is the same guy.
I know that commercial/big success isn’t what guys like Leroy and Sturgill do this for. Of course they want to make a living/money…and there is something to a little more mass appeal in country music (maybe to an older/mature audience) with a their given names vs. band names like Hellbound Glory and Sunday Valley.
November 5, 2014 @ 10:58 pm
I just saw that Leon Virgil Bowers is one of the opening acts for Blackberry Smoke at their show here in Indianapolis next March. I am looking forward to giving him a listen.
November 7, 2014 @ 2:44 pm
I wonder if this is a way for him to create more mainstream appeal by distancing himself from the hard-living lyrics contained in so many of his songs. It might be that in order to get major label attention, or to at least hope for that, he has to start again with more easily consumable songs. I hope not, but it seems plausible. I wouldn’t be shocked if he released an album with some new tracks and a few rerecorded versions of tamer songs (like Be My Crutch, Malt Liquor, Aberdeen, Bar Room Beauty, Better Hope You Die Young).
June 7, 2015 @ 8:02 pm
Hellbound Glory was a great band name though. Easily my favorite band. That said, I don’t really do the Facebook/Twitter thing. As a lawyer who listens to Hellbound Glory the things my buddies would post wouldn’t mix with business so I just don’t keep up with it. Therefore, I’m just now finding this out, about my favorite band! Just saying.
Ultimately, I’m happy to finally have a way to find some new music. I understand it too. Its a shame the world couldn’t figure it out because Hellhound Glory was just special. If it was only slightly less special I wouldn’t have gone through the trouble to figure this out, but I did.
I can’t see him turning into the bad sort of “cliche country singer” so I’m not worried about that. Still can’t believe these guys are Yanks.
Best of luck to you all. I loved everything about Hellhound Glory but honestly, y’all probably deserve more money. “Drugs is all I’d spend it on,” holler if you get arrested in TN.
October 28, 2017 @ 9:34 pm
Look at him now! Finally getting the recognition he deserves! Pinball baby!