December 18, 2014 – Lawrence Joel “Larry” Henley was born on June 30, 1937 in Arp, Texas. He grew up in Odessa, Texas. Little is known about his early years other than that he had originally planned on an acting career before becoming a singer and songwriter. He met the Mathis brothers Dean and Mark when he auditioned for their band the Newbeats in 1962 in Shreveport Louisiana, singing in a distinctive falsetto that would bring them their first and only global hit song “Bread and Butter” in 1964 when it charted in the top 20 of Billboard magazine, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts and selling over a million copies. Subsequently they toured Australia and New Zealand with Roy Orbison, Ray Columbus and the Invaders and the Rolling Stones on the “Big Beat ’65” tour. There were some lesser known hits such as “Run Baby Run”, but the group never reached the Bread and Butter popularity again.
The group’s last single was released in 1974 after they disbanded. Henley had a solo album, Piece a Cake, released in 1975. But his songwriter talents had taken over at this point.
Over the years he co-wrote with Red Lane “‘Til I Get It Right” for Tammy Wynette, a 1973 #1 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles, later covered by Barbra Streisand and Kenny Rogers. Other #1 country hits were his songs “Is It Still Over?” (performed by Randy Travis), “Lizzie and the Rainman” (performed by Tanya Tucker), and “He’s a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)” performed by Janie Fricke. Other songs included “Shotgun rider” for Delbert McClinton, “You’re Welcome to Tonight” by Lynn Anderson and Gary Morris and “The World Needs a Melody” by The Carter Family with Johnny Cash.
Henley was a friend of Bobby Goldsboro and it was because of Henley’s urging that Goldsboro sang the Bobby Russell penned song “Honey” and launched Goldsboro’s career.
Another hit was “Love Is on the Air” written by Henley with Jim Hurt and Johnny Slate, performed by Lou Rawls was used in The Cannonball Run movie, but his pinnacle composition was the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” written by Henley and guitarist/musician Jeff Silbar which became a blockbuster U.S. #1 hit for Bette Midler and has since totaled in excess of 6 million radio air plays.
The song earned Henley and Silbar the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for 1989, and Bette Midler the Record of the Year award. The song was originally recorded by Roger Whittaker in 1982 and has since been covered by numerous artists.
Henley was a 2012 inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His 1964 hit “Bread and Butter” has been used in Sunbeam Bread advertisements and multiple films, while “Wind Beneath My Wings” was part of the soundtrack for Beaches (1988).
He died on Dec 18, 2014 at age 77 from Lewd Body Dementia in Nashville, Tennessee.