Bobby Lee Springfield, an off-and-on resident of Missoula for some 10 years, hasn't been playing much of his music here in town.

Which is strange when you consider he's among the few local songwriters who can claim to have reached the country charts.

There was "If I Had to Do It All Over Again," sung by Roy Clark. "Let's Get It While the Gettin's Good," by Eddy Arnold. "Some Memories Just Won't Die," by Marty Robbins. "All Fired Up" by Dan Seals.

"It's good to be affiliated with identities such as those particular artists," he says.

Sadly, he says his career slowed down after they went "went on to glory."

Listeners may get to hear some of his new songs soon, though.

On Thursday, April 2, Springfield will lend his tunes and quick-draw way with an off-the-cuff metaphor to a "First Thursday" event at Real Good Art Space, the Westside studio that printmaker Jack Metcalf opened last year.

Metcalf and Springfield met several years ago, and the artist produced a woodcut of the singer.

After showing it to Springfield, the singer thought it made him look too old, although it's of a piece with Metcalf's other artwork, some of which has been spotted in the Missoula Art Museum, the Brink Gallery and numerous spaces around town.

Springfield describes the portrait as a "little, dark ugly death phantom Christian vampire painting."

But he "admires Jack's tenacity and his sense of inclusiveness," in building a self-sustaining studio, and they talked about collaborating.

At the event, they'll have an interview, and then Springfield will perform some of his songs.

Springfield says he'll play "just enough to make 'em fall in love again," although there will be "no love songs in this set."

The title of the event, "An Evening with Boy King, Bobby Lee Springfield," is a reference to the singer's industry nickname, the "Boy Veteran." He's explained it was a reference to his age when he was coming up in the 1980s, the fact that he took some "hard knocks and fell down a few times."

***

Springfield began writing songs when he was 8 or 9. His voice couldn't match the keys on the radio, and so he began cranking out his own tunes in a key that suited him.

By 15, he was in the Nashville area, he says, meeting girls whose fathers and mothers were involved in the industry.

He got hooked up with publishers and began selling his tunes, although the ones that charted aren't ones he likes to sing himself.

"Every time I've attempted to sing one of my hits, I've bombed. You can hear the bombs as far away as Bosnia," he says.

But they've had some longevity in the hands of other artists.

"These songs have survived the cut over a decade," he says.

Some are tongue-in-cheek, he admits, and he wants "everyone to leave feeling better than before when they walked in the door."

He recorded one solo album, "All Fired Up," in 1987.

He boasts that the sound makes it hard to place in time – they used old gear and recorded it off the cuff, lending it a roadhouse sound.

"Every instrument was before 1955," he says.

The microphone? Circa 1932.

The bass? "Over 200 years old."

And he was going through a vocal change at the time. He says he sounded like "the nephew of Joe Cocker on a two-hour binge. Really croaky."

Springfield still receives royalties from his hits, and they accumulate a penny here, a penny there.

"I have almost enough money now to buy some polish for the pope's ring," he says.

Springfield says he heard Robbins' didn't initially think he could sing "Some Memories Just Won't Die."

"He can sing anything if you just get him in there," Springfield says. So their mutual producer and publisher "force-fed the tune" to Marty, who recorded it.

Shortly thereafter, Robbins "went on to glory and took my career with him," Springfield says.

After his solo album, his handlers pressured him to do pop-contemporary Christian direction.

"I am not Amy Grant with a jock strap," he says. He "got out of that by the skin of the teeth."

Metcalf, meanwhile, will stay out of the way Thursday, letting Springfield share similar stories and songs.

The artist will cede the stage, and make live prints of that woodblock he carved, and might even get the letterpress all fired up to print some posters.

Outbrain