There's a new bro in the Righteous Brothers.
Thirteen years after the death of Bobby Hatfield, Bill Medley found himself a new singing partner to deliver such classics as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "Soul and Inspiration."
Medley had spent years as a solo act before something clicked with a longtime pal, Bucky Heard, in 2016.
"I had a couple of musician friends who had big careers sit me down," Medley said. "They pretty much told me, 'You owe it to your public that was raised on your music. They made you in the '60s and now you can pay them back, let them resume the memories.'
"That was the goose for me." Still, he said, "You can't replace Bobby. You can just fill in."
With the Righteous Brothers opening for the Beach Boys at the Minnesota State Fair on Monday night, Medley, 77, called from Southern California to chat about topics including Aretha Franklin, superproducer Phil Spector, and radio's most-played song of the 20th century.
On his new partner:
Heard, 52, has been singing for years in Branson, Mo., where Medley started gigging after Hatfield's death. One night Medley heard him cover a couple of Journey songs and realized his voice was a high tenor that fit Hatfield's parts.
"He just killed it," Medley recalled. "The next night I heard him do some John Fogerty and Creedence songs. And I said, 'Well, he's a rock 'n' roll singer.' "
An Alabama native, Heard studied acting at Auburn University, worked in musical theater and also sang in rock bands. For years, he was featured in a "Legends" show as one of the Blues Brothers. "He was doing John Belushi and that's why it was so surprising to me when I saw him do Journey," Medley said.
The two got together at a piano and discovered their voices worked together.
"He can do all the way from Little Richard to Pavarotti," Medley said of his new partner. "Every once in while, I'll ask him to do 'Nessun Dorma' and he sings it in Italian."
On his chemistry with Heard:
"He's the hardest working guy I've ever known. We'd been friends for 12 years. I knew he had a great sense of humor. He wasn't afraid if you took shots at him. And I'm not insecure like that, either."
... and with Hatfield:
"I was tall, he was short. I had dark hair, he had light hair. I had a low voice, he had a high voice. We were opposites in every single way.
"We are the top and bottom of a quartet. Those are not two guys you'd put together to sing duets. We were both raised on rhythm and blues. We sang with a lot of emotion. We weren't pretty boys. The kids would say to us, 'I didn't know it was OK to feel like that.' Because the music before that was pretty tame."
On what was righteous about the duo's producer, Spector:
"It's a tough word to throw around but he was a genius. You usually think you're going to hear a horror story with Phil. He was real good with us. He worked us real hard. It always got better when we did it again.
" 'Lovin' Feeling' was done on two-, three- or four-track machines and you wonder how did he do that. It's a pretty remarkable record."
Spector wouldn't allow outsiders in the studio while recording instrumental parts. However, when the duo was cutting its vocals in late 1964 for "Lovin' Feeling" — considered Spector's masterpiece — Medley recalls the producer inviting all kinds of guests into the control room, including two of the Rolling Stones and other Los Angeles producers.
"It was Phil's time to show off and everyone was laughing. Bobby and I finally said, 'Listen we'll be back tomorrow. Have everybody out of the studio and we'll get this vocal done.' "
On that song being the 20th century's biggest radio hit:
"Getting voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was amazing but there's 300 people in there. There's only one record that's the most played. That's very cool."
On the Righteous Brothers' current gig in Las Vegas:
They play 30 weeks a year — Tuesdays through Thursdays — at 6 p.m. "Perfect for my age and our fans," Medley pointed out.
He also sings "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," his Grammy-winning smash from the movie "Dirty Dancing," with his daughter, McKenna, taking the part of Jennifer Warnes, his duet partner on the 1987 hit.
On police finally solving the 1976 murder of his ex-wife:
Using DNA evidence, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department last year established the identity of the murderer: a fugitive in another crime who got killed in a 1982 gunfight with police.
"They had a detective that just wouldn't give up on it. It was amazing that they solved it after 40 years. It was nice for her sons to have closure."
On his 'duet' with Aretha:
In 2000, Medley was asked to be part of the annual all-star Colors of Christmas Tour headlined by Peabo Bryson. Aretha Franklin was seated in the front row when they played Detroit.
During the show, he asked the audience to sing Hatfield's lines on "Lovin' Feeling."
"When it came to the 'Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you,' everybody just shut up so they could just hear Aretha," he recalled.
"So I got to do a duet with Aretha."
That night, there was the one and only Righteous Sister.