Jeff Bates Biography
When it comes to overcoming life’s trials and troubles, drug
addiction and recovery, and spirituality and faith, Jeff Bates
speaks with the authority of a man who has been there and
done that and has all the proverbial nicks, cuts, bruises and
scars to go along with his personal tribulations and redemption.
Bates’ story is no different than thousands of others except
for the fact that he’s so amazingly open about it all, and rather
than use his past as a crutch, has chosen to rely on it as a
strength for himself, and as inspiration and motivation for others
as well. When he isn’t touring the country playing his music and
entertaining crowds of adoring fans, or writing and recording
songs in his current home of Nashville, TN, Mr. Bates travels to
schools, churches, corporate events, and even prisons to speak
openly about his life and experiences, usually taking along his
guitar when asked and adds a few of his hit songs to his
presentations to accentuate and enhance those points that he
came to discuss. He covers a wide variety of topics such as
abandonment and adoption, bullying, self image, self motivation,
divorce , overcoming obstacles, spirituality, prayer and faith,
addiction, and recovery among others, always tailoring his
message to fit the needs of each particular group or
organization to whom he is speaking.
Mr. Bates has been the choice of the Tennessee State School
Resource Officer’s Board in 2008 and 2009 to speak to youths
in Middle Schools, Junior High and Senior High schools across
the state about drug addiction, bullying, and self image.
Jeffery Wayne Bates was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1963
and when he was barely 3 months old was abandoned by his
family. He was an answer to the prayers of Edward and Barbara
Bates, a Columbia Mississippi couple who had been married for
2 years at the time, and who had unsuccessfully tried to have
children of their own. They eagerly agreed to take the sick,
malnutritioned infant in and cared for him for over a year while
trying to find his biological parents to no avail. They adopted
young Jeffery when he was about 16 months old.
Jeff loves to tell the story of how he believes God has a
sense of humor because, as he puts it,
“My parents wanted children SO much and couldn’t have
any, and then I came along and they felt I was an answer to their
prayers. They Loved me and adopted me, and then 3 years
later they started having children! And over a period of time they
had a total of eight kids, in addition to me!”
Bates recalls a very happy early childhood up until learning
that he was adopted, at which time his whole perception of
himself and his family environment changed.
“The day I learned I was adopted,” says Jeff, “was the first
time that I felt like I didn’t belong….like I didn’t fit in.”
Even though he was close to Barbara, his mother, young
Jeff felt distanced from his siblings and friends and the
deterioration of his self image began.
“I’d lie awake at night and wonder what was wrong with me
that would make my biological parents not want me. I internalized
it, laying blame solely on myself, never comprehending that
there might have been other reasons for my abandonment.”
As he grew into a teenager Jeff withdrew even more,
becoming more shy and reserved, always fighting an inner battle
of self pity and self hatred.
He was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever and Cholera when he
was 11, and was hospitalized for a short while but remained
bedridden for almost 6 months while being treated and sedated
with the barbituate Phenobarbital. He had to learn to walk and
talk all over again as the physicians gradually lowered his
dosage to wean him off the drug. It was during this period that
Jeff fought his first battle with addiction, although he wouldn’t
recognize it as such for many years later.
“I remember actually hallucinating and having these miserable
night sweats! I was depressed and would cry and beg for my
medicine,” he recalls.
“I thought about suicide, and wanted to die.”
He pulled through with the help and stern steady love his
mother, and soon was able to go back to school again, although
he was a grade behind where he should’ve been.
That made it seem even more tough to fit in, and he became
even more introverted and took up writing and art.
“ I actually started drawing while I was still sick, and
discovered I had a gift for it, and I LOVED drawing superheroes
from comic books!”
Bates says he dreamed of becoming a comic book artist one
day although the family was much too poor to be able to afford a
college education, or even art classes for that matter.
It was also at this time when he picked up the guitar and an
uncle taught him chords and he began to play and sing and
write his first songs. There was something else he learned about
“I learned pretty quickly that my guitar was much better at
making friends than I was, and it was even great at getting the
attention of girls!” He laughs.
Music consumed his heart and soul although he never
received any formal training or education in it.
He quit school in the 10th grade because he was expelled for
fighting a bully on the school bus, and went to work logging with
Edward Bates’ vision for his son was that he would work in the
small logging business with him and eventually one day would be
part owner of it and would therefore have a lifetime career and
means of making a living. However, Jeff had other plans.
“I felt like if I didn’t get out of there soon I would be stuck
there forever in the county I was raised in, and the only way out
at the time at the age of 17 was to join the military,” Bates says.
“I finally talked my parents into signing their consent and I
went to boot camp in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It was the
first time I’d ever left the state of Mississippi.”
In the National Guard Bates learned dependence and after
returning home moved out on his own and went to work in the
oilfield as a roustabout. He still dreamed of making music though
and one night he went to a local club in Columbia, MS and was
asked to sing a few songs with the band. The crowd loved him
and when he left the stage the owner offered him a full time job
playing bass guitar and singing. Even though it wasn’t his
instrument of choice, Bates quit his oilfield job the next day and
borrowed a bass guitar and began practicing.
Even though his father strongly disapproved Bates refused to
quit, eventually meeting and marrying his first wife, who was a
waitress at the club where he performed.
The marriage was short lived though, and Bates moved from
club to club, town to town, and wife to wife.
“I wouldn’t give up my music, and I wouldn’t give up playing in
bars, and I wouldn’t get a real job, and the older I got the more I
drank, and then I started smoking pot, and it was just a steady
downward spiral for about 15 years.”
After 3 divorces Bates was already married to his 4th wife
when at the age of 36 he finally decided to move to Nashville to
pursue his dream. He landed a publishing deal at Warner
Chappell Music in October of 2000 and was invited to do a
showcase for Mercury Records. There was already a buzz about
him on Music Row in a short period of time, but what nobody
knew was that he was secretly sinking deeper and deeper into
his methamphetamine addiction.
After selling everything of personal value to support his meth
habit, Jeff began stealing and on March 14th 2001, was arrested
for grand larceny and drug possession. All his dreams of a
recording contract with Mercury went up in smoke as did his
publishing contract with Warner Chappell, and instead he was
facing a possible sentence of 6 to 15 years in prison for the
Looking back Bates says,
“I know what it’s like to lose everything. To have your friends
turn their back on you. To sit in a jail cell and just wish you could
sink your feet into the grass outside one more time. To face the
face in the mirror and realize that the person you see is the
reason you are where you are---on rock bottom.”
Bates also knew though that he didn’t want to be that person
anymore, and accepted the blame for everything he’d done.
When offered a chance at an in-jail rehabilitation program called
New Avenues, he jumped at the chance, and decided he would
pour himself into recovery with as much determination as he had
put into his addiction.
“Prison for me was the perfect place to seek God, to meet
myself, to seek forgiveness, to learn to find something in myself I
could like and to change me into someone I could see in the
mirror and respect. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible either!”
Bates remembers praying one night for forgiveness and
direction from God and submitting himself to His will.
“I just sincerely told Him that whatever He wanted me to do I
was willing. To send it on, even if meant staying in jail! I knew He
had to have a plan for me, and even though I didn’t have a clue
what it was, I wanted to be who and what he wanted me to be.”
The next day after the prayer Bates received his first visit from
his publisher who told him that 3 of his songs had been recorded
by Country Legend Gene Watson, and Tracy Lawrence.
“And I knew…I knew part of what I was supposed to do. Keep
But I was secretly afraid, I’d never written without being under
the influence of drugs and alcohol. I wasn’t sure I could!”
Bates sentence was suspended to time served and one year
probation since he completed the rehab program, and he was
released after 96 days back onto the streets of Nashville. He
attended AA meetings daily, and found a job pouring concrete,
and eventually paid everyone back whom he’d stolen from.
His friend Kenny Beard loaned him a guitar to write songs with
and he was re-signed by Warner Chappell Music as a songwriter
and in January of 2002 he was invited to RCA records to
audition for and meet Joe Galante, the Chairman of RCA and
“I was honest about my addiction, the thefts, jail time,
recovery, my past, too many marriages and divorces and I think
he respected that,” Bates remembers.
Galante called Bates the same day and offered him a
It was his biggest dream come true. His first single was The Love
Song and climbed to the top 5 on the charts and Bates has been
busy ever since writing and recording songs for other artists and
himself such as Long Slow Kisses, and I Wanna Make You Cry,
and the story in song of his own addiction, One Second Chance.
Bates is currently signed with the independent label Black
River Music Group and his first single Don’t Hate Me For Loving
You was #1 on the video charts for 9 weeks in 2008 on
The video for his current single, One Thing has just been
filmed and can be seen on GACTV and CMTpure and his single
entitled He Wasn’t Like Us has recently reached #19 on the
Christian Country Charts!
For a true story of inspiration, redemption, courage, and
faith, in the down to earth open and honest words of the man
who lived and experienced them, have Country Music Artist and
inspirational and motivational speaker Jeff Bates speak at your