Livingston was born in San Antonio, Texas, but was raised in Lubbock. By the mid-1960s, he was active on the Lubbock music scene that was blossoming at the time along with several other Texas music artists such as Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, Jesse Taylor and David Halley. Livingston sharpened his skills as a guitarist and singer while attending Lubbock High and Texas Tech University. In 1968, he opened a folk club in Lubbock called The Attic, and shortly afterwards left Lubbock to pursue his own career in music.
One of Livingston's first shows upon leaving Lubbock was to play for room, board and tips in Red River, New Mexico. There, he met a folk group called Three Faces West, whose members included Texas artist Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rick Fowler and Wayne Kidd. While playing in Aspen, Colorado in 1970, Livingston was discovered by talent scout and artist agent, Randy Fred, and was signed to Capitol Records. After meeting fellow Texas musician Michael Murphey in California, Livingston moved to Wrightwood, California and collaborated in a songwriting venture with Murphey, forming a music publishing company called Mountain Music Farm with other songwriters Roger Miller and Guy Clark. Livingston's Capitol Records contract was cancelled due to a company personnel change, and he subsequently opted to join Michael Murphey's band and play bass, touring and recording together on Murphey's classic albums Geronimo's Cadillac and Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir.
By 1971, Livingston had relocated to Austin, Texas and was playing in a backing band that switched between Michael Murphey and Jerry Jeff Walker. Eventually, Murphey and Walker's interchangeable band condensed into their own group, called The Lost Gonzo Band. With Murphey and Walker, The Lost Gonzo Band helped bring about the progressive country genre, and along with the redneck rock and outlaw country movements, defined a distinct "Austin Sound". Livingston and the Lost Gonzo Band lent their talents to Jerry Jeff Walker for his seminal album Viva Terlingua, among many other records in Walker's career. Within time, the group achieved success in their own right and pursued a career for several years, signing contracts for three albums with Capitol Records and MCA. The original Lost Gonzo Band members were Bob Livingston, John Inmon, Gary P. Nunn, Tomas Ramirez, Kelly Dunn and Donny Dolan. Dubbed "The Phoenix Band of Austin", The Lost Gonzo Band has reappeared time and again for 40 years under their own name (as well as backing up various Texas artists) at the Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin City Limits, Texas Connection, Kerrville Folk Festival, Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic, South by Southwest Music Festival and Austin Aqua Fest. Austin, Texas has won national recognition as the premier place to watch live music performances, a city now known as "The Live Music Capital of the World."
Livingston and Murphey were largely responsible for the "Cosmic Cowboy" term that arose in the Austin music scene. Murphey called Livingston by the nickname "Cosmic Bob", perhaps due to the mystical nature of some of the earlier songs of Murphey's work, and in reference to Murphey's song "Cosmic Cowboy". According to several accounts, Bob and Michael Murphey were on a roof at night, and Bob stared up at the stars and said "I just want to be a cosmic cowboy." Murphey penned the lyrics on the spot: "I just want to be a cosmic cowboy, I just want to ride and rope and hoot. I just want to be a cosmic cowboy, a supernatural country rockin' galoot."
Bob Livington's songs have appeared in The Lost Gonzo Band's albums, his solo records, and in Jerry Jeff Walker's albums throughout Walker's career. Songs for Walker include "Public Domain" (1975 Ridin' High) (co-written with Gary P. Nunn), "Head Full of Nothin'" (co-written with Rick Fowler), and "It's a Good Night for Singing" (1976 It's a Good Night for Singing), "Roll on Down the Road" (1977 A Man Must Carry On), "Bittersweet" (1981 Reunion), "Gonzo Compadres" (1993 Viva Luckenbach), "Life's Too Short" (1996 Scamp), "Wanted for Love" co-written with Lane Bybee (1998 Cowboy Boots and Bathing Suits).
In 2004, American rap artist Lloyd Banks of G-Unit recorded a song titled "Warrior" on his debut album The Hunger for More. The rapper's song contained a music sample of "Hold On", a song written by Livingston and Ray Wylie Hubbard and recorded by the Lost Gonzo Band but never formally released. "Warrior" reached #1 on the Billboard 200 charts and went platinum.
Livingston's song "Love Cannot Be Broken" was in the soundtrack of Nobelity- a documentary about the world as seen through the eyes of various Nobel laureates, directed and produced by Turk Pipkin. 2014 saw two recordings of Livingston's song "On A Dream With You" by Texas artists, Walt and Tina Wilkins, on their new "Be Mine" CD and by beloved Texas turned Santa Fe singer/song stylist, Bill Hearne, on his latest CD, "All That's Real."
"Cowgirl's Lullabye", written by Livingston and Andy Wilkinson was featured in independent film, La Barracuda produced in Austin. It was also recorded by Wilkinson and appears on Livingston's new CD, "Up The Flatland Stairs."
Livingston has toured abroad since 1982 playing in the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, France, Canada and Mexico. Beginning in 1987, Livingston began a series of music tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Acting as an ambassador of American music, he has been sent repeatedly to over 25 different countries throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, with an aim to promote goodwill and cross-cultural understanding through musical exchange. Livingston has toured Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Morocco, Tunisia and Angola, among others. These tours began as a solo act, but eventually included such musicians as long-time associate and guitarist John Inmon, fiddler Richard Bowden, and Livingston's son, guitarist and composer, Tucker Livingston. Livingston and his son gave performances and workshops on the art of guitar playing, songwriting craft, and a history of Texas music and folklore. The Livingstons regularly invited local musicians onstage to collaborate with their indigenous instruments. What followed were concerts that demonstrated to public, school and state audiences alike a sense of unity and brotherhood through music. Editing and pre-production of a documentary film of these travels are currently in the works. Though Livingston plays original music on these tours, he also teaches audiences around the world how to yodel, sing Hank Williams songs, and perform Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" yielding a kaleidoscope of imagery that they have seldom encountered. Livingston has played and collaborated with groups as diverse as Nepal's, Sur Sudha, The Royal Omani Orchestra, with Ood players in the Middle East, Geisha singers in Vietnam, sitar and tabla players in India and Angolan drum and choir ensembles.
In 2000, Livingston created his own company, Texas Music International, an organization dedicated to bringing different musics of the world together for human and cultural harmony. His first venture was to create a multi-cultural group of musicians from Texas and India called Cowboys & Indians. Cowboys & Indians is supported by the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Economic Development Department of Austin, give public performances and give educational and entertaining workshops and performances in Texas schools and theaters. Mixed instrumentation, music and cultural lore fuse with Native American, Texas folk and Indian themes that include Bharatanatyam dance, Native American flute and story song, Hindu mythology and cowboy yodeling. Based in Austin, members of Cowboys & Indians have included John Inmon, Oliver Rajamani, Richard Bowden, Tucker Livingston, Bradley Kopp, Karen Mal, Paul Pearcy and Bharatnatyam dancer Anu Naimpally.
Livingston's discography spans beyond progressive country, singer-songwriter and rock music to such myriad recordings as film music for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, environmental and peace activist albums, and a children's record on A Gentle Wind called, Open The Window. During his career, Bob has performed with a long list of musicians that reads as a who's who of Americana music: Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Martin Murphey, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Willie Nelson, Willis Alan Ramsey, Leon Russell, and Garth Brooks. He has acted as Chairman of the Austin Music Commission, and serves on the Board of Directors at the Texas Music Museum. In 2009, Bob Livingston completed another tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department to France, Switzerland and several nations in Africa and in February 2017 played in Karachi, Pakistan. He currently lives in Austin and continues his work with Cowboys & Indians, The Lost Gonzo Band and his solo career. Livingston's newest CD, Gypsy Alibi was co-produced by Livingston and Lloyd Maines and released on January 27, 2011 on New Wilderness Records. On July 9, 2011, Gypsy Alibi, won "Album of the Year" at the Texas Music Awards. Livingston's latest CD Up The Flatland Stairs, a collection of songs for Howlin' Dog Records, is set to be released in the summer of 2017.
Bob Livingston is currently writing a book for Texas Tech University Press about his life and travels through the lens of his music career. Expected publishing date, 2018.Waking Up (Wilderness); 1981
Signs of Life (Wilderness); 1988
Open the Window (Gentle Wind); 1996
Mahatma Gandhi & Sitting Bull (Vireo); 2003
Everything Is All Right (TMI); 2004
Cowboys & Indians (Vireo); 2007
Original Spirit (Vireo); 2008
Gypsy Alibi (New Wilderness Records); 2011
Bob Livingston at the Kerrville Folk Festival (FestivaLink); 2011
Up The Flatland Stairs (Howlin' Dog Records); (Coming in 2017)
The Lost Gonzo Band (MCA); 1972
Thrills (MCA); 1976
Signs of Life (Capitol); 1978
Rendezvous (Vireo); 1991
Hands of Time (Vireo); 1995
Dead Armadillos (Demon/Edsel); 1998
Jerry Jeff Walker (MCA); 1972
Viva Terlingua! (MCA); 1973
Walker’s Collectibles (MCA); 1974
Ridin’ High (MCA); 1975
It’s a Good Night for Singin’ (MCA); 1976
A Man Must Carry On (MCA); 1977
Great Gonzos (MCA); 1991
Navaho Rug (Rycodisk); 1991
Hill Country Rain (Rycodisk); 1992
Viva Luckenbach (Rycodisk); 1993
Christmas Gonzo Style (Rycodisk); 1994
Night After Night (Tried ‘n True); 1995
Scamp (Tried ‘n True); 1996
Cowboy Boots and Bathing Suits (Tried ‘n True); 1997
Lone Wolf: The Best of Jerry Jeff Walker (Elektra); 1998
Gypsy Songman (Tried ‘n True); 1999
Gonzo Stew (Tried ‘n True); 2001
Too Old to Change (Tried ' True) 2003
It's A Good Night For Singin' & Contrary To Ordinary Plus (Raven); 2013
Geronimo’s Cadillac (A&M); 1972
Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir (A&M); 1973
Something About the Night (Renegade); 1979
Loco Gringo's Lament (Dejadisc); 1994
Seekers of the Fleece (Golden Egg); 1975
Ballad of the West (Golden Egg); 2001
Complete Works (Golden Egg); 2004
Steven Fromholz (Capitol); 1977
Frummox II (ABC Probe);1982
Texas Oasis 1980 (Live Oak)
Better Things to Do 1986 (Live Oak)
Audubon Adventures 1987 (Live Oak)
Have to Have a Habitat 1995 (Live Oak)
Friend of the River 2001 (Live Oak)
Yella Rose (with Marce Lacouture)(Rainlight); 1985
Own & Own (Demon); 1989
Own the Way Over Here (Sugar Hill); 1993
The Moral Minority (Fate); 1995
Carry On (Greenhorse); 2000
Three Days (Universal); 2001
Under My Hat (1996)
Peter Caulton: Hard Road Tough Country (1998)
Cory Morrow: Outside the Lines (2002)
Mark David Manders: Highs and Lows (2002)
Owen Temple: General Store (1997)
Owen Temple: Two Thousand Miles (2007)
Larry Joe Taylor: Heart of the Matter (2000)
Various Artists Kerrville Folk Festival: Early Years 1972-1981
Various Artists: Stranger Than Fiction (1999)
Chris Wall: Cowboy Nation (1999)
Susan Herndon "All Fall Down" (2012)