Marion Bandy was born in Meridian, Mississippi, hometown of the country singer Jimmie Rodgers. He later stated: "My grandfather worked on the railroads with Jimmie Rodgers. He was the boss of the railway yard in Meridian and Jimmie Rodgers worked for him. He said that he played his guitar all the time between work."
He was nicknamed Moe by his father when he was a child. The Bandy family moved to San Antonio, Texas when Moe was six. His mother played piano and sang. Bandy was taught to play the guitar by his father who had a country band called the Mission City Playboys, but made little use of the ability until he was in his teens. His father's wish that Moe also play the fiddle never materialized.
He made some appearances with the Mission City Playboys but generally during his high school years he showed little interest in music and a great deal of interest in rodeos. He tried bronco-busting and bull riding and by the time he was 16, both he and his brother Mike were competing in rodeos all over Texas.
In 1962, tired of the bruises and fractured bones, he began to pursue a career in country music. He assembled a band that he called Moe And The Mavericks and found work playing small beer joints, honky-tonks, and clubs over a wide area around San Antonio. When he was young he tried to sound like Hank Williams and George Jones - "I even had my hair cut short like his."
Although work was plentiful, the pay was poor and during the day he worked for his father as a sheet metal worker, a job that lasted for 12 years, during which time he made a few recordings for various small labels. In 1964, he had his first single, "Lonely Girl", on the San Antonio based Satin label, but it made little impression. He did manage to get his band a residency on a local television program called Country Corner and in this capacity, he provided backing for several touring stars.
In 1973, he went solo when record producer Ray Baker, who had listened to his demos, suggested that he come to Nashville, Tennessee. Moe Bandy obtained a loan and recorded a song called "I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs Today". Initially released on Footprint Records with a limited pressing of 500 copies, it soon came to the attention of the Atlanta-based GRC label. In March 1974, it entered the US country chart, eventually peaking at number 17. Other minor hits followed, including "It Was Always So Easy To Find An Unhappy Woman (Till I Started Looking For Mine)" and "Don't Anyone Make Love At Home Anymore".
In 1975, a song written by his friend Lefty Frizzell and Whitey Shaffer gave him a number 7 country hit, firmly establishing his reputation. "Bandy The Rodeo Clown" was to become not only one of his own favorites but also one of his most popular recordings. (Shaffer was greatly amused by the way Bandy pronounced woman as "woh-min", and began to send him songs with the "woh-min" in them.)