By Joe Gagliardo
Growing up in a musical family and playing the accordion starting at a young age, Bob had a head start in being able to read the bass cleff. He had an extra bonus because his teacher was Harry Grebb (saxophonist with the Woody Herman Band, and father of Marty Grebb (The Exceptions, The Buckinghams, Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, and more), who inspired him to be a musician.
When Bob got his first bass around age 12, a black Supro, he was able to fill a spot where a local Chicago band needed a bass player. His lessons with Harry Grebb continued, but not in the usual way. Since Bob could
read music, Harry brought in a drummer, Harry played Piano, and they played The Real Book, which is a collection of jazz standards.
Bob was able to ultimately trade up for a Rickenbacker bass, like the one Peter Cetera (The Exceptions, Chicago, solo) was playing at the time in The Exceptions, one of the great 60’s Chicago-based bands, who did a show-stopping cover of The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” and inspired many bands and musicians in Chicago clubs.
An opening gig with Sha Na Na ultimately led to an association with renowned guitarist, Elliott Randall, and a four-year stint with Asylum recording artist, Tim Moore. Returning to Chicago, Bob was a member of the band that was to be the next big thing—Scott Wilk and the Walls, which included Tommy Scheckel on drums (The Buckinghams, and currently, Paul Revere’s Raiders). Though signed to Warner Brothers, and despite the positive hype, success eluded the band.
When one of the main studio bass players in Chicago went on tour with Pat Metheny, another spot opened up, and Bob performed on many major commercial jingles over a 20-year period, using his trusty 1959 Fender Precision bass. The studio work gave him the ability to support his family, and he could still get involved with other musical projects at night, and in his spare time.
One of those projects was with violinist, Jerry Goodman (The Flock, Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Dregs, Solo and currently, Dinosaur Exhibit). Another was with Joe Thomas who was producing Gospel records, in addition to producing some of Brian Wilson’s records.
Around 1998, Joe Thomas asked Bob if he would like to play on a few tracks that were being finished up for Brian Wilson’s next album, and Bob readily agreed. That led to a tour in 1999, and a musical relationship that spans over 20 years, and continues today.
During Bob’s time with Brian Wilson, he has continued to work on additional projects, including with Wayne Healy from the Freddie Jones Band.
While Bob has a variety of basses, including multiple 5-string Laklands and Fenders, true to The Beach Boys’ sound and 60’s/70’s image, Bob’s touring basses are Fenders, and, like Carol Kaye, one of Bob’s bass heroes, Bob plays with a pick to create definition, because that is the sound Brian likes.
One can only imagine the depth of learning that was required, the challenges and the unbridled joy, when working with the genius of Brian Wilson, who has written an unbelievable catalog of songs, and has the layers of the music in these songs in his head.
Also, many of the bass lines in those Beach Boys’ songs are iconic, and need to be played like the record. Just a few examples, “Good Vibrations”, “California Girls,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” and “Help Me Rhonda,” to cite a few.
Dig Bob on…
“Don’t Worry Baby”—Billy Joel with the Brian Wilson Band https://youtu.be/1zSbHADm32o
“Good Vibrations” live on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno https://youtu.be/HPIP6K12wuk
Catch Bob with Brian Wilson, on what seems like a continual tour, which we are thankful for!