Bob Roth – Rough an’ Ready

We had a special treat when local Fallbrook resident Bob Roth and his wife Olivia stopped by Sonic Rocket for a chat. Bob had contacted us about converting some old LP’s to CD and had a very interesting story to tell.

Back in 1958, he was a Junior in High School in Chappaqua, New York. He and his High School pals put on an original musical at their school. It featured five professional multi-instrumentalists playing banjo, accordion, and so much more! The show was called “Rough and Ready.” The lead role was Annabelle played by the lovely Beebe Besch. Beebe went on to be a professional actress but, unfortunately, passed away in 1992. She had several solos in the performance. Bob played her father, “the Colonel” and had one solo in the production.

The vinyl that Bob brought in was interesting in itself. Bob had carefully preserved the recordings for 60 years. He also brought in couple of smaller discs of songs he had written and performed in his youth. Bob told us he “got hold of a bass fiddle” and started playing small venues in Greenwich Village, New York at the time when Bob Dylan and many of the Beat Generation poets were roaming the streets. Bob said he never got to meet Dylan as “those guys played the better clubs… we were in the dive bars.” Allen Ginsberg was a big part of the scene in the Village, as was William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and other poets frequented many bars in the area. Several famous abstract expressionists were also frequent visitors and collaborators of the beats including Jackson Pollock (Jack the Dripper), Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline. It’s fun to imagine Bob lugging his “bass fiddle” down Bleecker street with the sound of Bobby Zimmerman’s harmonica playing in the background.

Bob shared a story of one of his tunes “Starvation Creek.” He went to Officer Candidate School in 1963 and got orders to the Philippines. He drove across the country and stopped in Utah to gas up and get something to drink. He struck up a conversation with an “old geezer” at the counter. They were looking at the map and there was a dry river on it called “Starvation Creek.” The story goes that a young couple got caught in a freak snow storm and did not survive the Winter. Bob found out later that the whole story was a myth as only a couple of cows starved but he knew immediately this was the stuff songs are made of. When the Spirit moved him, he pulled out his Martin 0017 guitar and wrote a catchy tune about it. This tune, and several others were on one of the smaller discs. These discs were unlike any I had seen. They were smaller than a standard “LP” and VERY heavy. Only one side of the vinyl had the ‘grooves’ normally associated with a vinyl record. I didn’t get a chance to ask, but it may have been made in one of those “recording booths” where want to be songwriters could put some money in the slot, sing their song and out would pop a record. Bob told us between OCS and deploying for duty he had two months to kill so he “went around and tried to peddle the demos to all the producers scattered around Broadway and Fortieth Street in Manhattan.” Bob even wrote a song for Peter, Paul and Mary but it was never recorded. PP&M’s loss… Bob’s song is fun and would have fit right in to their repertoire.

It was a real pleasure speaking with Bob and Olivia. They’re both charming people and it is our pleasure to help him out restoring this wonderful music. He hopes to reconnect with some of his old High School pals and send them a copy of the CD once we get it finished up. While I’m sure many are no longer here to enjoy it, those that are will be delighted to hear it again after so many years.

It’s always fun to talk to chat with a fellow musician, especially one with so many great stories. It was easy to see, if his health didn’t prevent it, he would have loved to whip out his Martin and jam with us, or sit down and collaborate on a new tune together. Music is magical. Differences like, race, religion, age, or sex just disappear as it brings people together in a conversation of the soul. We will post some of Bob’s music on our website. Be sure to stop in for a listen.

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