San Francisco, CA. Yes, really S.F. proper, not a phony
suburb like Hayward or Concord--cities where people try
to fool natives into thinking they are real "City" people
(Sunset boy, St. Cecilia, S.I.)
When did you begin seriously listening to Top 40 radio?
At probably around eight or nine; it's what I used
to go to sleep to. The music conjured up dreams that anything
was possible, that all was within reach, with whomever I
wanted to be with.
What station and where?
KYA, KEWB, and even earlier KOBY, all in San Francisco.
I was then, and still am now, a sucker for good Top 40 "jocks,"
some of whom are still around today: people like Ron Lyons
and Ron Reynolds, Casey Kasem, Tommy Saunders. The list,
no hyperbole, is really endless. I could find something
entertaining about all of them!
For better or worse, earliest songs etched in your memory?
I think the songs that are the earliest recollections
are the tunes that were "just out of reach." By that I mean
the records that were perhaps favorites of an older sister
(like I had) or of a group of kids who had you by about
four years or so. You would watch these older kids at events
like school or family picnics, and you'd think that someday
you might be like them as well. It was Skip and Flip doing
"Cherry Pie." Ron Holden with "I Love You So," Rick Nelson's
Lonesome Town." Man, this is tough--you know The Big Fella
If stranded in the jungle, ten songs you would take:
Only ten? Got to have Bob Kuban's "The Cheater" (the
song I come on to when I do Letterman), "Love Makes the
World 'Go Round" by Deon Jackson, "Who do You Love?" by
the Sapphires, anything by Mitch Ryder, any of the hits
by Bill Deal and The Rhondells--"What Kind of Fool" (perhaps
"May I"), "Kind of a Drag" by the Buckinghams (a close second
is "Don't You Care"). Joe Tarantino of the Vandals version
of the Rascals' "A Girl Like You," "Mony, Mony" by ONLY
Tommy James and the Shondells (the other versions totally
blow), and the eclectic Big Fella with "Smokin'Gun" by Robert
Cray and "Get it Started, Start a Fire" by Graham Parker.
Tha's 10, but I didn't even touch on my intimate feelings
for sleazy chick rock like Heart and Taylor Dayne! First
few records owned and why: For some reason, I realy dug
Jimmie Rodgers when I was a kid; I bought "Oh, Oh, I'm Fallin'
in Love Again" and "Women From Liberia." Weird because I
never cared much for folk-rock, and certainly was never
a just plain "folk" fan. His songs had a kind of "rallying"
quality to them--they had key changes, and he was a nice
tenor. My sister Nancy taught me how to slow dance (be nice!)
to a record that I bought by The Fireflies called "You Were
Mine." Oh, and I really liked Bobby Rydell and bought "Wild
One" (the "A" side), but the "B" side "Little Bitty Girl"
was way better. Bobby Rydell was for that time, probably
the best pure singer, and a very close second as an entertainer
to Bobby Darin. I also loved "Let's Twist Again" and early
on also bought "Witch Doctor." I guess because I thought
it was funny. David Seville (Ross Bagdasarian) also wrote
"C'mon-a-My House" for Rosemary Clooney--Big Fella as Casey
One Song, a Hit the first time you heard it and why:
"Uptight" by Little Stevie Wonder (one of my answers should
be short) because of those great horns and the lyric: "She's
one pearl of a girl I guess that's what you might say, I
guess her folks brought her up that way."
First trace of show business in your blood:
When I sat down on Santa's lap at St. Cecilia's in
kindergarten, and he asked me what I wanted to be when I
grew up said "a constable" because that's what cops on "Lassie"
were called, and all my friends said firemen or policemen
for their answers. I got a big laugh because no one could
figure out what I meant. In second place would be when I
would take pans out of my mother's cabinets, fake strum
on them like they were banjoes and say: " Look Mommy, I'm
Rusty Draper." Huge laughs.
First performance in front of a captive audience:
I always did impressions of teachers, coaches, everybody.
In grammar school, I did a dead-on imitation of a priest
in front of the whole eighth grade and he walked in and
caught me. I didn't care because he knew I was doing it
great. This guy later became the first of many well-known
clergy-molesters. I wasn't great at doing that part of the
impression, however. Later on in high school, I did my favorite
impression of Vince Tringali at probably three sports rallies
in a row in front of about 1000 guys when I was at S.I.
It was quite a rush. After that, I had the bug.
Between the ages of 6 and 16 what was your favorite radio
From 6 to about 14, it was KSFO because of the personalities,
not so much the music. It was more a station your parents
listened to. At KSFO they had the market down, broadcast
the Giants games, and had memorable air personalities--Don
Sherwood, Jim Lange, Carter B. Smith, et.al. The softball
games they put on (the KSFO No-Stars vs. Pro Players) drew
a ton of people at the Cow Palace. When I got to high school,
it was definitely KFRC: tight production, slick jocks, cool
contests. KYA had Gene Nelson, Russ Syracuse, and some others,
but KFRC was King.
Between the ages of 6 and 16 your average daily exposure
I listened when I got up, after school, and still at
night in my room--probably 6 hours daily.
Ulterior uses of music:
(this one's for Julio but if you can answer it too)
I know I can never top Julio"s "House of Candles" story,
and I know music must have been involved in that. The only
thaing that comes to mind is not really music, but those
extremely lame "spoken word" records that Rod McKuen used
to do, like "The Sea", etc. I remember taking a prom date
to see him at Basin Street West on Broadway, thinking I
might get some action, but myself and the other guys in
our group just ending up laughing our asses off at how corny
it seemed to be.
Name of first band?
Are you nuts? BWGP. Unless you count the Average Garage
Band we called ourselves when BWGP had to play extra sets
in Indianapolis and Carolina!
Musical repertoire of first band?
Actually, I'll correct the last answer with the St.
Cecilia Grammar School Band. I played drums and later trombone.
The repertoire included "Cowboy Serenade," "Blue Moon" and
Earliest musical influences and why:
I always liked Ricky Nelson. He could sort of halfway
act, and he was totally underrated as a singer. Gene Ptiney
was a favorite because of his voice and great songwriting
abilities, Roy Orbison too. It's kind of how I look at most
things: I admire perfomrers who are multi-purpose, who are
not only talented but are functional and interesting.
Between ages of 6 and 16 favorite comedians?
This one's rally in my wheelhouse: Jackie Gleason, Johnny
Carson and a ton of impressionists: John Byner (who did
a great Jessel!), Frank Gorshin, oh, and I REALLY liked
Burns and Schreiber--the guys who did the cabdriver routine.
I saw them "live" for $2.00 when I was a senior in high
Punch line of earliest joke you can recall:
Either "...I'm going as fast as I can" or "...I thought
you said PING PONG balls".
Who or what influenced your sense of humor?
My mom and dad and my catholic friends in high school
and grammar school. My mom always said: "Rob, you ALWAYS
have to be making fun, don't you?" Well, yes, exactly, mom.
There is no humor unless someone is getting ripped. And
that's what we learned growning up. I think my dad who is
86 still gets a tremendous kick out of the fact that I give
him a ton of crap, that I imitate him all the time--it keeps
him alive, makes him know I give a shit about him. How did
you first hear the name BWGP? I'm a bit hazy as to which
recollection comes first, but as you might know, I was at
Cal, and the band originated at St. Mary's. Being a big
radio fan of Terry McGovern's I knew that he was helping
emcee a sock hop at St. Stephen's Teen Club. I think that's
where I first heard the name. The other memory I have is
when this fifties band was really packing them in at the
Mother Lode on Union Street circa June 1972. Mike Haggerty,
a good friend who had been the lead guitar player with a
well-known high school band called The Humans (along with
Bill Lazzarretti) had just joined BWGP, and I wanted to
check them out. Craig and I had been good friends at S.I.
and he was also in the band so I decided to go down there.
When and why did you join BWGP?
I joined the band just ater Craig and Laz left their
first tour of duty to go to Europe. This was June of '72.
My first gig was in September of that year at Las Lomas
High. I had a fair amount of professional experience already,
I had done Cal games on KNBR as a senior, been on KALX for
a few years, emceed things on campus, done some talent shows,
etc. I loved the music, thought I could sing a little bit,
and knew I could help out if the band wanted to moved into
a more theatrical direction.
Earliest recollection of performing with BWGP?
This wasn't an actual gig but a rehearsal I think we did
at Holy Name's gym--not the Holy Name in Oakland, but the
grammar school in the Avenues--Hag's neighborhood. We were
just screwing around and Jerry and Hag thought I could sing
the higher harmony they were looking for on some tunes--that
made me feel like I could hit the pitching vocally!
Most desperate BWGP moment:
At the time there were many: some just seen funnier in retrospect.
Being on the road in Ohio with no gigs, and Julio and I
playing pool and foosball to avoid calls from home, getting
a horseshit review from the Vancouver papers the first time
we were there under the category of "desperate but hilarious".
Johnny taking a leak out of a moving station wagon in Ohio,
and the cops catching us three states later! This is a category
that will have to be updated continuously!
Most embarrassing moment performing with BWGP:
Again many: the time we played at a car show at the
Cow Palace, and we (foolishly)attempted a sketch involving
Wally and me. Some guy yells: "Kick his ass, Moose". How
about the Big Fella sign falling over and breaking during
a show? How about Wally singing an Al Jolson song in blackface
in the Atlanta Underground to an all black audience?
Fondest recollection of BWGP:
It's more of a proudest memory: When we came together like
people who generally had fondness for each other to sing
"Oh How Happy" and other tunes for Johnny's funeral. That's
when I realized we had something worth preserving. there
are a ton of other memories that are not as bittersweet.
Anything that involved Gary and me driving together-we simply
would laugh our asses off; we would make weird games that
were hilarious, I'd do Don Chamberlain impressions...the
time outside of a gas station in the midwest, it's 3am Julio's
sacked out in the back of the station wagon, looking like
a corpse, and when Gary came out of the can, I was kneeling
down praying like in front of a coffin.
Elvis Camp, which tore up my voice as George C. Scott,
being Buddy Holly's agent, Neil Diamond, the O.J. Jeopardy
sketch, Raymond Burr on the bench, Jose and Rene, and one
no one will have picked: the very funny Rod Stewart, Jr.
bit. I still love doing Bandstand and Duffy, but I get the
biggest kick out of the fresher stuff Gary writes.
Not so finest sketches:
You know I don't care about being politically correct, but
there isn't much I haven't cared for. Besides our "sound"
getting better over the years, we have gotten way better
at getting rid of stuff that doesn't "play" well, so not
a lot of crappy stuff comes to mind.
Weirdest BWGP moment (on or off stage):
Again, as you can see I'm having a hard time being
brief, but this is tough! How about playing across the lanes
of a bowling alley for Don Chamberlain's California Girls
when he worked for KNEW and sold "Making Love Body Lotion?"
How about one of my first gigs at Latitude 38 in Sausalito,
and that guy Matt something gave out those phallic suckers
to entice people to see the show? Wait a minute, how about
when we tied a string to a five dollar bill to see if Mike
Oster would go for it? Playing the Playboy Club in Chicago
and Wally as Dusty Rhodes pissing the patrons off while
they were eating by sprinkling their food with talcum powder?
do you explain your role in BWGP the 19th Annual Farwell
Performance to new friends or colleagues who have never
heard of BWGP and didn't know you have a secret closet life?
Easy. I tell them that this is an event where it is
impossible for you NOT to have a good time. I think people
who don't know me from Butch Whacks, but from standup or
announcing or hosting stuff come away more impressed. It's
a terrifc forum for me, I get to do everything I know how
to do in one place with people that I like--and it's the
camaraderie that shows. People simply love seeing performers
enjoy themselves. As a host/producer at events, I like to
see finished product turn out well. And I get to have that
feeling--everything from acting in sketches, to getting
individual laughs, to singing leads and hopefully making
somebody else's song sound good doing background. WANTING
it to be right is what sets us apart! See you in June!