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The Bobs History

The Bobs

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Based in: San Francisco, United States.

Members: Angie Doctor, Richard Greene, Matthew Stull, Dan Schumacher
Former Members: Amy Engelhardt, Gunnar Madsen, Janie Scott, Lori Rivera

Western Onion went broke. Say what? Yep, they went broke, leaving all the singing telegram deliverers broke and unemployed. That was the Great San Francisco Singing Telegram Depression of 1981. Two of the unemployed were Gunnar Madsen and Matthew Stull. They placed a twenty-five-words-or-less ad in the free classifieds, looking for a bass singer. They got one call, from Richard 'Bob' Greene, who was not only a bass but a songwriter and recording engineer.

They rehearsed for six months. Gunnar remembers that their first gig was at an open mike in a Cuban restaurant where they were shuffled ahead of the line waiting flamingo guitarists by a manager aware of the patron's acute flamenco ennui. They sang "Psycho Killer", "A White Sportcoat" and a few others that night. The audience loved them.

At first all the arranging that Gunnar and Richard did was cover tunes. As they began writing their own songs, the need for another voice became an imperative. Auditions found Janie 'Bob' Scott. Lots of local appearances caused the stage show to gel. A record contract with a local record company, Kaleidoscope Records, produced the first album, The Bobs. A Grammy nomination for their arrangement of "Helter Skelter," a nation wide tour, and soon they were on radio, then TV, eventually traveling to Europe doing huge festivals and concerts.

When the first Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards were released in 1992, The Bobs won Best Arrangement for "Helter Skelter." (they also won the category - Signed Professional Best Album, 1992, and ever since, they've won CARA Awards too numerous to mention) The description of the song which accompanied the award was the following. "Rather than translating instrumental parts to voices or relying on cliched syllables and voicings, Gunnar and Richard created a new vocabulary of sounds and textures. The arrangement deconstructs the song line by line, transforming the Beatles classic into an a cappella, post-modern performance art piece." That's a definitive description, accurate too!

Another notable avenue of expression for the Bobs has been collaboration with dance companies. Their first was the commissioning of a series of songs, "The Laundry Cycle" for the Oberlin Dance Collective. Later that year (1987) after returning from their first European tour they met the dance troupe named Momix, who later changed their name to ISO. Improvising with them was the source of creation for a show. Their continued work with ISO for a number of years was noticed sufficiently that they received a commission from Lincoln Center, a one-hour presentation on PBS and a spot in the Smithsonian Institute's Museum of American History! That's quite an honor for the only New Wave a cappella group in history. It's also a testimonial to just how important the Bobs have been to the flourishing world of contemporary a cappella music.They are among the elite handful of totally original creators who blaze the path which so many others follow it becomes a freeway.

In 1990, after ten years of bob bob bobbing along, touring began to feel flat to Gunnar who decided to retire (to the shock and dismay of fans). Could the group continue? The answer was an emphatic yes. Joe "Bob" Finetti added vocal percussion, sound effects and pyrotechnics never heard before during his 13-year tenure with the group, and in 2004, Dan "Bob" Schumacher, Tallest Bob Ever, took over the role of resident groove-master and oral instrumentalist. And so the Bobs have continued to add to their musical palette of possibilities as no other group. Another apparent disaster was the departure of Janie 'Bob' Scott whose shoes were briefly filled by Lori "Bob" Rivera. Since 1998, Amy "Bob" Engelhardt has commandeered the femme-Bob slot, packing a pistol wit, years of musical, comedy and theatrical experience, and numerous haircolors. Witnessing these four amazing personalities and their combined musical wizardry, audiences tend to "spontaneously combust" (to quote a Bobs song) with alarming regularity. The Bergen Record/Home News Tribune calls The Bobs "One of the most entertaining acts on the live circuit today."

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NPR, The Bobs: Irreverent A Cappella

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