The Bobs Are Not Your Average Bunch Of Musicians

Non-instrumental Singing Group Returns To Annapolis Area

January 09, 1991|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

There's an interesting evening of a capella music scheduled for Friday night at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, and I don't mean the "Men Without Hats" reunion tour.

Instead, it's a double bill headed by The Bobs, perhaps the country's most successful non-instrumental singing group, making their second visit to the area. They'll be working with self-styled "body musician" Keith Terry as their opening act.

The Bobs include Gunnar "Bob" Madsen, Janie "Bob" Scott, Matthew "Bob" Stull, and Richard "Bob" Greene. All experienced musicians, they make this group work by relying purely on their voices, plus intelligent lyrics, superb arrangements, and a quirky, sophisticated sense of humor.

An indicative sample of this would be the name of the group, which Scott said is a dog show acronymn for "Best Of Breed," as well as being each singer's middle name.

In the early days of the group, she explained, "Richard (Greene) was watching this dog show onTV. A lot of the animals were identified as Bobs, so he just borrowed the name."

They have performed on the Tonight Show, at New York City's Lincoln Center, at Tomorrowland in Disney World, on PBS, National Public Radio, the Smothers Brothers Show, and elsewhere.

Terry, who also describes himself as a percussionist and rhythm dancer, uses his own body and any other available surface to make music. Clapping his hands, snapping his fingers, pounding his chest, slapping his rear and stamping his feet, he skips, jumps, slides, sings, chatters and coughs his way into a style of music that is rather alien, yet compelling.

Recently back in this country from a world tour, Terry has performed with a wide variety of artists such as Bobby McFerrin, tap dancer Charles "Honi" Coles, Tex Williams, the Pickle Family Circus and the Jazz Tap Ensemble.

He also has performed at music festivals in Vienna and Budapest, on the streets of cities and villages in Indonesia and elsewhere in the Third World.

Scott joked that the Bobs came about because "none of us can sing and we all have the same middle name, so we thought, why not? Anyway, we're all too lazy to carry the instruments, so we just decided to do it this way, and it worked out."

She attributes the group's popular success to the fact that "it's the kind of singing that looks possible. Everyone basicallycan sing. Our style seems familiar and friendly to people."

Actually, said Scott, the San Francisco-based Bobs grew out of a duo that in 1980 consisted of Madsen and Stull. Originally, they got together to harmonize, more or less for the fun of it.

Pleased with their sound, they decided to advertise for a bass voice, and found Greene. The Bobs found Scott in 1982.

That year, the group was performing professionally in California. They gained a certain notoriety from thenon-instrumental way they performed material from the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin and Peggy Lee, among others.

"We do rock 'n' roll to jazz to funk," Scott said. "That's why it's so hard for us toget into the record store."

Then they started to think in terms of finding a major label for the Grammy-nominated album "The Bobs," that eventually came out in 1984.

They didn't get a Grammy, but their performances have built them a steadily growing family of fans, despite the fact that record stores are seldom certain how to file this group in their inventory.

Their most recent member is Roger Freelander, moving into Madsen's place, at least for touring purposes. Scott says that Madsen plans to continue recording with the group and write with partner, Stull.

The solo Terry is the other act on the bill that is hard to define.

A performer of "body music," Terry explained that the style "grew out of my drumming. In 1978 I started playing on my own body. I found it mobilizing."

But far from being a new idea, Terry said that "body music is my umbrella term for somethingthat probably existed centuries before people starting hollowing outlogs or hitting a couple of rocks together."

Unlike his colleagues on Friday's show, Terry says the main body of his recorded work tends to be shown on PBS or MTV. As it is so close to dance, he said, body music "tends to lend itself to video rather than audio taping."

Tickets for the show, 8 p.m. Friday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts are $12 for members at the Maryland Hall box office, and $14 for non-members.

Information: 263-5019

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