Missing Bob French

I just finished being interviewed by OffBeat’s contributing editor, John Swenson, for our upcoming December issue, in which we celebrate 25 years of publishing OffBeat.

It was a walk down memory lane, for sure (good memories and bad), but it continues to amaze one as old as myself that so much history has gone down in the last 25 years. Believe me, a quarter of a century, ain’t nothin’, time-wise.

While being interviewed by Swenson, I thought about all the times in the early days of the magazine—when I had no idea what I was doing, but trying my best to do a good job—how difficult it was to break into the ranks of the local music community.

OffBeat and I were attacked by a few people in the music community for putting together projects that were perceived to be successful (thank God they thought what we did was successful, because I was living on popcorn and water in those days, taking the bus to work, and really struggling just to keep the lights on).  That was my first introduction to how petty and jealous some people in local music could be towards someone who they perceived was an outsider and somehow “threatening.”  It happened a few times, but once I realized that I was achieving the dream I had to have a positive impact on the local attitude towards music, and to get some recognition for local musicians and music businesses. Lesson learned. You have to take the high road and ignore people who are envious of your success.

Bob French

Swenson asked me about what he thought my legacy would be, and I guess to say that OffBeat has had an impact on the city and the rest of the state relative to music. At least music is on the radar now, and it never used to be, 25 years ago.

I had forgotten that I only started writing the “Mojo Mouth” column some eight years or so into the history of the magazine, and I’ve certainly written a lot of criticisms since I started writing my column regarding the way government treats musicians and artists. I heard the late, great Bob French rail about a lot of people, musicians and establishments during our relationship. I liked his style.

Swenson also pointed out that OffBeat has served as a record of the lives of many musicians who are no longer with us, which is wonderful to know, and that includes Bob French. I’m glad to have known Bob, and I’ll miss his curmudgeonly, critical presence in my life. I so liked Bob because there was just no bullshit with him: he had an opinion, and he would let you know exactly what he thought without any artifice or thought of manipulating your opinion. He said what he thought, his listener be damned, which of course, got him in a lot of trouble. He was what he was, and you took him at face value. I can relate, if you know what I mean.

Have missed you for a while now, my man. Am glad you’ve passed on to a better place, and may your no-BS approach to life live on in those you’ve left behind. Mojo Mouth thanks you for the inspiration.

 

  • dagot

    I met Bob once. I was coming to NOLA and after listening to him on WWOZ, I reached out to see if he’d sit for an interview. What transpired was one of THE BEST days of my 54 years. Half-way through the day, I told Bob I’d changed my mind, there was no way I could write about the day. EVERYONE would contact Bob for the same first-hand native tour. I didn’t want to burden him w/ that. And that was BEFORE he took me to Dr. John’s house!!! (“I gotta drop of a CD at Mac Rebennack’s house.” I acted like I did that every day!) I met Giant French this June and told him the story. He gave me the family’s permission to share my tales of Bob. RIP Bob, the suffering is over.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tami.curtisellis.7 Tami Curtis-Ellis

    Hear Hear… Wonderful words Jan…

  • Harry Ballard

    I met Bob French at WWOZ. I mentioned that I have a son who is a young trumpet player. He looked at me and said, “bring him to Donna’s and I’ll let him play with ma band”. Mike was bout 12 years old at the time. Well, my wife and I brought him over one, think it was a Monday, night. He was there, his brother George, Davell Crawford, Kid Chocolate and some others. Bob came over and introduced himself to us and whispered to Mike, “We’re gonna play 2 or 3 songs and then I’m gonna call you up”. He called Mike up and asked him what he wanted to play. To which he replied, “My Little Suede Shoes”(Charlie Parker). I also heard Bob say, “awe you wanna get hip on me, my band can handle it”. They played and Mike took the solo. I noticed that Kid Chocolate left the stage when Mike started soloing. So, he was on his own. He handled it well. That was the kinda of lesson you don’t get in school. Mike currently plays electric bass guitar with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.