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!
Produced by Richard Bob Greene.
To find out more about The Bobs, including their tour schedule, check out www.bobs.com.