All across the U.S. Buffalo Bob has been on the road with bands for 25 years. Out of all the cities he played at over time, he decided to make St. Louis, MO his home base. Music has been his life time career since leaving the army in 1969. Having had a couple of in-between jobs from hard American labor, to an emergency medical technician, Buffalo Bob has mainly participated in the music industry. From rock bands, to show bands, to the good ole’ Blues.
Buffalo Bob has opened up for legendary acts such as; Steppen Wolf, Night Ranger, Atlanta Rhythm Section, The Guess who, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker, Anson Funderburg & The Rockets, Bugs Henderson, Son Seals, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Kansas, Black Oak Arkansas, Spencer Davis Group, Lonnie Mack, Buckwheat, Zydeco, & many more.
He has backed up, and shared the stage with artist’s such as; BO Diddley, Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson, Ronnie & The Daytona’s, The Coasters., etc.,
You can find Buffalo Bob entertaining in St. Louis, MO. At The Backstreet Jazz & Blues Night Club at the West-port Plaza. This is every Sunday night from 9 – 11:30, which is the longest running open jam session in St. Louis, MO.
Buffalo Bob is a legend in his own way as you’ve read above on who he has run with in the industry. He has settled down a bit these days, and now let’s the youngster’s sit in on Sunday night’s. Some have started sitting in at his jam at as young as 15 years old. The most of them are now grown and their musicianship has vastly improved. Some of them are pro’s now, and other’s do it as just a hobby, it’s always fun at the Sunday night jam sessions.
Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top, & Sammy Hagar, once dropped by to jam with him. That’s when he realized the word is out among the big names about The Backstreet Blues & Jazz Club Jam sessions. Hence the slogan, “It’s where the stars go to jam.”
With all the many of artist’s that he has backed up, and shared the stage with just one story strikes his memory that he says he will never forget. & I quote.
“I got a gig backing up an Elvis impersonator in Houston Texas, and backed up, The Coasters.” The Coasters, are a group from the 50’s that had several hit records such as Charlie Brown, Young Blood, Poison Ivy, etc., etc., “I was asked to back up Chuck Berry, while I was there and of course jumped at the chance of it.” He continues on, “I already knew Chuck’s Bass Player.” “There were no rehearsals of these shows, you just showed up and played them.”
“I had charts for the Coaster shows,” says Bob. He used the charts the first show, but after that he continued on while playing by ear. According to Buffalo Bob, It wasn’t difficult music.
He knew all of Chuck Berry’s tunes already by ear. This was because he learned how to play guitar by playing back old Chuck Berry records. “Of course I had no idea he would change the key from his original recordings.” He states. “I learned real fast, and on the fly so to speak.”
“On the very first show, as he got to do 4 shows in 4 days with Chuck, there he was standing in the wings behind the curtains with Chuck’s Base player, Jim Marsala. Before the stage lights came up, in the dark Bob says that Jim told him. “I’ll signal you on what key we are going into.”
As Bob had no previous rehearsals with the band, Jim was going to be way over on the opposite side of the stage from him. He quickly pointed his finger down. So what does Bob Do? He says, “The Key of D, as in down.” Then Jim says, “No the key of G for Ground.” That got Buffalo Bob cussing a bit in his head. Here he thought he was already shut down. Keep in mind they were still in the wings.
The crowd was getting anxious as was Buffalo Bob, and then Jim turned to him and said, “Now Bobby, we just left California, and some local hot-shot guitar player was in the backup band, and he kept noodling around playing single string stuff behind Chuck.” Bob says Jim pauses and continues with, “Don’t do that!” “Chuck kicked him off the stage in front of 20,000 people.”
Bob says, “Don’t worry, I know what to do.” Don’t let him fool you though he stresses that he was severely nervous thinking, “Please lord don’t let me get kicked off the stage by Chuck Berry.” There would have perhaps not have been a Buffalo Bob if that would have happened.
Then from behind the curtains an overhead intercom sounded off saying, “Take the stage please.” Out they went without hesitation.
The crowd cheering, the band in place, and Bob nervous as could be, there was still no Chuck. Buffalo Bob says he was apprehensive about him even showing up. Then standing there in the darkened stage in front of 5,000 people he started thinking, “My God is he even going to show?” Then Bam! There he was. Out comes Chuck. “The lights went up, and bam, we were off to the races.” Says Bob.
“I behaved myself,” says Bob. He played bar chords on those Chuck songs until he got cramps in his hand. “I guess I didn’t get in Chucks way, he was kind to me while we were playing his signature, Johnny B. Goode. “ Bob says, “On this last show in Houston, he kind of bounced back towards me and leaned over to me & said, ““Go ahead.” “I was startled as I didn’t know what he wanted me to do.” “Then he gestured towards the front of the stage with his guitar, and said again,” “Go ahead.” Bob hesitates for just a second as he thinks back to recollect this wonderful memory, and says. “All of a sudden I just shot out as if possessed.” “I started to duck walk across the stage while playing my best Johnny b. Goode solo.” “The crowd went nuts,” says Bob. “Then I shot back to Chuck after 12 bars, and he said.” “ Do it again, Do it again.”
“I ducked walked across the big stage again , and with the crowd of 5,000, they stood up and cheered for the little guy.” “The common man got to shine,” says Buffalo Bob. “I settled back to my stage position, and Chuck gave me a wink as he went back to the front of the stage.”
Buffalo Bob was elated, as he grew up learning his music as a teen. “I saw him in Denver Colorado way before, and I was just one in the crowd among 1,000’s.” He says, “Here, now a couple of decades later here I am backing him up in front of 5,000, and he let me do the duck walk, not once, but twice!” “Wow!”
“So after my big moment, and the crowd is still cheering, I thought I was in Rock n Roll Heaven,” Says Bob. They were still vamping out on the same song, and then Chuck stands in front of the mic, and waited. The bass player Jim signaled the band to bring it down and Bob watched Chuck to see what he was going to do. “After all, I just got a standing ovation,” said Bob. Chuck then said to the crowd, “Well somebody’s going to have to keep rocking when I’m gone.” The crowd went nuts and Bob says, “I felt flattered, and odd all at the same time.” Then when the crowd calmed down again, he finished his sentence with, “But it’s going to be a long time before they do.” The crowd went crazy, Chuck went into a solo, and duck walked across the stage like no one else in the world could do. “I knew right then what a master showman was, it was Chuck Berry,” said Bob.
“He threw me the ball, let me dribble it across the court, and then took the ball back to score.” “I will never forget that show, it was an honor, and a lesson,” said Buffalo Bob. In my book he is one of the most passionate original guitar players out there. He can walk onto a set with you and already know what he’s doing. Can’t get much more original than that.
Buffalo Bob & Johnnie Johnson (chuck berry’s original piano player)
Thanks for re-living this memory with Buffalo Bob, and if your ever in St. Louis, Mo.
Please make it to a show at Backstreet Jazz & Blues club. With Buffalo Bob as your entertaining host.
Once again this has been Naylor’s Notes.
Thanks for reading my work.
About Johnny Naylor:
Johnny Naylor is the founder and owner of 1st Shot Music and a feature writer for Jammerzine. His work can also be found on 1st Shot Music and Naylor’s Notes. You can also get his latest updates on his facebook page.