Saturday, January 9, 2010
Any night of the week you can hear the blues on the west, the east, the north and the south sides of Chi-Town. In any one of those city-spots there are blues artists, some on stage and some not.
Robert Schmidt (AKA) Smilin Bob is his name. I met Bob in September of 1977. I had just completed a tour of active duty in the US Navy prior to that encounter. I went to work in a west side heavy equipment manufacturing plant. The union assigned me to this particular company. It was my first regular day job and my last. The place was huge, employed about 1,200 workers and encompassed almost a half mile of land.
I started playing guitar in 1960. Bass has been my main instrument and I had thought I held my own in many different situations. The guys I worked with found out about my "guitarmanship." Word spread quickly throughout the plant.
Bob was the plant oilman. He could go anywhere in the plant without suspicion. No one would question what he was doing. His job was to make sure all the machinery had the proper oil levels. It wasn’t too long before Bob walked into the shop. The reason they call him “Smilin Bobby” was immediately apparent. He had the biggest smile I had ever seen. He came over to me and said, "You the guitar player?" I said, "Yes". " You got a PA system?” he asked, through a mile wide grin. "Yes", I said once again. "You want to jam with some friends of mines?" "Sure," was my response. He then proceeded to give me directions and a time. Then off he went pushing his oil cart ahead of him. He looked back and said, "Don’t forget the system."
The place we were to meet at was called Del Morocco II. It was located on the corner of Lake and Halsted. This was in the area of the city’s restaurateurs’ market. Sunday night from six to midnight he had the regular gig. I arrived in my red corvair. The car was loaded. PA system packed in the back seat, my bass amp in the front seat. The guitar just fit on top of the speakers in back. I often wonder how I avoided getting a ticket. There was no way to see out of the back window.
I remember one night I showed up there and the police had the whole place surrounded ,,,,,hmmmmmmmmm. Stay tuned for more upcoming stories and interviews.
BLUES ME OR LOSE ME,
Terrance “Gatorman” Lape
Don't forget to bookmark www.chicagobluesnews.com
If you’d like to see a similar place like Del Morocco and what Bobby sounds like watch this early video, circa late 70’s early 80’s at: