is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Another Unique Character: The Squirrels' Bob Goff

"I'm probably enjoying this band as much as anything I have played with . . . So much of my early career was spent in a feverish pitch to make it.  Now it doesn't matter, I'm finally just enjoying the ride." -- Bob Goff                                                                  

As promised, I am talking to each member of the hottest hillbilly jazz orchestra in town, The Squirrels.  Today's featured player is bassist Bob Goff, but first, a little bit more about my new favorite group.

Made up of former and present members of Exile, Breeding Bunch, Daddy's Car, the New Coon Creek Girls, The Squirrels have been a Who's Who of Kentucky music for the past 20 years.  JP Pennington, Roger BonDurant, Bob Goff, Wanda Bennett, Rex Hart, JD Miller and Steve Lyon have been randomly sitting in at the CCI for the past year working on a combination of western swing, New Orleans jazz, gospel,country and blues, and the resulting sound has been described as everything from Appalachian Hip Hop to hillbilly jazz.  The music covers such a spectrum, it's easier to say if you like Lyle Lovett, Asleep At The Wheel, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Timejumpers, Freddy Powers, Eva Cassidy, you will LOVE The Squirrels!

Bass player and vocalist Bob Goff tells me many artists have influenced his love for music. "It's hard to nail down one influence.  I was raised in small farming town, Bloomfield, Kentucky, where there was very little in the way of performers.  There was a band that would play at the old movie theatre, and the singer went on to become Guy Shannon, a successful country artist.  That band was actually very good for the time and certainly an influence -- I was in the 5th or 6th grade at the time."

"Years earlier, I saw a hoot-n-nanny band called the Cumberland Trio in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That began my love for folk music and harmonies, and by the time I was in the 8th grade, I had an older cousin that would take a friend and me to Louisville and see bands.  They were all tremendous influences, and I spent a lot of time with my head just barely above the stage watching and hoping.  Of course when the Beatles played Ed Sullivan, the proverbial dam broke, so like many other musicians, I would have to list them.  I was a sponge for anything I heard, be it Johnny Mathis, Connie Francis, Beatles, Byrds or whatever I heard on my little transistor radio on WAKY and WKLO in Louisville."

What four albums would he choose if he were stranded on a deserted island?

Goff lists four excellent choices:  

"Revolver by the Beatles, 

Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, 

Paul and Mary's Greatest Hits, and probably the early Johnny Mathis album with Chances Are and the Twelfth of Never on it -- have always LOVED his voice."

I wondered what Goff had been up to before he joined The Squirrels, and discovered he has a unique and well traveled background.  

"After graduating UK with a degree in journalism, I started an entertainment agency, booked a lot of the musicians that I'm still friends with.  I put together a band to tour naval stations in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and that band evolved into Showboat, which was a popular disco band.  From there, I joined Doug Breeding and the Bunch.  The Bunch was wildly successful around Lexington in the early 80's."

"Jerry Reed's manager liked the band, and took us to Nashville to record.  Jerry was with RCA at the time so that was where all of our tapes landed.  RCA was only looking for one new act at that time.  This was the time when country was becoming a bit more rock, which was exactly where we fit in.  It came down to two bands.  The Bunch, whose signature song was Kentucky Is My Home and Alabama, whose signature song was My Home's In Alabama, very similar styled bands at the time. I'm still waiting for an answer from RCA," he laughs. 

Bob Goff and his lovely wife, Linda
Goff's next band was Daddy's Car, a popular band throughout Kentucky "that had several bites at recording.  Two of the members went on to form Shaking Family which did finally get a deal.  Since that time, I have been fortunate to be asked to put together bands to back artists at Children's Charity, Riders Up, and other big events...which brings me to The Squirrels.  I'm probably enjoying this band as much as anything I have played with.  Great players, good people playing FUN stuff.  We are just now getting our musical legs under us and taking on an identity.  We are all writing for the band and interested to wait and see where that will take us.  So much of my early career was spent in a feverish pitch to make it.  Now it doesn't matter, I'm finally just enjoying the ride."

Like JP Pennington, Goff still considers his musicianship a work in progress.  When I asked him where he sees himself in 5 or 10 years, he said,  "When you are in your 20s, it's hard to imagine playing past 40.  Now, it's hard to imagine ever not playing.  After all of these years, being a musician really defines what you are.  I'm fortunate to have had a successful business that has allowed me to continue playing and raise two sons that both play.  I still consider myself a student of the game and want to learn as much as I can from new artists.  The role of the bass guitar has changed incredibly from the time I began.  The level of playing is much greater."

I started my musical career on trumpet when I was in the 3rd grade, and was actually very good for my age, allowed to travel with the high school band by the 5th grade -- I wanted to be a music teacher at that time.  Have always been able to play piano by ear, which has helped me to visualize parts.  By the 7th grade, the Beatles hit and my desire to be the next Al Hirt was long gone and the rest is history.

Indeed, Bob Goff does have a secret talent:  "A lot of people who know me have no idea that I'm actually a very good basketball coach.  
I played all through high school and received excellent instruction that I still pass on.  I was able to coach my kids through school and leagues and just retired from coaching Special Olympics, for whom  I helped start the basketball program 10 years ago.  During that time, we won two state tournaments and were runners up two other years.  Who knew?!? 

Bob H. Goff, bass/vocals.  Musical career began on the trumpet and piano at the age of 10.  
Any hope of becoming the next Herb Alpert or Fats Domino was dashed, however, when the Beatles played Ed Sullivan and the bass guitar was discovered.  Playing the rock circuit through college, Bob was involved with two successful regional bands, The Breeding Bunch and Daddy’s Car.  His live performances as a backup musician includes Brooks and Dunn, John Michael Montgomery, Josh Turner, Troy Lee Gentry, Tanya Tucker, Leroy Parnell, the Gatlins, Johnny Bench, Earl Thomas Conley, Don Gibson, J.P. Pennington, Les Taylor, and Mark Miller (Sawyer Brown), amongst others.  A popular studio player in Lexington, Louisville, and Nashville, his credits range from folk (Michael Johnathon) to bluegrass (Larry Sparks' John Deer Tractor) to gospel (the Blackwoods), their album being nominated for a Grammy and a Dove award as well as over a hundred different albums and regional and national commercials.


I'll be covering the other members of The Squirrels in future blogs (just scroll down and see prior posts), but will love checking out what Goff calls "Squirrel Lite Night," when he, Roger BonDurant, and Wanda Barnett play again at CCI on March 19th.  The CCI is still one of the best kept secrets in town, it's an easy place to be and hear some great music, the drinks are cheap but the atmosphere is rich in character and familiar faces.  See ya there!

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