Guitar, Piano, Bass
Backstage with Mitch, Lenie, and Bob Williford
Hear Bob performing COME TOGETHER from the
actual performance this foto was taken by clicking HERE!
| NOTE from the wemaster:
Bob's a HOOT! The following is quite an entertaining recollection
of events as told to the webmaster
by master story teller Bob Williford:
Now, let's see...
In Cape May I learned how to smoke cigarettes and break into summer homes in the winter. My grammar school had 150 kids total in all eight grades.
Second question...I heard about the auditions from the back page of
a Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. I still have that magazine. It has the
Star Wars cast on the front.I called the phone number and spoke to a Mrs.
Price who...whom? I later found out was Carol Kamin who was the sister-in-law,
I think, I may be wrong, of MR. James
She asked if I played piano and I said "no". I said John didn't really play piano in the Beatles and she said that their John did and as a matter of fact he played,I think, nine songs on piano. Graciously, she told me that auditions weren't going to be for a few more weeks and that, perhaps, I could learn how to bang on it a little and come out with something so, of course, I said "great".September 27th 1978 came along one day in september around the 27th,I think, and I drove my piece of shit VW up the turnpike past Burtnicks...oops, I think he's Burtnik now, house into Manhattan. The car did not have any brakes at the time, so I used the emergency brake for stoppage...true...and got into the city and luckily found a parking space right away in a tow-away-zone. Not having such a zone in Cherry Hill, I found it perplexing when I saw a truck trying to put something under my car to take it with him for some reason.
Anyway, where am I. I don't know.
Third question...My first audition was freightening. I was a hick from Jersey. Here I was in New York auditioning for a Broadway show that I was made for. I had tried for show-business before with my original songs, but, I sucked! I knew it and apparantly the A & R dept. of all the labels thought so too. I arrived to find alot of people there. It was amazing. I just didn't realize how many people knew about this. I befreinded a guy who looked exactly like John. I'm not kidding. This guy had the nose just right and his height was just right. I was a smaller child. Lucking for me and the other fake John-wanna-bees, this guy didn't know a C sharp minor from an L minor. What?
Being fromCape May, I tried to show him how to play an L minor but couldn't get it no matter how hard he tried to look JUST LIKE LENNON! Anyway, Mr. Sandy Yaguda was THE MAN! He was holding the audition. He was in Jay and the Americans as everybody knows. I didn't know it, of course, being from Cape May, but he sure intimidated me. He was all business. If you didn't, at least ,resemble one of the Beatles, Sandy didn't want to waste time letting you get up there and perform. He asked me if I would please take the trash out, which I did, of course, you know why. I finally got a chance to get up there with 3 other fakes. Nervous as hell. I don't remember which song it was we did but I think we did about 3 songs.
So that was it.After awhile, I thing the whole day lasted about 4 hours, Sandy came around pointing and saying either come back or don't. No sob stories, no nothing...anything.
I was asked to come back. Why, I don't know. I was already there! I
went back about 4 times. That's the way it was for me. By this time
I'm on a regular diet of valium.
Well I did keep in touch and got another chance to audition for what was to become bunk 8. Enter Mr. Glenn Himself. Wow! What a effing DYNAMO! Fresh from the New Brunswich club circut and quite confident. No wonder. But who knew then. I also met a Mr. Al Sapienza. Wow again. Big...handsome like a straight Cary Grant...and cocky like a New Yorker should be. Didn't love him right away. I think that happended about eight or nine years later, but it did happen! Also there was David Graham. I liked him. He was there for Paul. We did a few numbers together in the hallway and I thing we sounded good together, so he was my man. I felt if we could audition together it would make me sound better.
Also on that day...which was April 13th 1978, I met a most peculiar man. A gay man, I think...kidding...his name was and luckily still is CHRIS GAVIN ON THAMES. He became my new man. We had alot in common. He had the weed and I wanted some. Long story somewhat short, we were hired by Sandy. Me, Chris, Glenn, David, Al, and maybe some I have forgotten. It was effing Heaven.
Hold on Brian. I need a little break. Know what I mean?..
( five minutes later )
Ok what was I talking about? Oh. Sandy took us down Broadway four blocks to Marvin Kraus' office. We were talking about nose-jobs and all kinds of plastic surgury in order to make us do our new jobs the right way. The way THEY would want it to be done. I left Manhattan that day in April one happy hick. I was 27 and had my first real job. My jewish in-laws thought I was still a jerk, though!
My first experience on stage was at the Winter Garden. Think of that! The most beautiful theatre on Broadway (if you ask me) and you are so there. Nine months of rehearsal got me there along with Pecorino's vacation. Rehearsals were the best. I felt like a musician for real. Sure, I stunk, but so did Chris. I never told him so 'cause he had the weed, but man! We watched films of them in Washington and Tokyo. Everybody has seen those films by now, but then I don't think so. (home VCR’s were a thing of the future) It felt pretty exclusive.
Our schedule was five days a week six hours a day. Let me go over that again because on the Toni Tenille Show which I did two years later with JO JO (Curatolo), Ralph and Chris, I said, when asked by Ms. Tenille, what our rehearsal schedule was like. I said "six hours a day...six hours a week"! Cool huh? Right there on my first and by the way, only television appearance.
So my first real show at the Winter Garden was at the end of January, 1979. Susan, my wife of 30 plus years, and I went up “the night before”...(song title)...and stayed at a hotel behind the WG on, I think, 7th ave.The morning of the show I got a telegram from Al saying how great I was on the show. The thing was that the show wasn't until that evening, so I don't know how Sapienza does it but he knew I was great in advance!
The first show I did was with THE GREAT ONE HIMSELF Mitch. Leslie on George and Bennet Gale on Ringo. Sure I was nervous, but who could tell. I always stir my sugar in my coffee with hand tremors. Right before that first song, I think it was Let It Be. NO, that couldn't be. Wrong show. Right before Hold Your Hand when you're behind that scrim as they called it, I never heard of a scrim before. I heard of a screen but not a scrim being from Cape May. From there you could see Dr. Martin Luther King on scrim. I'm trying to remember what else was on that scrim but all I can think of now is King and I know it ended with Jackie Kennedy in that pink suit and that pill-box hat and then everything went silent. Except for those hand-tremors on the back of the neck of my Richenbacher. This was it. This is what I have been talking about to all my hick friends in Jersey about. Here we go! MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!
Half of the first song had that scrim in front of us. From the audience
the scrim had a 1960 ish televison surrounding "the boys" and it
made for a really cool illusion.
After only one week of shows...Pecorino came back...I was sent back to rehearsals. Not necessarily because I stunk, but there was no place for me. There was the main band on Broadway with by the way a man behind the scenes who is really, I think, responsible for getting about 80% no 72% of the show on its legs musically. The show was a musical, after all, and this guy, who shall remain nameless...hi Andy Dorfman...really made that showsound fabulous. In between trying out and getting hired Sandy gave me two tickets to come up from Jersey and see the show which I did with the bride. The first time I saw that show it was amazing! So professional And on Broadway! And there was Andy Dorfman back stage calling all the shots. Any way back in rehearsal I had Chris doing my laundry and Al driving me back to Jersey at the end of the day. By the way, we lost Burtinck to the LA production. He actually left rehearsals before I did, but this story is about me dammit! After Burtnick came Mr.Cushing to the Paul gig. Cushing was so great. Great sense of humor.
Anyway I got another shot at the real show in April '79 when Robert Wirth left the show. I don't remember why, but I was sure glad he did. I was now in bunk 7. A big one! Tony, Jimmy Poe, Sy. They didn't like me. They liked him and he left and they were pissed. At me. They couldn't be pissed at each other. They liked each other. They didn't like me. I liked them. I thought Kishman was incredible. He is! I liked Sy. He sings better than everybody and everybody knows that. Jimmy Poe was so cool. So like George. It was a big band. I forget how long I played with them. Maybe a month. Then I met my new home. Bunk 8. JoJo, Ralph, and I think Richie Gomez, but I'm not clear on that. Eventually Bob Miller came in and that was my home for the longest period. I loved it. Nobody plays piano like JoJo. We had the most fun, I think, at sound check before the show. JoJo and Miller knew everysong out there. MIller just plain knew everything! Finally, Bob left the show, which I couldn't believe how someone could walk away from this, but he did, for the Metro Men. Balls! He had 'em. The void was more than filled with a peculiar man...a gay man, I think... a Chris Gavin. I loved him then and I love him now. First of all George didn't have blue eyes. I think Chris got the job because he worked at the Winter Garden at the bar, funnily enough. Rather than do time for getting caught stealing from the till, Chris was offered the job of George. He took it, thank God.
OK question number 2...No, I never thought about the show being too Paul songy. I had plenty to do so that was just fine with me. To sing songs like Nowhere Man...Lucy I'm home....All you need it love...my god...Yesterday...oh...Day in the life was my favorite, I think. That and Lucy in the sky...I think alot of John auditioners were blown out of the water with that Lucy chorus or refrain or whatever, but I had no problem with the high notes. I had problems with the low notes, however but that didn't stop me. Accidents on the stage you say? Yeah, I had one. Screwed up my right ankle real good in Philadelphia, my 'home" city. They had tracks on stage that would pull the tilted Ed Sullivan stage from side to side. Raked. I wore glasses in the real world. Of course early Lennon didn't wear them so I did the first portion of the show not seeing anything practically and that was ok with me. But on this Phila. evening I ran on stage after the costume change for Day Tripper and stepped on top of one of those tracks and spilled off the side and bent my right ankle real good. It's killing me right now as a matter of fact and so are my hands from typing so much on my day off. Question 14...Where did I enjoy performing the most? New York City. Where else? LA? Yeah, that was fantastic too. Toronto? Tremendous!
Question 16...trapped on a desert island with only one instrument? Easy. Tuba. To use it like a boat and get outta there!
19...Still in touch with alumni? Gavin. You think Marshall is gonna call me? I did recently open for him in Philadelphia. Once in a while I play at a great little club, not really a club, though, a listening room, as they call it. I did two shows on a saturday with him. Before the show I asked him how he had been and he asked me to take out the trash. He's a gifted artist. I realized it one day in rehearsals when he was on stage at SIR...studio instrument rentals...He was singing Can't Buy Me Love and he changed the melody around like crazy and it was fantastic. I told him so and he asked why the trash had not been emptied.
Dec. 8th, 1980...effing Dec 8th...I was in Houston. It was our day off. The theatre was "dark". My wife, daughter Heather...hi honey...and I went to the movies to see La Cage Aux Folles. Came back to the hotel. I went up to the room. My wife and kid went to be lobby bar for a drink. Vodka for the kid and Shirley Temple for the wife. She just told the bartender it was for her. It was really for me. I get into the room and the phone rings. Probably close to midnight. It's a friend of ours from Cherry Hill. "Did you hear?'" "Hear what?" "John Lennon got shot!" No. That can't be. John Lennon is in the Beatles for Christ’s sake! Well that's it. I'm just sitting here now wondering what to type, but everybody knows what it was like. It was the beginning of the end of it, I think. for me. It wasn't the same. My bunk, which by that time, had taken over the name Bunk 7 for some reason I don't know we didn't play that next night.Tuesday. Peter Mcgann and his band played. I don't know how he did it. He was great, though. Any way, I gotta go. Trashday.
December 1979 with BUNK 8
December 1979 Shubert Theatre
...and in 2008 re-uniting