Lonesome Bob – The plans we made
The digital display says 13 tracks, 58:56, just as the whirring stops. And then I push a button and the new Lonesome Bob CD begins to play, and then I sit back down again and try to write. And the thing is, I’m not gonna write. I’ll tell you that right now.
Because Tim Carroll’s guitar hurls itself out of the speakers on the rock songs, and Bill Dwyer’s fretwork dances through the country songs, and Bob’s big, deep, Waylon-with-a-day-job-and-pissed-about-it voice clutches, lifts and shoves.
It’s intrusive, really, and nobody can write with all that going on. Not with the lines standing up in front like this, bellowing “It’s not anything she can explain/But Heather’s all bummed out today,” and “My mother’s husband is a pretty good guy/They were lovers since before my daddy died,” and “Forever is an abstract/Painted on a lie,” and “My son takes my needle, some powder and a spoon,” and “I kissed your fevered brow last night, again/I watched you fade away last night, again.”
It’s too much to work through, and some of it is horrible stuff, really. Not bad art horrible, but full of horror horrible. And some of the stuff that’s not horrible is comical. And the stuff that doesn’t draw winces or chuckles will make you think, or make you feel something else, and you can’t — well, I can’t — write shit that way. Not with all that going on. It’s a passive listener’s nightmare, and I’ve got to turn it off, just to write the story down.
Robert G. Chaney
710 Lambert Ave.
“Goon.” School Activities…Student Council and Basketball. Outside activities…parties and the log. Hobbies…Jamming with Fitz. Plans to major in journalism.
— Le Souvenir, the Audubon (PA) High School yearbook, 1974
Back then, he was “Chopper” after a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, or “Goon” because he was (and is) a big, imposing person. Like UCLA star Bill Walton, Bob was a basketball player and a Deadhead. Fitz was a guitar-playing friend and early encourager who recently died a bizarre and tragic death (authorities haven’t fully explained it yet, so don’t look here for clarification).
Roundball and journalism fell by the wayside soon after high school, victims of restlessness and recreational drug use. The log is no longer, Bob ditched his career as a collegian after two years and one season of JV ball, and the Deadhead thing went out the window.
In sum, most everything Bob worked for in high school turned out to be of little use later in life. The exceptions were those first forays into music with Fitz, and the development of a practical and spiritual belief in decency toward others: Page 50 of Le Souvenir proclaims Bob Chaney Audubon High School’s “Most Congenial” male senior. It seems that when you’re a stout 6’4″, the gentle giant approach is necessary to counteract the whole “Goon” deal.
And country music — the kind Bob learned from his father, who was raised on a Virginia tobacco farm — was necessary to counteract the whole Grateful Dead deal.
“When I turned 18, I learned to play guitar, and I started writing songs as soon as I could change chords fast enough,” he said. “I started to write, and what came out was the real country influence, I guess from my father. Then sometimes I’d end up with these full-on, screaming rock songs. It’s been that way ever since, where what I write is either really hard-core country or screaming rock ‘n’ roll.”
For a while, Bob joined Fitz and another high school friend named Ben Vaughn (yes, that Ben Vaughn) in a band called Hairy Gertz. Then Hairy Gertz morphed into the Gertz Mountain Budguzzlers, a somehow country-inflected band based in Bob’s hometown of Mt. Ephraim, Pennsylvania, and equally inspired by Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. Bob played drums, guitar and bass in the group, switching instruments depending on the song. Barring an unforeseen Guzzlers revival, the band’s only lasting legacy will be Bob Chaney’s Lonesome moniker.
“I was 19 and stupid,” he said. “And I bought a cowboy hat since the Budguzzlers were supposed to be a country band. I walked into practice wearing this cowboy hat, and someone said, ‘Look, it’s Lonesome Cowboy Bob.'”
The name anchored itself to Chaney, and continues to cling to him even though the cowboy hat has long since been replaced by a baseball cap. Today, Nashville’s club-going music community has never heard of Bob Chaney but is well aware of Lonesome Bob, and barroom shout-outs to LoBo or Lones once caused Tim Carroll to remark from stage that “Even Bob’s nickname has nicknames.”
“If you’ve known him for awhile as that name, you don’t really think about it,” said longtime friend and fellow musician Amy Rigby. “When I think of Bob, I think of Lonesome Bob.”