Craft

Robert/Bob Bogaert, Interstellar Troubadour.

For The Pantagraph

Welcome to Bobworld, land of Bob Bogaert.

Or, more lately, Robert F. Bogaert, which is how he's billed for his two homecoming performances this weekend, at 6 p.m. Thursday at The Outpost in Armington and at 7 p.m. Friday at Bonker's Place in Bloomington.

It's also the name on his new CD, "When Aliens Go Dog-Tipping (vol. 1)," which he describes as "a musical non-career retrospective." 

Under his name, in either form, he's been known to add the designation, "your Interstellar Troubadour."

Not that he claims any extraterrestrial origin, unless you consider Chicago such.

Bobworld has been a part of B-N's music orbit for many years now, extending all the way back to 1971, when the the Chicago native first spun our way to attend Illinois State University.

"I started playing drums in high school," he notes. "But that wasn't practical here, so I started playing guitar."

In 1971, Normal was still a dry town, meaning there were no bars in which to troubadour, interstellar or otherwise.

"So I occasionally played at the Inner Ear Coffeehouse on the ISU campus, across from Hewitt-Manchester," he says of his musical coming out 46 years ago at a venue long-gone.

"Then Normal became wet, and the drinking age for beer and wine was 19 ... that's when The Galery started serving drinks, I think, in May 1974," Bogaert recalls of the downtown venue that began its own life as a late-’60s coffeehouse.

"I'd gone in a few times to see people play," he says. "One night I was sitting right near the stage. Anytime anyone played a John Prine song, I'd automatically be singing along."

The performer that night was singing such a song, and suggested that perhaps the audience member singing along should get his own gig.

"I asked Spike (Spakowski, Galery owner) if I could have one and he said, 'Sure.' The performer on the following night had just canceled."

Thus did Bobworld expand its frontiers, as Bogaert became one of the regular Galery posse, "getting my $3, pitcher of beer and free pizza" each night.

From playing two 30-minute sets in the window downstairs, Bogaert graduated to the more expansive upstairs stage, and eventually formed, with Jim Phillps, his own band, the Dwayne Hoover Band, christened after a character in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s "Breakfast of Champions."

"It was folkie-country ... Gram Parsons, Neil Young, a few originals here and there," Bogaert recalls. "The band lasted a couple years, then Jim and I joined up with Dale Humphries and John Evans, and became Dallas McGee."

Bobworld fully came into its own with that group, whose membership at one point included local-girl-soon-to-make-good Suzy Bogguss, "who joined briefly to pinch-hit when the original female singer left."

Dallas McGee played the country-rock circuit locally, from the Galery to the Lazy J Saloon, and regionally, with tours extending far afield into Wyoming, the Dakotas and Canada.

Bobworld's heyday lasted into early 1980, at which point Dallas McGee broke up. Bogaert spent the next five years as a solo artist around town, followed by a move back to Chicago in 1985.

In the years since, Bobworld has had its downs and ups, the latter including a return to its drumming roots in 2010, when Bogaert joined old Galery crony Frank Powell in the Heyworth-based band, Neon Cactus.

As noted, the new CD is billed as a "musical non-career retrospective," featuring demo and live recordings from 1981 to 1994, including four from the late, lamented Galery stage itself.

"I've rarely made a living at this," he reflects. "Oh, there were a few times here and there when it was a means of support. But I've almost always had to do something else for a living, performing occasionally."

Now, 45-odd years on, Bobworld is still a nice place to visit, even if he can't make a living there.

"I thought it would be nice in my old age, with the help from Social Security, to try and do a little traveling, go see old friends, make a few new ones and take my music face-to-face to people," he says.

It's his world, and you're welcome to it, too.

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