Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bob Grimes - The Sheet Music Mogul of Post Street

42nd Street Moon lost one of our dearest friends this past weekend. Bob Grimes passed away on Saturday afternoon. It is a great loss, not only for us, his family, and friends, but to the entire music world. The inside joke about Bob was that he was “Almost a Celebrity” but the truth is, he was a celebrity, the rarest of celebrities... he was a celebrity’s celebrity.

Bob Grimes
February 18, 1922 - October 8, 2011

Though you may not have known him, the biggest names in Broadway and Cabaret knew who he was and would seek his insight, knowledge, and miles upon miles of sheet music when constructing a cabaret evening, one of their recordings, and possibly a PBS special or two.

A news report about Bob from 1992

I met Bob relatively recently. But at every Moon show in the past two years I have enjoyed hearing Bob’s distinct bellowing laughter all the way out in the lobby. When Bob was at a show, everyone knew it. And you could always tell the cast seemed a little livelier, a little more “on,” because when Bob was at the theatre, everyone wanted to hear that laughter.

Then there was the apartment, I kept hearing, “You should go to his apartment, it’s amazing.” Finally, when Bob asked if I’d like to take his collection of programs from old Moon shows, I jumped at the chance. Not only to have an archive for Moon, but I also saw this as my chance to enter a Broadway Nirvana.

An ardent collector of cast recordings myself, I was beyond awed.

I had a wonderful time that afternoon talking to Bob, looking at the collection he still had, as most of it now resides at The Michael Feinstein Foundation at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana. He had a mind like a steel trap. He could remember songs, the movies they were from, who starred in the movies, and most amazingly… where in his apartment all those movies, music, and cast recordings were! I can’t even find my car keys in the morning.

Bob's Collection at the Michael Feinstein Foundation.

Perusing his recordings (VHS, DVD, CD, and Tape), I was dumbfounded at some of the rarities he had! He would ask me about a movie, when I told him honestly I hadn’t seen it, he didn’t seem shocked so much as sweetly pitying me. I left that day with four DVDs and instructions to watch them so we could talk about them another time. That was Bob, he loved this music… and by gum you were gonna too!

Bob amassed over 32,000 pieces of sheet music, many long out of print and not to be found anywhere else, except possibly the Library of Congress – and possibly not even there! Andrea Marcovicci, Paula West, Michael Feinstein, Wesla Whitfield, Klea Blackhurst, Jonathan Franks, and thousands of other performers from all over the world, would come to his apartment in San Francisco and work with him to find some of the most clever, moving, and virtually unknown songs to add to their repertoire.

Without a doubt, he held a special place in all of our hearts. The only thing more impressive than his collection and knowledge, was how kind and gentle a man he was. Bob, I will miss you terribly as I know we all will. As I write this, our cast for Oh, Kay! has just started rehearsals and all I can think is… wherever Bob is now, we will have someone to watch over them and us all.

Here Bob talks about coming to San Francisco and changing the official song
of San Francisco from "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" to "San Francisco."

Please leave a comment and let us know how Bob touched your life.


Bev Case said...

What a lovely tribute you wrote to Bob Grimes - he was a very special person. Dar and I would go to his apartment and spend the afternoon having a wonderful time and taking home songs he pickled out especially for Dar. One of these days, Dar will do an all Bob Grimes show -we have about 4 hrs of material, so it will be hard to pick and choose. We saw Bob the day before he passed away and took him a red silk rose to remind him that we loved him.

Bev Case

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful post! I love the clips you chose and they have cheered me immeasurably. What a loss!! The amazing thing: Since hearing of his death, I can't feel sad for Bob, only myself, all of us really. I know he is having a ball where ever he is... and I know that I will never experience anyone as happy to talk to me as Bob Grimes!

Oh, when he picked up the phone!! I have never met anyone as joyous as he... ever. EVER!

He had something truly unique, an extra happiness chromosome or special adrenaline gland... something. And I believe that I will be talking about him for the rest of my days. My Vernon Duke album is dedicated to Bob. He sent me home with a three foot stack of Vernon Duke sheet music that we spent a week picking out...
and it is a beautiful album, filled with the obvious hits, but also the completely unexpected, songs that I believe would be lost without his careful stewardship. "Indefinable Charm" is the Duke song that perfectly captures my feelings for Mr. Grimes. I wish he was here to sing a little for you.

Short of that, you'll have to take my word for it. We will never see the likes of him. And thank goodness he was here. So much would have been lost if he hadn't taken such care... and thank goodness the collection has landed safely in Indiana. That lets me sleep at night. I'd say Rest In Peace but I'm sure he's hanging with Virginia O'Brien and Martha Raye tonight. I can't imagine that's peaceful, but I'm sure it's a heck of a lot of fun. And he deserves to be skipping around without "A Care In The World" (a Duke/LaTouche song from Banjo Eyes starring Eddie Cantor. I mean who else would know that!?)

Klea Blackhurst

Lesley Hamilton said...

Like so many of you, I lingered for countless hours at Bob's apartment, watching him navigate the stacks with effortless ease, bellowing with boyish delight as he popped up with a gem in hand.

This August, Bob arranged for Rick Simas and I to be guests at the opening night gala of the Feinstein Foundation & Great American Songbook Archives in Indiana. What an astoundingly beautiful center! The archivist and Foundation administrator were so gracious. As we walked into the archival room, my eyes filled with tears. There Bob's "children" (as he called them) lay in a state of perfect librarianship - coralled in boxes, catalogued and shelved. It was a bittersweet moment - grateful knowing this treasure trove now belongs to the world, yet grieving for a "secret garden" and the hands that tended to it.

I'll miss you, dearest Texan. I hope you and Margaret Whiting are kicking it up - and that you'll finally find a heavenly chanteuse to sing "Have You Ever Seen a Straight Banana".

Lesley Hamilton

Anonymous said...

I was so excited to see postings about my Uncle, Bob Grimes, at your blog.
I'll share a favorite memory of Bob. One of our favorite traditions at family get togethers for weddings and funerals, is to play exuberant games of Red Light Green Light. Guess what roll in the game Bob Grimes always played? He was the Stop Light. He was full of mischief, tricking people into moving too soon or too late. He laughed at us as he sent us back to the start, and we loved it. No one was too old to play. Now we wonder who lis gregarious enough to step into those shoes of his.

"Hello" and a BIG "Thank you" to the people who were his support system. We are so grateful to all of his helping friends, especially Fritz and Mike. Thanks to David and Paul and Vance. Also, thank you to Michael Feinstein and all of the people who had a hand in transferring his collection. Thanks to John and Kay and everyone who took him on his quests for the holy grail of songs.

Thank you to the people who invited him to shows, asked him for music, visited him at his apartment, and sent him movies and cd's. As much as you thought he gave to cabaret, you gave him back more, because you appreciated his gifts so well. He could not have written a better story line for his life, and he knew it. Thank you to the people who organized shows in his honor. You validated him. What would it be like to be Bob Grimes and be so loved by your children, your family and friends, and the people who share your passions?