‘Ridiculous’ journey of Bob Log III leads to Alibi

Bob Log III rides into Tahoe on Saturday, June 29, to play at the Alibi Ale Works -Truckee Public House.
Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage photos

Bob Log III, a solo psychotic rock and roller who appears Saturday, June 29, at the Alibi Ale Works – Truckee Public House, says he knows when he does his job well. “Sometimes people lose a shoe,” he said. “That’s when I know it’s been a good night, when I come out after everyone has left and the floor is completely wet with spilled drinks. It’s littered with stomped balloons and there’s one shoe. It can’t be two shoes, that doesn’t count.”

He wears a helmet and plays guitar while singing into a telephone. People are welcome to sit on his knees. An international traveler, Bob Log III’s story is so outlandish it makes it easy to move from country to country.

“I tell them the truth at customs and they just want me to shut up and leave,” he said. “They don’t want to know the truth. It’s ridiculous having a good time with people who want to have a good time. If you’re are coming to my show, you’ve got to know that that’s what this is about. It’s like going to see Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. You know you are going in for a good time. There might be a bone through the nose for no particular reason, but the music is going to be all right there, designed to make you smile so much your face hurts.”

The music is blues based. Early in his career, Bob Log III toured with legendary Hill Country bluesmen, including R.L Burnside.

“I learned more in seven days with R.L. than I had in seven years,” Bob Log III said. “He called me Sideshow Bob and said, ‘You’re hanging in there like a dirty shirt.’ ”

Bob Log III spoke with Tahoe Onstage as he drove from Tuscon to Flagstaff, Arizona, on the way to another show.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Tahoe Onstage: What are you doing?

Bob Log III: Driving every day for 30 days. That’s what I do. I drive five hours and then I pull over and play guitar for about an hour and a half. If you add it up, I drive more than I play guitar. That’s not right. It’s a math problem I’ve been working on.

I read that you were in a quartet called Mondo Guano, and then a duo called Doo Rag. Now it’s only you.

Yes, I guess the last option is just to disappear completely. I just like playing guitar, man. It’s always been like that for me and whatever I had to do to keep playing, I just kept doing. I had a choice: I could go home and shut up or I could drive on by myself play guitar, and I just picked the latter.

Early in your career, you signed with Fat Possum Records, the same label as Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Is the Hill Country blues what inspired you to play guitar?

When I was growing up, the first thing that made me want to play guitar was AC/DC. I heard that when I was 11, and I lost my shit. Then you kind of start going backwards from there and you get to Chuck Berry, then going back further, where I got to was Mississippi Fred McDowell. When I was 15, I put on a cassette and tried to play Fred, using the thumb as its own animal. So through a cassette, I learned to play finger-picking slide guitar. But I never learned to play it right. I am not able to replicate things. So I kind of learned Mississippi Fred wrong, mixed with my wrong AC/DC, and anytime you take the blues and turn it up, it’s just rock ‘n’ roll, really. But yes, it does come from the Delta blues, absolutely.

But I don’t sing sad songs. I sing crazy party songs — People stepping on balloons and people sitting on me and riding around in boats. It’s absolutely insane.

Did you meet those legendary blues players?

I never got to meet Junior Kimbrough. He died before I got there. But I did get to do a bunch of tours with R.L. and T Model Ford and one tour with Hasil Adkins. One of the luckiest things I got to do was ride around in a car with those guys. Playing with them was great, but riding around in a car with them, that’s gold.

How did you come up with the concept for your show, wearing a motorcycle helmet with a telephone inside?

The beginning to be honest is a complete emergency accident I suppose. I was in a two-man band and my drummer left. That was the day I had a choice of either driving back to Arizona and being quiet or driving to Chicago and opening for Ween by myself. I’d never played by myself before but I accepted the challenge, I guess you could say. I looked around my car and I had a motorcycle helmet, I had a guitar case and I had a telephone and a guitar, so those were my only options.

So I called up Ween and I said, “Hey guys, my drummer went home. If you want me to come play the show tonight, I’ll kick a guitar case, wear a helmet on my head and sing through a telephone. Mickey (Melchiondo) was just quiet for a minute and he just said, “OK.”

So I drove eight hours to Chicago, put that shit on and panicked. It’s probably the most scared I’ve ever been playing a show, to be honest, but it went pretty crazy. Afterward, a girl took me home. And I said, “Damn, I’m going to do that again.”

When was that?

In October it will be 21 years. It’s pretty ridiculous if you think about it. It doesn’t make any sense. I could be in a loony bin. I could just be dreaming this whole thing up. Am I really driving toward Flagstaff? I don’t really know.

What inspiration did you get from R.L. Burnside?

What was inspiring to me and it’s kind of how I am as well is, you know we drive all day we get to the club. And R.L would only have one question. It was never like other bands that are like, “Where’s my towel? Where’s my catering? What time do we go to the hotel?” R.L. had one question every day: “Is the amp on?” That was it. That was all he ever wanted to know. He just wanted that amp on and wanted to play. The whole day was just to get to that point. And that’s how I approach music.

What else did you learn from him?

R.L. told me always keep a can of beans and weenies in your bag. He said he learned that from Pigmeat Markham. He said sometimes after the show’s over, you’re back in your room and you’re just starving and there’s no food, so you’ve got to have a can of beans and weenies in your bag. He would just open it with a knife and eat it cold. I substituted a bag of peanuts because I didn’t really want to eat a can of cold beans and weenies, but I still call them my beans and weenies.

So you travel with peanuts?

Yes, but also different things. There is this one food you can make without a stove or any utensils. You need an avocado, tuna and some mustard. They don’t need to be refrigerated. You just put it in a Ziplock bag and step on it. And you get this mush. It’s a little bit like baby food, but it’s good. That’s my beans and weenies.

Related story: Concert review: A boatload of boozy fun with Bob Log III

  • Bob Log III
    When: 9 p.m. Saturday, June 29
    Where: Alibi Ale Works – Truckee Public House
    Cover: $5

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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