Here's Bob Kirkpatrick's story as compiled from two interviews by Don O. on April 23, 1995 and February 18, 1996. This was used in the liner notes of Bob's first CD, Goin Back to Texas, JSP CD #269.
I was born January 10, 1934 in North Louisiana in a little town called Haynesville, 4 miles from the Arkansas line. I grew up there in the sandy hills of Louisiana. I became interested in music about the age of 6. I tried to play piano a little bit and found it had too many keys. My dad had 6 brothers and they all played guitar, pianos, and what have you. I chose guitar from being around them. I went into the military in 1953 during the Korean conflict and saw action in Korea.
After Korea I came back and attended school at Grambling, majoring in Physical Education. I was at Grambling 1955-1958. I worked with Ivory Joe Hunter over about 2 1/2 years while I was in school. I became acquainted with him through his road manager, Otis Jackson. He introduced me to Joe and got me to go along and play guitar for him when I could get away from school. It wasn't full time, just when I could arrange it with my school schedule. I did go on one road trip down to Daytona, Florida with him. Everything else was local around Louisiana.
I first became heavily involved in blues about 1958. B.B. King did that to me. B.B. King was my main man, then and now. I really liked his style of playing and it just kind of grew on me. He inspired me so with "3 O'clock In The Morning" and so many others. He used to come through Monroe, Louisiana and play at the Carroll Auditorium down there. When I was in school at Grambling I became acquainted with him through my brother. I got to talk with him and we became acquaintances. I talked with him about playing the guitar and he told me to just keep after the practicing. He told me "You've got to feel what you do. Feel it within." After doing that awhile I got to see him again and he heard me play a little, back in the dressing area. He let me play his opening number that night along with his band and he came out and sang. He made me feel real big! I felt like I was about 50 feet tall! There would always be about 80% of Grambling down there when he would come through.
In 1958 I became ill just before I was about to do my student teaching. The doctors recommended I take some time off from school and that's when I came to Dallas. I started working in Dallas and have been here ever since. I never have taught school, just a little substitute teaching in Dallas. I worked for the Veterans hospital for 7 years, transferred to the Federal National Mortgage in home loans for a few years, then transferred to Logistics Command for a few years, and ended up in the food and nutrition service. I was a food program specialist for the Federal government. I would visit schools or any organization that received government food subsidies. We did reviews and worked in conjunction with the Food Stamp Program. We were the ones that authorized food stores to accept food stamps from customers. We kept them abreast of changing regulations and things of that nature. I worked out of the Dallas office over on Commerce street. There were 5 of us to cover 59 counties in Northeast Texas. Of course I ended up getting 26 of those counties!
Back in 1968 Bobby Bland had lost his guitar player and he asked me to go out on the road with him. The kids were small then, and I just had to turn it down. That was about the time I was in my first regular band. I really didn't form the band myself. There was another guy here in Dallas, Charles Ginyard, that was putting a group together so we had sort of a joint band. We worked together over about 6 or 7 years around the Dallas area. He passed away a few years back.
I played at the Newport festival 3 different times starting about 1970. My brother was on the Board of Directors for the festival and he would bring me up every year. I was working for the government by then and I would set aside my vacation to go up and work at that show. I met a lot of people there, names that I had heard since I was very young. I used to use Muddy Waters' band to back me at Newport. He always let me use his band every year. Muddy was quite a guy. During the day when there was nothing really happening on the performance stage, we would sit out under the shade trees and I would give blues guitar seminars. Everyone would gather around and I'd demonstrate chord changes and a few licks. Everyone would have a good time and we would get a good crowd. Looked like everybody had a guitar at that time. Sometimes I would do as many as three of those in a day.
During one of those festivals I roomed with my old acquaintance, B.B. King. It was in a women's dormitory. We stayed up late into the night with me asking him questions until he finally fell asleep on me! He's such a beautiful guy.
After one of those appearances at Newport, Folkways Records contacted me and asked me to do a blues album for them. I went up there in 1973, did the album, and enjoyed every moment of it. It was called "Feeling the Blues" (Folkways #FTS31032). The distribution wasn't the greatest but it worked out pretty good.
After that period I continued to work and raise the children. There was an Elks lodge in Dallas at what is now Martin Luther King Blvd. and Atlanta. I had a little group with an organ, drums, and a guy that alternated on several different horns. We worked there for 16 years playing weekends. We would do some of the annual Elks conventions and a few out of town things, but mostly it was just down at the local lodge on weekends. During the time I worked at the Elks Lodge I didn't have much time to become acquainted with the other musicians around town. I hear a lot of names of guys that were around back then that I really should have known, but didn't because I was so preoccupied between work, family, and playing at the lodge.
I retired from the Federal government in May of 1986. I kind of laid off music for awhile. Then a friend of mine opened up a club, T.B.'s Lounge, about 4 years ago, and coerced me back into playing. She would even open the club on Wednesday nights for us to practice. Since I've been back in it I've enjoyed every moment. I met these guys working at T.B.'s. They were playing with another group and they kind of veered off from there and I picked them up. They were doing a good job and I liked their sound. Degge's been with me a little over two years and Jerry has been with me about a year and a half. I knew Wilford from way back in the 60's. He used to sit in with us when I was playing with Ginyard. I played briefly with Frankie Lee Daniels and Wilford was in his band. I knew Harry from the old days when North Dallas was up around Thomas and Hall. Harry was in Bo Thomas' band back when Bo had the Empire Room which later became the Ascot Room. I have quite a few original tunes I've been working on with the fellas. About a year ago we started to get out into some of the other clubs in town. Now I feel like I'm kind of back in it.
I'm ready to get back on the festival circuit now that the kids are all grown and married. I have two girls and two boys. Now there's nobody but the wife and I, and she's ready to get me out of the house! She retires in April 96 after 23 years with the Feds. We've been married for 37 years and she's 100 percent in my corner. I'm available and I love to work!
Bob Kirkpatrick and the R&B Doctors wish to extend a special thank you to the following individuals and organizations for their moral support and efforts in promoting our musical careers:
Essie Kirkpatrick, Sharon, Bob Junior, Robin and Rod Kirkparick, B.B. King, Ivory Joe Hunter, Ella Barber at T.B.'s Lounge, Dub Cox and Michelle Owens at The Office Lounge, L. Pearl Bennett at The Twilight Club, the staff and members of the Trinity Lodge of Elks #480, S.G.I. worldwide membership organization, Jean Davis, Mrs. M.F. James, Mrs. Ruthie Coleman, Mrs. Mary Staten, Nichiren Daishonin, and Alice at The Office Lounge, one of our biggest fans. To all of our friends, fans, and relatives everywhere, thank you for your support.