The Story of Bob
Bob is Great Big Sea's only bonafide St. John's-man, having been born at St. Clare's Hospital on LeMarchant Road in the city. His family name is a rare Devonshire one, dating back almost 350 years in Northwest Newfoundland. Like Alan and Sean, Bob is a first generation Canadian, both of his parents having been born when Newfoundland was an independent country.
Bob considers the old provincial district of Kilbride his home, having grown up just outside Bowring Park in the extreme West End of St. John's. It is an area with its own unique accent, responsible for Bob's unusually strong brogue.
Both of Bob's parents were very musical, and he was constantly encouraged to learn and practice whatever instrument he wanted. An enthusiastic member of the school band (where he played the baritone saxophone, of all things), he taught himself to play the guitar and tin-whistle while he was still an adolescent. He was inspired on the hopelessly button accordian by his grandmother, and persuaded his mother to buy him a cheap Galotta 'F' model at O'Brien's music. It wasn't until the relatively advanced age of twenty that he picked up the fiddle, learning on an old violin which had been a legacy from his great-grandfather. After playing in numerous quickly forgotten punk bands, Bob met Séan McCann at Memorial University.
Together they formed the Newfoundland Republican Army, a traditional music-cum-activist group which contained eight members, and collapsed after their second gig. Undaunted, they formed Rankin St., a pub act which was later joined by Darrell Power. Rankin Street's open-ended approach to performance also led to a revolving door membership, a reputation for over-the-top showmanship, and some seriously out-of-hand shows. In 1993 the band finally split up, evolving into Great Big Sea in an effort to bring a more original, Newfoundland based sound to life.
Bob is also an accomplished writer and editor, having been Managing Editor of publications like the Muse and the Newfoundland Herald. He designed and wrote all of GBS' early publicity material, as well as the liner notes on several albums. Over the years, he has written several text books for adolescents under a pseudonym, two of which have sold over 50,000 copies each. He has also written several music business instructional pieces for the Canadian government. As a producer, Bob has helped acts like Shanneyganock, Vince Collins and Danielle Dupuis achieve their own vision of traditional music.