The Ballad of Bob

June 1 is the birthday of Bob Walkenhorst, singer, songwriter and painter. His work with the Rainmakers has meant — and still means — a lot to a lot of people. His Wednesday night gigs at the Record Bar and now the Westsider in Kansas City with Jeff Porter and Norm Dahlor are going strong after 14-plus years. Happy birthday, Bob, and many more! This was written three years ago, for his 60th.

Empty the junk drawer
Unpack the memory banks
Bob-O turns 6-O

This calls for epic
And the longer the better
Yeah, that’s what she said

Smalltown Missouri,
Norborne, a dot on the map,
Framed Bob’s early life

Mable and Ray gave
Him love, lots of work to do,
Things to write about

They flipped newspapers
And burgers, too — anything
To help earn a buck

The carpenter’s son
Took their advice and found those
Better things to come

College, the Ozarks,
A crazy electric band,
Stumpwater by name

And then the big move
To the brightest lights around
Kansas City town

Steve, Bob & Dave burst
Out of the chute, played oldies
With intensity

They burned things up fast
From priests-and-strippers parties
To Uptown and down

Some originals
Worked their way into the mix
“Kissin’ Time,” “Christine”

That first trio split
Regrouped as Steve, Bob & Rich
Roots rockers unbound

KC, Wichita,
Springfield, Fayetteville, St. Lou,
Lawrence, Manhattan

The depths of Blayney’s
To Parody’s fire-trap heights
The boys played them all

Wore their pants backwards
Played toy-raygun “synth” solos
Whatever it took

“Baba O’Riley,”
“… Coming to Take Me Away,”
They’d try anything

Too fun, too funny
Who knew what to make of them?
So we danced and danced

Then built their own sets
Of rockin’ originals,
Showed us they had “Balls”

Pat joined in on drums
Band filled out its sound, ready
To take the next step

Renamed Rainmakers
Mercury/Polygram signed
Big-time record cut

Local fans rejoiced
Newsweek, Rolling Stone took note
Robert Christgau, too

New songs and synth sounds
Roared, but “Tornado” didn’t
Take the charts by storm

Good news: next CD
Got back to band’s roots. Bad news:
No label support

Worse news: it detailed
In “Battle of the Roses”
Bob’s breakup story

Then reckoning day:
Time for band to hang it up
Fun had become grind

Bob got that itch — naturally
To write, play again

“Another Guitar,”
Others with Gary Charlson
Rang at Buzzard Beach

Orbison high notes
And Everly harmonies
Yes, remarkable

And life turned again
Bob found his Missouri Girl
Waitin’ down those stairs

Una made the scene
And Norway fans still beckoned
Steve, Rich, Pat came back

Band reminded us
Of someone, good times “Flirting
With the Universe”

Bob got serious
Rich split, not quite furious
“Skin” band found its Bliss

More videos, gigs
Though again the Rainmakers
Ran their course, it seemed

But music still played
In his head and heart, in work
At video job

Helped start a project
Wrote a song with Una’s class
Honoring hero

“Primitivo Garcia”
Still brings us to tears

More songs came, found time
To be recorded, found Jeff
To help play them live

Wednesday night gigs born
Along with “The Beginner”
Proof that Bob was here

Norm joined in on bass
The Westport love affair’s still
Buzzzing, 10 years plus

Bob played on with Jeff
And “No Abandon” — they took
Duet to Norway

“Almanac” looked back
As if Rainmakers were through
But “Almanac” lied

Rainmakers re-formed
But didn’t reform — not with
Jeff replacing Steve

25 years on
Band honored its first CD
And made brand new one

Bob mined some memories,
Mature themes about aging
And getting it right

But on stage the guys
Were as crazy as ever
Band of knuckleheads

So Bob rocks, rolls on
Playing, painting, and working
To create, help, love

What is a hero?
One kind grows where he’s planted
Blesses those he knows

So take a bow, Bob
Not bad for just 60 years
Here’s to decades more