Well, it could be a couple of old dogs learning new tricks.
Or you could say it’s a pair of new dogs learning old tricks.
Or some combination thereof.
Bob Woods and Greg Middleton are two of the newest KVMR 89.5 FM volunteer broadcasters, only they both have roots going back pretty deep at KVMR.
Just last weekend, they’d partnered as Friends of Wesley (Robertson) to do his landmark show (2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, 89.5 FM, 105.1 FM Truckee, kvmr.org streaming). The community radio station hasn’t replaced the show as of now, but is allowing a variety of close friends to continue the late broadcaster’s spirit and themes.
Woods, a guitarist in many different bands and configurations stretching back some 47 years onstage and now a retired railroad engineer after 28 years, had been on KVMR plenty of times as a musician, but it was, yup, the late Wesley Robertson who invited him to do a Telecaster guitar special by himself with Wes engineering.
A DOZEN YEARS
And so now he’s done about two of them a year on Robertson’s fabled “Rockin’N’Stompin’ Show” for 12, count ’em, 12 years now.
“You have some friendships where everything, I mean, everything is easy,” said Woods. “That was Wesley. The only problem was Wes would humbly say, ‘Did you think about…’ and I’d say ‘Oh, yeah…'”
With Middleton, it was a different set of circumstances and a different situation.
“Eric Rice had gotten the bluegrass show replacing (the late) Ken Crow (in 1985) and he actually asked the audience what he should play,” Middleton remembered. “I called him, and by the following Saturday I brought him records, went on air, kind of co-hosting the show for a couple years.”
“From then, I’ve always felt like part of the family. I’ve made so many lifelong friends here. Hey, I took Eric to his first Strawberry (Music Festival)”, where Rice is now the event’s chief electrician and a strong proponent of the twice-yearly festival.
Middleton also did a Monday night show on KVMR called “High Lonesome Sound” around that time but life and family sort of had him withdraw from on-air stuff, although he’d remained an active participant as part of live remote broadcast crews.
Enter the spirit of Wesley Robertson once again. Jeez, he’s still spending a lot of time around here.
“I’m just grateful for the way it’s all worked out,” noted Middleton, who retired after 30 years at AT&T and had worked as a substance abuse counselor in recent years. “Without Wes, I wouldn’t have gotten back in the (KVMR) saddle. He nudged me, he got my juices flowing again.”
Middleton and Woods bonded when they were part of a remarkable crew Robertson had put together that helped produce three live remote broadcasts in eight days back in February: Canadian artist Fred Eaglesmith in Sutter Creek, a song-a-thon in Placerville and Texan singer/storyteller Tom Russell back in Sutter Creek. Three in eight days? It’d never been done before on KVMR…but now it, um, has.
Just a week or so later, Robertson died from injuries he suffered in a car accident, stunning the station, its listeners and volunteers.
“Just this week, I had dream after dream about Wesley,” said Woods. “Maybe it was because I was doing his show, or maybe he was just foolin’ with me.”
Woods calls his onstage guitar virtuosity and his on-air radio work kind of like each other, in a sense.
IN THE MOMENT
“You make a set list, you make adjustments as you go, you have to stay in the moment as you do the show,” Woods added.. “Yeah, they’re very similar to each other.”
Easy for him to say, but then if Wesley’s watching these guys, he might have opinions.
This Saturday, for instance, Sacramento Dave — who also worked with Robertson on live remotes — will feature an Alaska Salmonfest performance by one of Wesley’s favorites, Great American Taxi, and Achilles Wheel, the Nevada County band who’s been honoring Robertson with singer-songwriter Paul Kamm’s “Wesley’s Road”.
“Rockin’N’Stompin'” airs Saturdays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
And with this other pair of old or new dogs doing new or old tricks, well, Middleton and Woods will likely be popping up again soon, too.