Barbecue Bob and The Spareribs “Swamp Thing” (1996)

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They came after many months of painstaking planning, a not insubstantial expense, and more than a few sleepless nights sweating out the weather forecast, but hearing the sound of the first few notes of this song was one of the crowning moments of my life. Along with our good friends the Hunters and the Johnsons, we were co-hosting the Captain Honeywell’s Block Party (yup, that’s really the name of the road). The street was blocked off, an enormous buffet spread anchoring one end and an inflatable “bouncy castle” at the other, with an array of tables, chairs, coolers and screaming kids lining the vast area in between. But the main stage was in my driveway: that’s where the band was set up.

Many years before, that idiosyncratic band, Barbecue Bob and The Spareribs, had won the hearts of my friend Rosey and I when we saw them play at the dearly departed Rodeo Bar, the last honky-tonk in New York City (what a place that was: cheap Lone Star beer, live music with no cover every night, and free peanuts). When we began searching for the “talent” to complete our event, I took a flier reaching out to BBQ Bob himself (daytime name: Robert Pomeroy) and before long was able to hash out the comprehensive negotiations. Bob and the boys had never heard of our town, had never been to our county, but for their Saturday afternoon trip north of the city they just needed a modest sum of cash, and access to our grub and indoor plumbing. After careful consideration with my esteemed co-planners, Greg and Art, we agreed to their reasonable demands.

Everything else pretty well fell into place from there, including the all-important passing of some threatening rain clouds. There were a plethora of other details, but all the deliveries arrived as planned, the turnout was great, and at about 3:00 the band had finished tuning and sound-checking and was ready to go. This song, the rather languid instrumental ‘Swamp Thing,’ was their opener. When Bob counted in the start and picked out the short intro, and just a few seconds later the band all joined in, Greg and I happened to be standing next to each other. Wordlessly, we exchanged a massive high-five: we’d pulled it off (and we quickly retreated to pull the tops off a couple of malted beverages). A few hours later, with dusk setting in, the Spareribs finished their set with, well, I could never remember for sure if it was Muddy Waters’s ‘Got My Mojo Working’ or Ray Charles’s ‘What’d I Say,’ but as the jubilant attendees screamed the call-and-response chants with the band on one of those songs, I do distinctly remember my friend Zing parading me around on his shoulders. Screw Leo DiCaprio in Titanic, I was the king of the world.

Epilogue 1: Nearly as much as for the event itself, my excitement for the leftovers was supreme. Surveying the post-party buffet, I was fixated on the barbecued chicken tray. There must’ve been 50 or more gorgeously glazed pieces left untouched; I was going to be set for weeks. Just then one of our neighbors, known only somewhat affectionately as Crazy Marilyn, staggered up to the table. “Whazz this?” she slurred, oafishly grabbing a drumstick from the platter while showing telltale signs she’d been a tad overserved. She gnawed at the bone a few seconds, as both slobber and barbecue sauce dripped down her chin, recoiled with a guttural grunt, and heaved the mangled leg back into the pile before stumbling off. It was now far too dark to possibly consider distinguishing the tainted piece, nor with what it had come into contact. Swallowing hard, I went to retrieve a garbage bag: the leftover chicken bonanza was history.

Epilogue 2: A couple years later I was driving on St. Charles Avenue approaching Lee Circle in New Orleans with a group of friends, some of whom had attended the Block Party, when I spotted a sign outside the dive Circle Bar promoting that night’s band, none other than Barbecue Bob and The Spareribs. Like Boon in Animal House screaming “Wait til Otis sees us!” I insisted we had to stop and say hello, and almost immediately upon entering, sure enough we ran straight into Bob. Who…had no idea who I was. “C’mon, Bob!” I pleaded. “The Block Party! You played in my driveway! We rapped about the blues and guitar and…” It was like Nicholson after the lobotomy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. A blank stare. Nothing. My friend Cek, always a master of dry understatement, turned to me and remarked, “What a tearful reunion.” It was a bit of tough come-down for the one-time king of the world, though the awaiting French Quarter did help to ease the pain.


4 thoughts on “Barbecue Bob and The Spareribs “Swamp Thing” (1996)

  1. Great story! I caught Barbecue Bob and The Spareribs once or twice myself, maybe even at that same Rodeo Bar show (where I also caught other great acts like The Frantic Flattops and Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs. God I miss that place). We have block parties in my neighborhood a couple of times a year and I always think we should get a great bar band to play. I’m so jealous you pulled it off. I repeat, great story!

  2. Thanks, Boris. I bet BBQ Bob and some iteration of the Spareribs would still be available for your next occasion. Just don’t expect him to remember you after the booking.

  3. The best bar band ever, since the 80s. Rodeo Bar, Dan Lynch’s, The Blue Rose … I was a student at CU, home base for them back in the day. I played the Furnald Folk Fest a few times same night as the Ribs. Still cover ‘Oedipus Rex’ and ‘Huckle Up’ when I play out these days.

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