R.I.P. Bob Young

We may have told you before that some posts are harder than others to write.  Well … this is one of those.

As we started typing this into our desktop it was a half hour until Midnight.  We were still sorting out some very sad news we just got and would be sharing with Nick Digilio on WGN Radio, at 4 AM, as we joined him to remember, and pay tribute to, a dear friend who just happened to be one of the most talented singer/songwriter/musicians we’ve ever known … Bob Young.

An early promotional photo of Bob Young.

An early promotional photo of Bob Young.

We just got word late Tuesday night that Bob passed away.

For any of you who might not know, along with writing, singing and performing on any of a number of incredible musical creations that sound as good as, or better than, much of what you hear coming through your radio today, Bob also wrote “The WGN Song” and our “Steve and Johnnie – Johnnie and Steve” theme.

We first encountered Bob at one of WGN Radio’s Taste of Chicago broadcasts.  We knew right away he was a REAL talent, but didn’t really get to know how much of a talent or how dedicated a performer he was until he joined us onstage at the WGN Tornado Aid concert at Joliet’s Rialto Square Theatre.  That concert was organized to raise money for the tornado that devastated much of Plainfield in 1990.  Bob and his band had another gig booked that night, but insisted on playing BOTH gigs because he wanted to help.  He backed us on the infamous version of “Johnnie B Goode” that not only saw Steve singing and playing but, in a “we’ll never forget this” moment, saw Johnnie burn her accordion ala Jimi Hendrix.

After playing his own set and backing us, when the curtain closed, Bob and his band quickly ran off the stage to the other gig where they had stashed additional instruments.  It was not long after that Bob wrote “The WGN Song” which is currently being used in radio and television commercials.  The original, sung by Bob, debuted on Bob Collins’ show one morning during the days Johnnie was still doing traffic on the show.  Bob Collins said to Johnnie “Johnnie Gail, Bob Young has sent us a song called “The WGN Song” let’s give it a listen.”  It was the first time anyone had heard the song and before it was over both Collins and Putman and, we suspect many listeners, were drying their eyes.  It was an instant favorite and opened the door to Bob Young regularly opening the door and saying “Hey kids, I just wrote something new.  Wanna hear it?”  The answer was always “Yes.”  Bob Young was the rare performer we would pop a tape or CD in and play on the air without auditioning because we totally trusted him and knew it would be something really good. He never let us down.

Bob Young with the "Star Guitar" he'd just signed.

Bob Young with the “Star Guitar” he’d just signed.

As we got to know Bob, a real friendship developed.  For years Bob and his wife, Mary, spent holidays and birthdays with us at our house or on our show at WGN.  One morning we got the terrible news that a fire had left Bob and Mary homeless and without a life’s worth of possessions.  In a very short order, almost overnight, Bob Collins joined the two of us and Phil Vaughn, the head of Nation Records in organizing the “Friends Again” concert.  The Ides of March, The Buckinghams, The Cryan’ Shames, Ronnie Rice, Stormy Weather, Pete Special and a ton of WGN listeners came together on a rainy Sunday afternoon in an airplane hanger to participate in the “Friends Again” benefit to help out Bob and Mary.  We auctioned off everything from guitars to Johnnie’s homemade cakes.  It was a HUGE success and gave Bob and Mary the means to get back on their feet.  By the way, “Friends Again” was named after one of Bob’s songs.

Bob Collins and Bob Young at the "Friends Again" concert.

Bob Collins and Bob Young at the “Friends Again” concert.

One of the many nights we’ll never forget is having Bob in the studio and getting a call from Bob’s brother, Steve.  They hadn’t talked to each other in years.  During the news they talked off the air and reconnected.  This reconnection resulted in Steve Young helping produce Bob Young’s first album “Who’s Bob Young.”  Both brothers were in the studio with us for a CD release party that saw the album sell out.  The guys literally had operators standing by and before our show ended they told Bob and Steve that all the copies they had pressed were sold out.  Talk about a reunion!

Bob’s follow up album, “American Stories,” contained many listener favorites like “Hey Baby,” “Friends Again,” and “Her Mother’s Daughter.”  “Her Mother’s  Daughter” was written for Bob’s wife Mary and her daughter and, as we know from many listeners, was played at many a wedding.  If you’d like to hear some of “American Stories” the album and downloadable  tracks are available by clicking right here.

Bob Young's "American Stories" CD

Bob Young’s “American Stories” CD

If you’d like to hear our theme, “The WGN Song,” and “The Yacht Lyle Dean” and see a video of Bob performing, just click here for WGN Radio’s tribute to Bob Young.

Unfortunately, recent years found Bob grieving the loss of his beloved Mary and spending more time surrounded by doctors and nurses than he would have liked.  Through it all he remained amazingly upbeat and would always want to talk about his next project or song.

There is so much more to say about Bob and we shared some of our thoughts with Nick Digilio this morning.  Click here if you’d like to hear the conversation we had with Nick remembering Bob.

Suffice it to say, we loved Bob not only for his talent but for his humor and his big heart. His passing leaves a hole in ours.

He lived to play music and we’d like to believe he’s sitting on that front porch he always told us about and strumming his guitar for Mary.

Another Bob Young black and white

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13 Responses to R.I.P. Bob Young

  1. Carole says:

    I believe the first time bob Collins heard bob young music was for the contest, song for your town. Young’s “the thrilla of living in lake villa”-with the line “so close to Wisconsin, can smell it when they cut the cheese”. I live in lake villa, and enjoyed that. Then i was so surprised when bob young came up with all of the other songs, so talented!

  2. Miss Rozie says:

    My condolences to Mr. Young’s family & friends, especially to you, Steve & Johnnie. Heard Nick say that you two would be on in the 4:00 hour but woke up just in time to listen to the last of, yep, the famous Steve & Johnnie, Johnnie & Steve theme song. When I hear that song, I literally snap to attention saying to myself “ugh oh, here they come – woo-hoo!” Only today you were over & out. And as Nick said when the entire song was over … can’t cut the ending of that song out – I always want to hear that entire song, just love it. Will listen to the podcast. The world lost a terrific musician & wonderful human being & I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend, Bob Young. May he rest in peace.

  3. So sorry to hear of the passing of your dear friend. He was unbelievably talented. I remember the fund raiser that Bob Collins had for his family after they lost their home in a fire. I attended that fund raiser at the airport. It was the first time I had seen you and Steve in person. I remember Steve jamming his guitar with Ronnie rice. Bob was so talented. Loved the songs he wrote for your show and WGN. surely missed.

  4. Mark says:

    First of all to Bob’s family my sincere condolences. And then to Bob’s extended family at WGN, and to all the faithful listeners. Because back in that era EVERYONE on the air made you feel like family; they made you feel like you were sitting at a party.

    I have listened to WGN for a VERY long time…. (even back when it was not cool to be in high school and listen to your parents radio station!!!) I remember well the appearances Bob made on the radio…. Pumkinfest Tornadoe aid and the like. His songs were always uplifting and made you want to sing along with him.

    To Steve and Johnnie, you have lost a true friend, and a member of your extended family.

    May God bless Bob Young and all those who rest in heaven….

  5. Reenie Prine says:

    Loved him and his music. Many wonderful times listening to him on with Bob and the two of you. I am sure he and Uncle Bobby are up there laughing and scratching as Uncle Bobby would say. Condolences to his family and to you Steve an Johnnie on the loss of this talented man.

  6. Ray says:

    My wife and I were avid listeners to your show,and remember one of the highlights was when Bob would call in and discuss his latest music endeavors. He was a true musician and artist, even in his down time would be musically active. We both miss your show, and your conversation with Bob. Heaven has another great musical talent. Prayers for Bob and his family.

  7. Jim Young says:

    Sorry to hear of Bobs passing . We grew up in Grayslake together , I remember when he first picked up the guitar to learn how to play . He would practice 8 to 10 hours a day in the mid 50’s . The next time I heard him play was 10yrs later with his band ”Sunday Funnies.” I couldn’t believe how good he was . We lost touch over the years , but have a history together and share a last name . He was a talented guy , I would love for someone to post some of his music . I’ve tried finding him on youtube , but no luck .

  8. Henry Bottando says:

    R.I.P. Bob Young , bless him and his family, and Thank You, WGN, Nick, and Bob Collins for exposing us to him

  9. Linda Sue says:

    Once again Steve and Johnnie have shown us how sweet and intelligent they are….and only the best people can find other extraordinary people….like Bob Young. Thank you so much Johnnie and Steve for introducing me to Bob and his talent!

  10. Trent Lytle says:

    When radio was fun to listen to. R.I.P….Bob Young, Bob Collins.

  11. Dee H-W says:

    I cried when I read your sad news. I feel as if I lost a family member; that was the way WGN treated its listeners. He was “extended family.” My sincere condolences to you, and to his entire family. I first heard him on Collins’ show, and always loved when you had him on. Such a delight. Such a loss.

  12. cw says:

    So sorry to hear the passing of Music Director in the “classroom”… my sympathies to his family and you as well! will always remember him fondly.
    c.w.

  13. Eric True says:

    My name is Eric true and I am from way over on the east coast of Canada I never met but personally but I talked to him a hot sure the internet and we shared some lyrics together I thought he was an absolutely amazing person and such a talented musician as I have never heard before and I fell in love with his song everybody has to cry sometimes the way he presented it like the coyote that was hauling on them and love them very much so surprised to hear that he is gone

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