When big band music that originally consisted of a section of horns, percussion, strings, and singers is reduced to one or two singers and a guitar, that's like Cole Porter meeting Bob Dylan. Perfecting this feat can be a daunting task, but that's what guitarist, singer, songwriter Bob Farley has done.
Bob has been playing American Standards of the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s -- both solo and as a duo with his wife as Littlest Big Band
-- since the late 1990s. His repertoire now includes many great Sinatra, Bing, Dean, and even Elvis and Hank Sr. songs that audiences readily identify and sing along with.
As he plays, he converses with the audience, sharing tidbits of interesting information about the songs, such as movies they were in, famous singers who sang them, etc., as well as asking questions, telling jokes, and leading sing-a-longs. And sometimes audience members have their own personal memories of famous singers and lifestyles that they can share during and after the shows.
"It's all about increasing the audience's connection to the music, the times they bring back, and the feelings they conjure up," says Bob. "Music is a part of life. It triggers memories and feelings. That's why it's important for people to hear these songs that have stood the test of time--they are 'their songs'."
How it all began
Bob's musical journey began when he was eight years old and a relative left a guitar at the house. His mom said if somebody didn't start playing it, she was going to toss it out. Now, his mom was a music lover, so it's relatively sure she would not have done such a thing, any more than she threw away the toys that his brothers and he left lying around the house. However, the threat made Bob take interest in the big, black Silvertone guitar, and he learned to pick out simple tunes, one string at a time. Tuning all the strings together came later, and about that time, so did the Beatles. It was at that point that Bob became a guitar player.
Teenage life brought a couple of garage bands that practiced much more than they played, and then the Army and life as a graphic artist and newspaper reporter took up most of his time, but there was almost always time and space for a garage band playing all the country, country-rock, and blues-rock that anyone could stand to hear.
After a couple of decades of covering Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams, playing music in bars no longer appealed and Bob quit the bands. He always kept an old Yamaha acoustic around, and played a few minutes on it most days.
Then, one day, skipping through television channels, he heard Michael Franti playing "Sound of Sunshine," and he thought: why not play music in coffee shops? And that's where he met his wife, Lynn. (For the rest of that story, see Raggedy Edge Indie Pop Folk Rock Duo