Aspen has lost another legend. I’m talking about “Dead Bob”. Some of you might have known him as Robert Fick, but he’s always been Dead Bob to me. Most of you don’t know him, but he was a legendary local who graced the valley for decades until he went priceless in about 2005. I have just learned of his death and it is a heavy loss.
I met Dead Bob in 1985. He lived in the Wildbach Apartments in Woody Creek on Lower River Road. Dead Bob had designed a full-fledged 18-hole disc golf course that skirted the river, climbed up a steep ledge, crossed a ravine, then a basalt plug at the edge of a steep mountain. We played every Sunday, often two rounds with a nice “Dead Bob’s Cafe” lunch in between. Dead Bob loved to cook and served chicken fricassee or, when broke, hot dogs. He always fed the crew.
Dead Bob was a very solid disc golfer and he kept records of each player’s every stroke for years and years, laying the scorecards at the end of each season and providing hand-calculated statistics. Special notes were taken if a player had “blood on the scorecard”. I played so much on this course that my ragged shoulder finally ended my career.
Dead Bob drove the Woody Creek road for RFTA and he was able to keep the van at home. He was driving with a flamingo between the two front seats. He was colorful.
He and I started to play music together. We formed a loose group that we called the “Cud Scouts”. We released our first album, “Suddenly It’s the Cud Scouts” in 1986 and recorded many other albums after that. Dead Bob brought a unique scintillating guitar playing to my songs as I learned to play, sing, write and record. Our first album was recorded in Su Lum’s hangar in Aspen on a four-track cassette tape recorder. Bob himself has contributed to many songs, often bold, hilarious and timeless.
He wrote fabulous rock songs: “Cesspool of Love”, “Suck on the TV”, “Sly Fly”, Cherry Street “and countless others. We did a Halloween album, “The Which Beer Project” and “The Titanic is Sinking”, an entire album dedicated to maritime tragedy.
Well her daddy flew in the front door
And I flew from behind
And resumed my role of bug on the window screen
Before that man could crush me I said I’ll see you later Jack
Give my regards to the little woman if you know what I mean
I’m a sneaky fly and I’m trying to buzz someone
I’m a cunning, cunning, cunning little fly that’s gonna make a buzz with you
– “Sneaky fly”
Dead Bob was never shy and he slipped into a homemade costume faster than a sneaky fly slipped from behind. We both auditioned for the Theater Aspen production of “Pump-boys and Dinettes”. I was able to attend Bob’s audition and I can tell you that he really marked the director and producer of the series. Bob arrived with a cowboy hat, polka dot polo shirt, shorts and uneven socks. He got into position and just before hitting the first note on his electric guitar, he let his pants drop around his ankles, revealing boxer shorts scalloped with bright red hearts. Then he started to sway. He got the part.
Dead Bob has helped me feel normal with almost any creative project. He played his part and I pushed him to the limit, trying to get what I had in mind out of his guitar.
In February 2000, the music television channel VH-1 announced that it was looking for a musical number for a segment it was producing for a show called “Rock and Roll Record Breakers”. I went to my studio and typed something and submitted it to VH-1. They loved it and came to the valley, starting in my home studio in a garage in Aspen Village, then moving to Aspen where we spent most of the day and night recording songs in the Ultimate Taxi, which VH-1 called it the “World’s Smallest Recording Studio.” Dead Bob wore a mini velcro amp attached to headphones on his head. It was our street organization. The segment that aired may have been. to be our closest contact with glory.
Over the decades Dead Bob and I have performed in all the venues in the valley in various groups and Bob was in the orchestra of my rock opera, “Umbrella Man”, which we performed at the Wheeler Opera House. Music defined our relationship, but we were friends and we traveled and played golf and tennis. We even moved to Seattle together 30 years ago to pursue the big musical dream. He was driving a VW Beetle painted like a Holstein cow.
Bob was a big boy and couldn’t run very fast, but he had a remarkable ability for short, powerful gusts that made him invincible. I was a good tennis player but Dead Bob had been an instructor and I just couldn’t stop him. His service was crazy. He stood at the line and slowly curled up, tossed the ball in the air and crushed it. His serve hit you deep in the area, really quickly, and turned so much that you’d be lucky to hit him, let alone fire him. If I managed to deflect him, he would hold onto the net, killing my anemic attempt at return. He would then blow slowly and blow up the service line and repeat the entire performance again.