Bob Christopher ’55 sings for U.S. presidents
February 12, 2001
When U.S. presidents visit Texas, the Levee Singers entertains them.
Robert (Bob) Christopher ’55, who sings and plays bass for the Levee Singers, has entertained at Lady Bird Johnson’s house, has performed for George H. Bush, and has played for Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.
“We were the official band for Ross Perot when he was a presidential candidate,” Christopher says. “We were even on television with him several times.”
That wasn’t the only time the Levee Singers entertained a national television audience.
The four-member ensemble of three banjos and a bass (at times, a bass fiddle or bass saxophone) performed on the “Hollywood Palace,” “Hootenanny,” “Jimmy Dean Show” and “Danny Kaye Show.”
Christopher vividly recalls one particular performance with Danny Kaye. “We came on stage, and while we were in the middle of a song, Danny grabbed my bass, twirled it around, and started singing and playing with us. Then, without missing a beat, he twirled it around again and gave it back to me.”
The Levee Singers opened the show for Joey Bishop at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., and shared the stage with Sammy Davis, Jr.
It all started in 1961 at a small, legendary nightclub in Dallas, Texas, called The Levee.
Hundreds flocked to the club night after night to hear and to sing along with the house band, the Levee Singers. It became the hottest place in town, and the Levee Singers became an institution in Dallas. A Los Angeles agent stopped by one night, liked what he heard and brought the band into the national spotlight.
“I sat down once and did the numbers,” Christopher says. “We played five nights a week for 10 years. A million people saw us at The Levee, and another six million saw us live across the country.”
The Levee Singers still perform at least six times a month, often jetting throughout the nation to play at private parties.
“Our music is even better than it was in the ’60s,” Christopher says.Currently, the band is reissuing its five labels on compact discs.
Christopher says, “If we are hired to play for four hours, we play continuously for four hours. We don’t take breaks. At the end of our performance, we’re exhausted. But people have had a good time.”
Christopher, who arranges many of the band’s selections, attended Lewis & Clark as a music major from 1951 to 1953.
Due to family circumstances, he transferred to Southern Methodist University to earn a bachelor’s degree in geology. But his heart belongs to Lewis & Clark.
“I learned so much from Lewis & Clark music professors John Stark Evans, Stanley Glarum and John Richards ’46,” he says. “It was the happiest time of my education.” Christopher recalls taking clarinet lessons from Eddie Flenner, while playing in a jazz combo with saxophonist Chuck Jennings ’55. He sang tenor in a male quartet with Roy Shearer ’54, Doug Day ’55 and Jack Jennings ’53, sponsored by Evans, dean of music. And he sang in the Lewis & Clark Choir, directed by Glarum.
“John L. Bennett ’55 was always ready to jam,” Christopher recalls.
“He’d play piano, and I’d grab my sax. We did that almost every day in a little building, called the Shack, by Albany Quadrangle that served coffee and cold drinks. The library was in Albany Quadrangle at that time.
“One of the highlights of my class reunion last October was the chance to play music again with John Bennett,” says Christopher. “He was scheduled to perform at an event and invited me to play with him. That was fun.”
Christopher also remembers his one and only bass lesson.
“I asked John Richards if he would teach me to play bass fiddle,” Christopher says.
“He took my hand, placed my fingers on the fingerboard, told me to hold up my elbow and said, ‘There, that’s first position. Keep your hand in that position as you go up the neck. Now, work on it.’”
A few months later, Christopher was performing as a professional bassist.
“I could have been even more successful in music if I weren’t also running a thriving business in Dallas,” he says.
As president of Financial Planning Source, a subsidiary of Source International, Christopher has a successful track record for raising and managing funds in the most volatile periods of economic history.
He’s in front of his three computers anytime the U.S. market is open.At other times, look for him on stage.
—by Jean Kempe-Ware