Bob Deforest Celebrates 2 Decades of Da Blues

By Ric Holmquest
Photography by Levi Zinser

Saturday, January 5, 2013 marks another musical milestone in the remarkable career of KCCK Radio 88.3 personality Bob DeForest’s twenty year anniversary with the station. DeForest popularized the Saturday evening “Da Blues” radio show, and also hosts the stations Crawfish Circuit and Melting Pot.

DeForest is a founding member of the Linn County Blues Society, serving on the Entertainment Committee and as Director at Large. DeForest maintains his musical knowledge with annual pilgrimages to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival and as many individual live music events as possible. In 2008 DeForest was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame, in good company with his friends Dennis “Daddy O” McMurrin and Catfish Keith.

Bobby D is a rare breed among radio personalities, having carte blanche to build each weekly program from start to finish. In an entertainment medium increasingly scrutinized and micro-managed by station owners and program managers, DeForest has total freedom to share the music he chooses with his audience. With his own extensive library of recordings and KCCK’s vast collection, coupled with his amazing musical knowledge, he is well empowered.

The process begins early each week with a large crate of music carefully selected from his home collection systematically making its way into the studio each Saturday night. DeForest estimates his current collection to include four thousand recordings on vinyl and another two thousand on compact disc. DeForest then mines musical nuggets from the enormous library of digital recordings at the newly remodeled studio. The end result is a fun, diverse, musical roller coaster ride with DeForest at the wheel.

It’s a very cool vibe with the team at KCCK, evidenced by DeForest sharing
“Bob Stewart and Dennis Green both do such a great job with the station and have been so incredibly supportive. They supply me with music and provide me with total freedom. Dennis invigorates the DJ’s and has upped the ante with our community events. The station has been on the forefront of real-time documentation of content played. Gordon Paulson has been a big advocate of Da Blues and live shows, with George Dorman always there to back me up with any technical issues”.

KCCK General Manager Dennis Green shares “Bob is so much more than a DJ. No one is more supportive or passionate about the blues. Anywhere you can hear good Blues, chances are Bob is there. If he’s not hosting or Master of Ceremonies, he’s in the front row dancing and digging the grooves. He brings that same energy to his radio show. It’s a Blues party every week for the last twenty years, and I hope he goes another twenty and more”.

DeForest is generous in sharing his musical knowledge of the Blues, starting by providing informative presentations at each of the LCBS monthly meetings. Those presentations were the inspiration for Bob’s award winning Blues Caravan program, another vehicle for DeForest to promote local musicians, and pass along his knowledge and history of the Blues.

Bob explains “Blues Caravan reached a larger audience by taking it right to the people,” adding “it’s particularly gratifying when the audience responds to my presentations of the Blues legends.” The monthly program featured the best regional Blues bands from the Eastern Iowa Corridor appearing at a different venue each month. Blues Caravan was on the road for nine years and was responsible for a day of main stage entertainment at the Cedar Rapids BBQ Roundup two consecutive years.

DeForest also had a successful run as host of Mahoney’s Irish Pub’s Delicious Vinyl. It was all vinyl every Tuesday evening with DeForest manning the pub’s two turntables, bringing in hundreds of records from his personal collection to share with the pub’s audience. In 2002 Cedar Rapids Mayor Paul Pate proclaimed Saturday, April 6 as Da Blues 10th Anniversary Day in recognition of Bob’s achievements, the Blues as one of the few indigenous American musical art forms and the stations impact on thousands of listeners.

Congratulations to Bob DeForest. DeForest sums it all up simply with “it’s been fun the last twenty years, and I hope the support from my listeners continues.”

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