More than anything else, perhaps, Bob was a lover of new talent. It was his gift, his pain and his heart. And he was great at it. I first met Bob Monaco when he introduced the Daughters of Eve in a Kankakee rock club called The Happening. Or maybe it was the Mauds. I know it wasn’t Rufus but it could have been the Cryan’ Shames, The Shadows of Knight, The American Breed, The Flock, Styx or any one of a dozen other Midwest Bands whose career has been helped by Bob Monaco. Then a buddy of mine who used to (and maybe still does) sing in Neil Diamond‘s back up band, calls me from this studio in the Valley and says he’s working with a producer from the Midwest whose now an A & R man for ABC/Dunhill records and he puts him on the line. It’s Bob Monaco. Bob says he wants to hook up. When we do he tells me that he has this idea for a book about the music business that really told it the way it is. No scandals, but a lot of things like how to know when the record label is lying to you or when you’re lying to yourself. It would tell the way things actually worked. So Bob and I meet. Out of that meeting was The Platinum Rainbow, my first and some still say best book. Bob and I would sit down and talk about a particular subject into the tape recorder. And we’d have fun and get crazy but we’d also get everything we knew and every story we’d ever heard into that tape recorder on a particular subject. Bob really knew the industry and I knew it from the aspiring artist side. I’d written 280 sets of lyrics in Nashville and 125 of them became songs and 30 of those were published and fifteen of those recorded and two of them released as records. And none were hits.
The Platinum Rainbow sold 250,000 copies and Bob and I were on something like 2000 radio stations talking about it. And a lot of these were rock stations — stations that just did music. Music and Bob and Jim. That’s what my friends use to call us after that. The Bob & Jim Show. But we were so used to it, after being on the road all the time. We did TV too (Regis, NBC, CBS News Shows). One time we were racing to get to this station in Minneapolis and the cab driver was this stoner kid who couldn’t find the place. And he couldn’t find the station on the dial either. But it was the number one talk station in Minneapolis which in those days meant the number one in town. So we finally find it and get brought onto the program which the DJ is doing live. He starts introducing us but we have no idea of what has been happening on the program. They just sit us down at the mikes and whammo, the guy says, “Bob Monaco and James Riordan join us now. They are the authors of,,,” And he goes into this big spiel. After our introduction the guy goes, “Bob, what do you think of today’s topic…” And I clamp my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing because I know Bob has no idea of the damn topic, And Bob looks at me and smiles. Then he goes, “Well, that’s really more Jim’s area..” And the guy turns to me and of course, all I can do is stammer around while Bob laughs. God, we had fun. Remember those rubber dolls whose eyes would bulge out when you squeezed them?, Bob was on mike talking at this one station and I put one of those in front of his face and squeezed it until it’s eyes popped out. And Bob laughed. But he didn’t miss a beat. He was so good on the air – smooth, fun and he had that great jazzy voice. More than anything else, Bob loved to find new talent. He found Chakka Khan and all those great Chicago bands. He found several others in L.A. And he found me.
Before I heard Bob was sick I dedicated this poetry book I have coming out to the people who took chances on me over the years. And the first name on the list was Bob Monaco. It still is. Then one day Bob’s brother Gary called to say Bob was sick and four days later he called to say he was gone. I was glad that we revised the book last year so we got to talk a lot. I loved Bob and Bob loved me. We had so much fun together that it was a shame the music business had to intervene. Bob’s love/hate affair with the music business is widely known. I talked him into rolling the dice once more. The deal blew but Bob and I stayed friends. We always stayed friends.
I loved thinking about how Bob used to get in the groove in the studio and pump his arm in time to the music. To me they’ll always be this “Bob Monaco Groove”. I hear it all the time – often in songs that weren’t Bob’s but had the feel he did so well. Bob wasn’t about the money. He was about helping people even when he couldn’t. He got himself into some wonderful jams, but he got out of them as well. He loved talent, he loved even more seeing that talent get recognition. Bob never mastered the killer music business executive model. The ones who always come out on top. Bob had too much heart for that. Whether it was producing Chaka, Three Dog Night, Tina Turner, Crow, Airto & Flora Purim or whoever Bob always threw himself into the music. He got a Grammy for Best r&b record for Tell Me Something Good but he should’ve got a lot more. Bob always made choices for the heart and sometimes it cost him. Which is good in a way because now we can remember Bob Monaco, a guy with a heart in a business with no heart. And my friend. Forever