CEDAR FALLS – Bob Dorr isn’t afraid to admit he’s a crier.
And why shouldn’t he be a little blue — and shed a few tears — as the 36-year run of one of the region’s most beloved bands comes to a rollicking close this month.
Dorr and the Blue Band will perform their “Last Goodbye Show” in their hometown area Saturday at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.
“I know there will be a few songs that necessarily I’ll cry. I’m a crier. John Boehner (the emotional former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives) has nothing on me,” Dorr says, laughing.
Doors open at 6 p.m. The Blue Band will perform from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Cost is $5 per person at the door. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
In many ways, it has been like a rolling reunion. Since early 2017, the band has been playing gigs in as many of its old haunts as possible. Blue Band alums have joined in performances, and Dorr and longtime guitarist-songwriter Jeff Petersen have reconnected with their fans, “the blue people.”
“That’s what we call them. The tour has been everything I hoped and planned for, and the crowds have been better than they have been in the past few years. I think people understand it’s the last connection with us. Some people who’ve seen us maybe once a year have come out three or four times,” Dorr said.
On occasion the 10-piece band has swelled to 14. “There’s nothing like standing up there with a four-piece horn section and two drummers. It’s fantastic. Wow! What sound,” he said.
The band leader, who celebrates his 66th birthday Jan. 12, started Bobby’s Blue Band when he was 29. His vocals and harmonica have anchored the band, and Dorr also has managed the business and production sides of the band’s gigs and recordings.
“I need to get back to the reason I was mesmerized by the magic of music. I no longer want to be the band leader of a 10-piece entourage,” Dorr said. “I’m so looking forward to having a little more distance from the business part and recapturing my passion for the music part. I like being able to step away … all of those things have nothing to do with playing harmonica and singing the songs. “
“The LAST Last Goodbye” shows are Jan. 12 and 13 at the Riverside Casino and Resort Show Lounge in Riverside. On Jan. 12, Dorr’s small bands will play along with sets by the Blue Band from 7:30 to midnight. Duke Tumatoe opens the show at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13, and the Blue Band says goodbye from 9 p.m. to midnight.
An encore goodbye performance is part of the IPTV fundraiser at 6 p.m. Jan. 20 in Johnston. For ticket information, visit the IPTV website.
The original Blue Band was assembled in 1981 to fulfill contract obligations for Little Red Rooster following that band’s split. Former bandmate Molly Nova (bass/violin/vocalist) joined along with Petersen, and the band eventually evolved into Bob Dorr and the Blue Band, playing new songs and old hits.
Over the years, the band has opened for B.B. King, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Tower of Power and others. They’ve been an Iowa State Fair staple for more than three decades and performed at the Kansas City Jazz & Blues Festival and Bluestock Celebration in Memphis, Tenn.
Dorr launched Hot Fudge Records in his garage to record more than 25 Blue Band albums. In 2006, a two-DVD set was released by Iowa Public Television celebrating the band’s 25th anniversary. Dorr was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame in 2000 as a radio DJ at KUNI Public Radio for many years, and in 2007 he was inducted as leader of the Blue Band. He was into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.
Dorr keeps in touch with his disc jockeying roots as host for Iowa Public Radio’s “Backtracks,” “Blue Avenue” and “Beatles Medley” — all of which he records in his garage studio. He also helps host IPTV’s fundraisers.
Dorr confesses the Blue Band has been his baby. “Frankly, I’m a little scared that I’m not going to have my ‘kid’ around, but I like the empty nester idea. The mindset and memory I want to carry and remember is what we were all about.
“The flip side is I don’t want to even entertain any idea of keeping going with the band because I think it can only go backward and tarnish the memories that this whole goodbye tour has been about making.”
Dorr and longtime-friend Petersen are not retiring from music. They’ll perform as the Blue 2 and the Blue Trio with Blue Band bass player Doug Norton. There’s also Bob Dorr and the Iowa State All-Stars (aka The Limestoners), Blue Mississippi featuring Dorr, Petersen and members of Dubuque’s The Mississippi Band, and the Parlor City Jam Band, house band for the Parlor City Pub in Cedar Rapids.