Bob Johnson Obituary

Bob Johnson Obituary

Messages For Bob

If you would like to leave a message about Bob, please put it onto the Guestbook, I will then transfer your message to this page.

~~ Des


Robert (Bob) Johnson: Obituary Published in the Lancashire Evening Post on 13 May 2011

JOHNSON ROBERT (BOB) – Suddenly, but peacefully, surrounded by his family on Saturday, May 7 2011, aged 70 years. The dearly loved partner of Leonie, loving dad of Gary, David, Lisa and Emmalou, loving grandad of Katie. A much loved face within the music scene of the North West. A good friend to everyone who knew him in Chipping. He will be sadly missed by all. The funeral service will take place at Chipping Parish Church of St Bartholomew on Thursday, May 19 at 2pm. Family flowers only please, donations if so desired to MacMillan Cancer Support. Goodnight, God Bless. – All inquiries to William Houghton, Chapel Hill, Longridge, PR3 3JY. Tel: 01772 782291

                                                                             Bob Johnson

Sadly I have to let you know that Bob Johnson passed away on Saturday May 7th 2011.

I joined Bob Johnson and The Bobcats in 1960, I was totally impressed by the way he went about doing things and learned a lot from him, in fact I would go as far as saying Bob was the main inspiration to me, leading the life that I have.

He showed me how to be a ‘pro’ in many areas and I shall be eternally grateful for having the opportunity to work with him and learn from him. Bless you Bob.

Bob Johnson, absolute Legend RIP

The following words are reproduced with kind permission from Bob’s website and written by his son David who was also Bob’s sound engineer.

Bob Johnson, a legend in the music scene around Preston and Lancashire, passed away on Saturday the 7th of May 2011 aged 70. He was visiting relatives in Saint Andrews, Scotland when, on Sunday the 1st of May, he collapsed and was taken by ambulance to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee city. (Thank-you to all the Nursing staff, Doctors and Surgeons at Ninewells for all their tenderness and care) Bob’s funeral service will be held at; Saint Bartholomew’s Parish Church, Chipping, on Thursday the 19th of May. If you would like to attend the service please do so, I’m sure Bob, ever the showman and entertainer, would love to know that even his passing drew a crowd. The dress code is very simple; wear what you like, the more summery and bright the better, but if you’re traditionalist and want to wear black that will also be fine, the important thing is; you’re there.

One thing Bob did have a passion for was bright and quirky socks, so even if you do come dressed in black mourning attire, try and sneak in some loud, bright socks,  it’ll make you feel better and will be much appreciated. As a friend of mine put it “with people like Bob, you don’t mourn their passing at a time like this, you celebrate their life and achievements” and Bob lived life to the full and achieved so much. He never stopped writing and performing music right up until the very end. In-fact he performed his last gig along with co-performer and lifelong friend Phil Cool, only a few weeks ago at Chipping Village Hall on Sunday March 27 2011

It went down so well that he and Phil decided to do a mini tour which would be set in motion after Phil had undergone his operation. As we know now this will not come to pass, but the legacy and legend of Bob Johnson still lives on. To any musos’ reading this; there are about 20 songs on his website (link below) that can be freely downloaded and distributed either for your listening pleasure or to learn them and incorporate them into your own or bands gig list. Bob would be very proud to know that people appreciated his music to such a degree that they would want to perform it. This is one of the greatest compliments you could ever give a songwriter.

An all too brief history Bob was born and grew up around the Cadley area of Preston. In his early years he joined Saint David’s Church, Eldon Street. This is where he learned the art of singing. Although Bob was a natural singer with a good strong voice, the choir master at Saint David’s taught him breathing techniques and the importance of learning vocal scales and daily practice combined with warm-up techniques. As any singer knows; if you don’t warm-up first you run the risk damaging your vocal chords. Learning to use this God given musical talent, set him on a path that he would follow for the rest of his life. At about this time a thing called Rock and Roll was migrating across from the States to our soggy shores. The only way to get these recordings at the time was to order and/or import them yourself.

This along with the singing in Saint David’s’ Choir had a profound effect on young Bob and he used to take his collection of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Skiffle (a British interpretation of Rock ‘n’ Roll) records along with a portable record player (no iPods about yet) to a nearby field, where he would practice singing along to them. Once the music bug had bitten deeply, the only thing left to do was buy a guitar and learn to play along to the songs that had had such an influence on him.

Not a lot of people know this but Bob was an acute dyslexic. Rather than hindering him it actually contributed to his musical talent. Whereas people without dyslexia would read the words from the sheet, Bob found it easier to listen and commit them to memory. He became so good at this that he only had to listen to a song a couple of times and the melody and lyrics were absorbed and retained. This neat trick became especially useful when he discovered his song writing abilities.

Anyone who as ever tried to write a song will tell you that the lyrics and music flow from within at anytime, day or night, drunk or sober, tired or wide awake and more importantly with or without pen and paper. Not a problem for Bob, every song that he ever wrote was committed to memory, his ability to remember lyrics and music right up the end was astounding.

Bob Johnson RIP

Bob and The Bobcats

When it’s time to leave the world as we know it, one thing is certain. Although character influences decisions, your choices and legacy are what will live on.

This is certainly true in the case of Bob Johnson, lead singer of the Bobcats, who passed away on Saturday 7th May. The Bobcats, formed in Preston in 1956, represented a traditional attitude of folk from Lancashire- Everything’s gonna be alright. They also stood for the power of great music being able to stand the test of time and distance. Back in the 50’s the dream was simple- to broadcast good rock n’ roll to get listeners moving and swaying- although Johnson was also a member of other bands The Lune Street Gas Band, Smokey Joe and Bush Country.

The 60’s saw the band scoring more gigs and Preston’s earliest clubs becoming popular. Clive Kelly, club owner of the Catacombs Club remembers: ‘’Bob and the boys established the club, which had flooded alleys and stabling into a thriving rhythm and blues venue.’’ The Catacombs Club also saw Eric Clapton and Elton John play in their early days but as Robb Shenton notes; ‘’The Bob Johnson show was fantastic. He went on for hours- each song better than the last… his sound is still as fresh as a daisy.’’

In 1977 the band arrived in London with the intent to finally put their catalogue onto disk. Armed with great tracks such as ‘Soaring and Flying’ and ’Nothin’ but the Whisky’ the Chapel Recording Studios in Wimbledon produced the album ‘Chapel Sessions’. The act of naming albums after the recording location was a habit that continued- the final 1990’s album ‘Cool Garage’ being recorded mainly in the garage of Phil Cool, a stand-up comedian who performed onstage with the band. The sound was complimented with lyrics which conveyed ironic nuances of day-to-day life.

Also a great friend of Bob, Cool was to be present at the last gig played in March. 2011 Described as a ‘’sell-out’’ the old hits along with newer sounds where presented to a satisfied crowd who revelled in a moment untouched by modern-day trends.

The sounds of Bob Johnson and the Bobcats were, for many, a background track to their lives. Johnson personally made numerous friends over the years who will remember him for the true legend he was. Des O’Reilly, who joined the band in the 60’s said, on hearing the news of his passing, ‘’I would go as far to say as Bob was the main inspiration to me, leading the life I have. He showed me how to be a pro in many areas and I shall be eternally grateful for having the opportunity to work with him and learn from him.’’

Bob Johnson will be sorely missed. He knew of the power of great music and could tell stories that could keep a room enthralled for hours. All who knew him will credit a life well lived.

Sources: The Bobcats website, Lancashire Evening Post, Des O’Reilly website,

Reproduced from Hausdigital website author Tess Webb.

Bob Johnson and The Bobcats 1967

Bob Johnson and The Bobcats (Left to Right, Dave Millen, Bob Johnson, Des O’Reilly & Daz Smith)

I’m extremely happy to share this pic… It was taken in 1967 and as far as I’m aware it’s the only pic I’ve ever seen with me and Bob both in the picture..

Bob Johnson and The Bobcats 2010 next to last gig. in November 2010.

Bob’s Funeral

Bob Johnsons funeral at St Bartholomews Church, Chipping.

Published on Friday 20 May 2011 17:52  by The Lancashire Evening Post.

One of Preston’s brightest stars shone for the final time yesterday as the city’s musical community said goodbye to our very first rock and roller.

Mourners at the funeral of rocker Bob Johnson – who fronted Bob Johnson and the Bobcats, Preston’s first ever rock and roll band – were asked to wear brightly coloured socks, as he himself always did, at his funeral in the packed out St Bartholomew’s Church, Chipping. After the service, his family and friends, including TV comic Phil Cool, whose career Bob, 70, helped to kickstart by urging him to do open slots with the Bobcats, escorted his flower-decked wicker coffin in procession to his grave.

Phil, who was determined to attend despite recently having a quadruple heart bypass, has described Bob as his, “best friend in the world” adding: “He was a great man and there won’t be a day goes by when I won’t miss him. We’ll not see his like again.”

Leading the mourners were his partner Leonie, their daughter Emmalou, and his children from his first marriage, David, Gary and Lisa. Comic Cool spoke at the service, telling how Bob encouraged him after seeing him do a John Wayne impression.

Bobcats guitarist Keith Dalton also gave a moving rendition of the poem, A Star In The Void and youngest daughter Emmalou also paid tribute to her father.

Bob, who grew up in Cadley and Ashton and joined Eldon Street’s St David’s Church Choir as a boy, founded the Bobcats in the early 1950s. He stood on the verge of national fame in the 1970s when he won TV talent show Opportunity Knocks with another outfit, The Lune Street Gas Band. But, unimpressed with the terms, he rejected the offer.Bob went on to found well-known local bands including Bush Country and Cool Garage and performed his last show as a double bill with the reformed Bobcats with Phil Cool in his home village of Chipping on March 27, just weeks before he died on May 7. His big personality ensured he was always a star on his home turf and he met people he knew wherever he went.

An acute dyslexic, he learned to commit songs to his remarkable memory, which helped him greatly when he began song writing.

One fan of Bob’s music, who went to pay his respects, said: “The church was absolutely packed out, it was standing room only. It was fitting because, when Bob started in the 1950s and 1960s, his band really were a cut above… They were the best in Preston”


Mel Powell 03:41 AM on May 08, 2011

Hi Des very bad news about Bob, it’s very sad. My thoughts are with Bob and his family.

Take Care Mel

Kenny Jones 06:10 PM on May 08, 2011

Yes… Just to post an official announcement here, very sadly the great Bob Johnson passed away on Saturday 7th. May .

R.I.P Bob — a true local muscian Ken

Des O’Reilly 11:41 PM on May 08, 2011

Thanks Kenny, you know on reflection Bob was probably as important to Preston and it’s music scene as Lonnie Donegan was to skiffle and R’n R.

Always good value, always a ‘pro’.

Bob Johnson RIP


04:39 am on may 09, 2011

Yeah so sad Bob has passed away, to lots of people including myself he was just has big a star as someone who had made it world wide and in many cases bigger. I saw Bob perform few months ago at the Ship in Preston, and as soon as he opened his mouth and sang you could tell this guy was a top pro who could sing any song with true feelings, added with that presence he had on stage you couldn’t help but like him. god bless you Bob. you’ ll be singing with those stars in the sky now.

Robb Shenton

04:32 pm on may 09, 2011

Bob Johnson and the Bobcats were Preston’s first rock and roll outfit, I recall seeing Bob and the band at a sunday night gig at the Blessed Sacrament youth club – Ribbleton Preston, I recall Bob singing ‘Baby I Don’t Care’ with such power and charisma, he really ‘nailed it’. Bob’s artistry and talent showed that local bands could stand on a par with many of the national names in rock and roll at the time – Bob was surely the finest vocalist of his genre that Preston ever produced. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and his many music associates. I so regret not being able to get to Bob’s final gig on March 27th. god bless you Bob

rest in peace in rock n’ roll heaven

Derek Hunter 09:39 AM on May 18, 2011

Bob, A friend and Gentleman, sang Morning Dew better than Tim Rose,Turret Lounge, Lancaster Pub, and probably most of the other pubs, clubs in the Preston area will miss one of the best!

Rest in peace friend.thorny 08:49 AM on May 20, 2011

What a guy, a true gentleman and bloody good musician. It was a pleasure to play in his band. He will be sadly missed!

pete taylor 10:24 AM on May 20, 2011

bad news aboutBob Johnson to day

eddie baldwin 11:35 AM on May 20, 2011

Very sad news to hear about Bob Jonhson knew him well. Just found your site due to a letter in the evening post good to hear about you. I see Barry Grey quite a lot and will let him know about the site.

Regards Eddie Baldwin ex outsiders and solution, 

A message from Phil Eaves from the Preston Muso’s forum:

Hi Des,

Sorry its been so long since I last made contact with you.

Bob received a tremendous send off on Thursday, some three hundred people attended his funeral in Chipping – the church was packed to capacity!

It was a very emotional occasion and just goes to show how many people had such high regard for Bob. Whilst Bob had not been in the best of health for some time I never thought the gig we did at Chipping village hall on the 27th. March would be the last. We had plans to play a further 2 or 3 gigs later this year along with Phil Cool – but alas! As you may imagine many local muso’s attended his funeral – it sometimes seems these sad occasions are the only time we all get together nowadays – but there was a feeling that we should try and get together in the not to distant future and organise a memorial / tribute concert to Bob with proceeds going to a worthy cause. A great man and dear friend sadly missed.

All the best to you Des

Regards Phil Eaves.

Here is an Email I received from Dave Morris:

09:09 PM on July 09, 2011

I finally received the DVD of BUSH COUNTRY performance at “Big Draw Rock Club” aka “The Club Royal”, Market Street, Preston in 1976.

The original was filmed by a good friend of mine, Barry Jackson.

It was filmed on pre-vhs equipment in black and white.

The Quality is as good as we can get seeing the age ALMOST 40 YEARS.

Line up is as follows :-

  • BOB JOHNSON vocals
  • TONY WRIGHT Lead Guitar, backing vocals
  • ALEX LEYLAND Guitar,Mandolin,Violin, backing vocals
  • DAVE “DAZ” SMITH Steel Guitar and Bass Guitar
  • DAVE MORRIS Guitar and Bass Guitar
  • PADDY BROWN Keyboards

Dave Morris

                                                                             Bob’s Last Gig