(April 15, 1947 - December 25, 2013)
For nearly four decades Bob Webb presented the music of seafarers, loggers, railroad men and other folk heroes and heroines. A singer, raconteur and instrumentalist, Bob reached all ages in presentations ranging from theatre concerts to intimate informal programs.
Robert Lloyd Webb died peacefully at home on December 25, 2013 from complications of hereditary hemochromatosis. Born in Santa Monica, California in 1947 to Effie Margaret Young and James Milton Webb, Bob grew up in Culver City, California. He attended Culver City schools and the University of Oregon, and graduated from California State University at Northridge, with a degree in English.
Bob had a life-long love of history and research and was fascinated by a wide variety of topics, from the geology of California to automobiles and aircraft, antique firearms, sailing ships, the history of the Martin guitar and the writings of Jack Kerouac. Childhood explorations around the Los Angeles waterfront with his uncle, Ted Brown, gave him glimpses of vanishing times and a desire to preserve and document those times. Maritime history brought him to the East Coast, first as librarian and educator at the Kendall Whaling Museum in Sharon, Massachusetts and later as curator at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. In addition to public programs and exhibitions, Bob wrote dozens of articles and three significant books: Sailor-Painter: The Uncommon Life of Charles Robert Patterson (2005), On the Northwest: Commercial Whaling in the Pacific Northwest 1790-1967(1988), and Ring the Banjar: The Banjo in America From Folklore to Factory which was published in 1984 to accompany a ground-breaking exhibition on the history of the banjo in America at the MIT Museum.
Music also framed Bob’s life and adventures, from the hootenannies of his youth, to the True and Trembling String Band on the West Coast, two tours with the young Tom Waits, festivals around North America and Europe and happy afternoons of tunes around the house. A talented player of the clawhammer banjo, guitar and MacCann duet concertina, he was also a fine singer of songs of the sea, old-time ballads and songs of the American and Canadian West.
He was a talented raconteur, and a lucid and facile writer, comfortable in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He could discuss, at the drop of a hat (he liked hats), The Dharma Bums, the relative tonnage of Maine-built sailing ships, or the banjo's African antecedents. Whatever his subject, in public or private, he brought an artist's eye and a scholar's sensibilities to the discussion. Those who knew him, even briefly, came away with the imprint of a man dedicated to his work, to collegiality and conviviality, to scholarship and truth, and to artistic expression, whether in print, on the stage, or in conversation.
A loyal friend and a loving and supportive husband and father, Bob is survived by his wife Helen Richmond Webb, daughter Margaret Richmond Webb, brother James F. Webb, of Ojai, California, and many cousins, nieces and nephews. A memorial service is planned for the spring. Details will be available at www.richmondwebb.com.