LocationAlhambra , CA United States
“I love Bob’s Garage. I dance because their music makes me feel young!” – Pearl Morgan, Alhambra Unified School District food service worker
“Everyone is welcome … keep music in Alhambra going!” – Cindy Yam, owner of Rick’s Drive In and Out
It’s an early and warm Saturday night and the outdoor patio at Rick’s has a growing crowd of dancers, foodies and passers-by. The sounds of local band Bob’s Garage fill the Main Street Alhambra evening air for blocks with high-energy classic rock favorites. Singing, dancing, laughing, shout-outs and hugs abound. There’s a festive feeling in the air.
Music has always been important in Alhambra. Not so long ago, the City of Alhambra and local businesses sponsored free concerts on closed streets during summers in Alhambra. Music legends, such as the Beach Boys, Foreigner, Kenny Loggins, The Fab Four, Tower of Power and many more brought thousands of residents and new visitors to Downtown Alhambra. Unfortunately, those major concerts have ceased. Yet on a smaller scale, local music continued. There are occasional music concerts at the Renaissance Plaza and on the stage at the Alhambra Park band shell during the summer. Jazz bands, open mics for musicians and DJs play weekly at Rick’s. Alhambra Performing Arts Center organizes a non-profit community outreach program with Sage Granada Park United Methodist Church, providing musical programs, stage plays, dance, visual art and documentaries.
But the music heartbeat of Alhambra comes from that little outdoor stage at Rick’s on Saturday nights. Many outstanding local bands play there, but without question, the crowd favorite is Bob’s Garage. I went with videographer David Muñoz to meet the band. Here’s what we learned inside Bob’s real garage, where the band practices.
Besides listening to their great rehearsal, we learned a lot about the band itself. Bob Estrada is the leader of the band and does vocals and guitar. He’s also a retired Alhambra Unified School District employee and AN acrylic landscape artist. When Bob was 10 years old, he received his first guitar. HE hasn’t stopped playing guitar since. After graduating from Mark Keppel High school, Bob went to London, where he stayed for 3 years setting up construction scaffolding during the day and pursuing his music in the off-hours. When asked why he returned, Bob said, “Britain was too rainy and very cold.”
Eric Menking is an Alhambra-born member who contributes vocals and bass guitar. He’s also a construction iron worker. Eric is a product of our local schools: Northrup and Repetto Elementary Schools and Mark Keppel High School. Eric explained that 10 years ago Bob had just let go all the previous members of Bob’s band. He asked Eric to play in the new band as a bass guitarist. But Eric did not know how to play bass, so Bob taught him.
Tom Minkler is the busiest man onstage. He provides vocals, keyboard, guitar, saxophone and song writing for Bob’s Garage. Tom is from Bethel Park, Pa. and studied at Virginia Tech University, where he played in the university jazz band, Marching Virginians and in the pep band.
Last but not least, Ron Rosas is Bob’s Garage’s newest member. He plays drums and is currently track coach at Temple City High School. This is Ron’s first time in a band; before, he would just jam with friends. One evening, Ron was asked by the musicians playing at the Monterey Park Farmers Market to sit in and accompany them on drums and he did. One night, Bob was walking his dog and checking out the farmers market. He stopped, listened to Ron on percussion and then offered Ron a tryout with Bob’s Garage. “I didn’t know if I was good enough,” Ron said. “But Bob and the guys have been really great teaching me and being patient as I’ve learned the songs!”
I asked Bob Estrada one final question: “Your Alhambra fans really enjoy you and the band. What would you like to say to them?” His answer? “Thank you Alhambra, you rock my world! Party on, Ricksters!”
Enjoy a video of “Runaround Sue” at Bob’s Garage’s most recent performance. Information about Bob’s Garage next performance can be found on the Ricks Alhambra Facebook page.
Jeu Foon is a short story writer, singer, guitarist, ukulele accompanist, taiko drummer, former stockbroker and retired engineering supervisor. He’s the contributing editor at the Alhambra Source.
David Muñoz is an independent professional photographer and videographer.