This article appeared in The Orlando Sentinel Thursday February 13, 2004
Musician and Blues Record Producer Bob Greenlee dies at 59
By Jim Abbott | Sentinel Pop Music Critic
They boast about the blues in Chicago, but the music was embraced no less
passionately at Bob Greenlee's converted garage apartment on an old family
celery farm in Sanford.
Greenlee, the founder of independent blues label King Snake Records, died at
home Thursday at age 59 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The man who also played bass in the Central Florida blues band the Midnight
Creepers spent his final hours with his wife, Sonja, in a bedroom just
across the tree-shaded yard from the studio where he revitalized the careers
of talented, often overlooked musicians.
Singers Rufus Thomas, Lucky Peterson, Kenny Neal, harmonica master Raful
Neal and saxophonist Noble "Thin Man" Watts were among those who recorded at
King Snake in its most fruitful period, in the late 1980s.
"He's one of the greatest friends I ever had," said Watts, who played with
Greenlee in the Midnight Creepers and lives in DeLand. "I was in bad shape
and he revived my career. I give him credit for keeping blues alive here,
because it would have been dead if it hadn't been for him."
Greenlee is survived by his wife of 33 years; two daughters, Heather Hill,
of DeLand, and Martha, of Sanford; two sons, Robert III, of Chicago and
Andrew, of Miami; and one granddaughter.
He also is mourned by an extended family of musicians who flourished in the
close-knit atmosphere at King Snake.
"I fed them all the time and we had big dinners," Sonja said. "Deep-fried
turkeys and homemade cole slaw. The musicians would set up between the
studio and the house and jam. It was a wonderful, wonderful musical scene."
David Schweizer, owner of Richter Studios in Orlando, once visited King
Snake in an engineering class. "It's a real casual recording environment where you're
in a comfortable space. You're really able to just worry about getting the feel of the music."
While Sonja provided physical nourishment, her husband offered inspiration.
Kenny Neal remembers being stunned when Greenlee traveled to Baton Rouge,
La., to persuade him to record again.
"He believed in me more than what I thought I had in me," Neal said. "You
just don't get people too often who come to you and say you have a special
talent. He meant that and he knew he wasn't gonna get rich off it."
A Daytona Beach native, Greenlee developed a musical interest playing in
high-school rock bands with Duane and Gregg Allman.
The music overwhelmed the lure of other careers. Greenlee earned an
undergraduate degree at Yale and was accepted to law school there. He also
was a fourth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1967. He passed on
If others were surprised by a blues label in Sanford, it was a perfect fit
to Greenlee. "The blues lives here, grows here," Greenlee said in 1990. "Kind of like
okra and collard greens; its natural place is the South."
Copyright © 2004, Orlando Sentinel