My hero, Bob Cranshaw

Volume 117, No. 1January, 2017

Seth Lewis
Bob Cranshaw in 2014. Photo: Peter C. Zimmerman

Bob Cranshaw in 2014. Photo: Peter C. Zimmerman

Bob Cranshaw was my hero. I was in awe of him long before we ever met. It is still almost unbelievable to me that I was able to know and become friends with my hero, but Bob regularly defied expectations. More than anyone I have ever known, his music was an extension of his spirit – generous, humble, loyal, tireless, loving and kind. In fact he was the most generous person I knew, musically and in life. He gave me everything he had for the eight years we spent together.

In my first lesson he asked me what I wanted to learn. I said “Your records feel so good! How do you do that?” He replied that all he ever wanted was to make everyone else feel and sound good. This is just one of many possible examples of his supreme selflessness. He told me that his philosophy of playing was the same as his philosophy of life and to understand that it would be more important to hang out than to take lessons. We became immediate friends and he allowed me to be part of his incredible life, taking me into his home, bringing me to recording dates, union committee meetings, introducing me to playing on Broadway, allowing me to play on his gigs with masters. But above all he was my unconditional friend.

I learned new things every time we spoke and I wanted to be exactly like him. He would always laugh at that notion and tell me to go to school, learn something and teach it to him. He maintained this deep humility despite his monumental achievements. He said that people like Milt Hinton and Ray Brown had shown him the same generosity and he wanted to continue their legacies.

Because of Bob’s influence, I earned a master’s degree and am now studying for my doctorate. I would never have done either without Bob’s support and encouragement. Bob told me many times that he had no regrets and wouldn’t change anything in his life. I’ve tried to follow his example and live that way but I do have one regret: I wish I had more time with him.

Bob is still very much a part of my everyday life. The example he set is a clear image of an ideal life and career. It is so hard to say goodbye to Bob. His impact has changed my life profoundly and permanently. On the day he passed, I spoke to his son who was on his way to play a show. That is what Bob would have wanted. “Kick ass and take names,” was one of his mottos. Thank you, Bob, for everything.

[Editor’s note: Bob Cranshaw died on Nov. 2, 2016 at the age of 83 after being a member of Local 802 since 1960. Allegro published an extensive tribute to Bob in our December issue.]