Trumpet Bob … the legend continues
Robert William “Trumpet Bob” Wandras was born in Coventry, RI on June 22, 1934. He was a lifelong trumpet player who enjoyed music, sailing, and Harley motorcycles. He was a Korean War Veteran, a Firefighter for 25 years, then a licensed tugboat Captain, and later, a legendary Key West trumpeter.
Key West is notoriously short of trumpet players, and Trumpet Bob was very good. He sat in with a number of groups in town. He played with Love Lane Gang, Patrick and the Swayzees, and Billy the Squid and the Sea Cow Drifters, to name a few. He also hung out at Salute quite a bit. One night while at Salute, he asked my wife to swing dance – he was a very good dancer. He spent the rest of the evening telling stories of his trumpet playing adventures – everyone loved Trumpet Bob.
Anyone downtown between noon and 2 PM could hear Dixieland tunes from Café Tropical, near Mel Fisher’s Museum, where Trumpet Bob performed for almost fifteen years. He always wore his signature tuxedo jacket and top hat.
Whenever we met, the conversation was usually about music. I remember once he bristled when I, most inconsiderately, said that we only had a couple of really good trumpet players in Key West and mentioned their names. He then proceeded to give me a very good lecture regarding his credentials and experience.
In January 2015, drummer and good friend, Mick Kilgos, organized The Crooks Second Line celebration of the life of famous drummer and longtime Key West resident, Richard Crooks, who died in 2014. It was a gathering of Richard’s family and friends at the Hog’s Breath Saloon at noon for a Bloody Mary. Then the Key West Musicians Funeral marching band (with almost every local musician), followed by many friends, began the New Orleans style Second Line Parade down Duval Street.
The first celebration had about a half dozen large photos of Richard, carried by family and friends. Included in the band was the affable Trumpet Bob. He warmed up with the band, and his trumpet blared boisterously all the way down Duval Street celebrating the memory of his friend, Richard Crooks. The Second Line ended at the Green Parrot with the funeral band’s grand finale rendition of Louis Armstrong’s 1938 hit, “When the Saints Go Marching In”.
Afterwards, it was decided that the Second Line should be an annual tribute to Richard Crooks along with a fundraiser for the Bahama Village Music Program (BVMP). For a donation to BVMP, you can have a large photo of your deceased loved one to carry in the parade. The best part is we get to celebrate our loved ones every year – it’s a forever celebration of life.
The Key West Funeral Band increased exponentially. Trumpet Bob, and almost every horn player in the area, would join the parade every year. More posters were added. More friends and family joined the Second Line march. The names of the Honorees were read on stage at the Green Parrot. It’s was a huge success and has grown every year.
The police estimated over 1,000 participated in the January 2019 Crooks Annual Second Line (CASL) celebration parade – over 200 Honorees were celebrated. As the President of Bahama Village Music Program and official photographer, I organize a group shot every year at the Green Parrot from atop an eight-foot ladder.
I was photographing the End of the Line group shot at the 2019 CASL celebration. The crowd was huge, and I was on the ladder straining to get everyone in the shot. In the back of the crowd, I was startled to see the poster of Trumpet Bob as an Honoree being held up. It was a photo that I had taken four years earlier at the first CASL celebration.
After completing the group photographs, I inquired with a few people regarding the Honorees and was told that Trumpet Bob had passed on August 7, 2018 in Coventry, RI. at the age of 84. I had no idea!
After thinking about Bob for most of that evening, I looked up a few photos of him from the past and gathered some thoughts about the inspired wisdom of this wonderful celebration of life that everyone can share and celebrate their loved ones every year. Had I not seen his poster displayed with the other Honorees, I might never have known of his passing.
At the January 2020 Crooks Annual Second Line celebration, I met Trumpet Bob’s wife, Lora Wandras. She was carrying his poster again with the 2015 photo. She introduced herself as, “I am Trumpet Bob’s wife, the wonderful, caring, supportive, adoring gal who encouraged Bob to become a “Key West Legend”. We will ensure he is honored every year hereafter and his legend continued.
Please visit the Crooks Annual Second Line website— HERE —
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