Rockford Rocked Interviews: You were a member of some very popular bands in the Rockford area back in the 1980s and ‘90s including Puppet, Sometimes i and Agent. What was the local music scene like around that time?
Rob Bradley: The local music scene was very active! In the early ‘80s the place to be was Main and Auburn at the Great Illinois Purchase. They had top area bands, regional acts and an occasional national act. I remember seeing Off Broadway, The Names and Ruby Star down there. As for me, I played in the original Daggers, the very first version of Puppet, 2DMaxx and Agent just to name a few. Agent enjoyed great regional success as an original/cover band. We were signed with Ken Adamany and Assoc., who also worked with Cheap Trick, Off Broadway and other Chicago area bands.
RRI: I remember the Rockford radio station Y95 supporting local bands with their shortly lived Radio Vision show. I recently saw an Agent video featuring a young Rob Bradley on lead guitar! Was the video shoot totally live? What was the experience like?
RB: Yes, totally live and only one take! We were a pretty tight band with good musicians. Back then we would practice a lot. Now it seems you’re lucky if you can get in a practice a month after everyone checks their schedule. I completely forgotten about that video until Ron Johnson posted it on Facebook.
RRI: I’m told you collect vintage guitars and amplifiers. Do you ever miss the days when you could go into a local music store and pick up a beater Les Paul or 70’s Fender Stratocaster guitar for the price of a dinner for 5 at Chili’s?
RB: I wish I could go back and buy up some of that stuff people would sell for next to nothing! The internet and eBay has made finding those deals next to impossible. I really don’t have much of a collection. Most of my gear that I use now is either amps I built or modified Silver face Fenders and telecasters that my good friend Trip Thienemann built me, seriously great guitars! I do have a fondness for Gretsch guitars however.
RRI: Tell us about current music related projects or bands that you have been involved with recently.
RB: I’ve been playing in a Alt. country/Rockabilly band called the Fresh Hot Fritters for a few years now with Trip Thienemann , who also played in Robin Banks , Rick Nolting , who some will remember from the Band the Consultants and Dave DeRosso. I do some pick up gigs with Steve Stapler, his gigs are loose and fun with an emphasis on not practicing and calling a lot of audibles which will usually include a couple songs I won’t know. I’ve also joined up with a country band that had members from Thunderheart. This band is called Love and Thunder; we do some current country and a few older tunes.
RRI: What’s your take on the whole “Bro-country” thing that’s been sweeping the nation for the last five or six years? You know, repeated lyrical themes such as Friday nights, alcoholic beverages, “painted on” jeans, High school days and trucks?
RB: Did anyone listen to that Facebook post where someone pasted together three modern country songs and how well they morphed together? They really just sounded like the same song. I guess that speaks volumes for what most of the new country is about. I suppose that’s why they call it the music industry, you’ve got song writers that pretty much punch a time clock and assemble songs for the labels to send to the studios, when a handful of studio guys will track them w/ the Artist. After it’s pasteurized, homogenized and packaged it hardly resembles music as an art form, but just a product for mass consumption.
RRI: Not too many guys our age are still out there playing on a regular basis. How do you find the time to juggle work, music and family? Obviously family is number one. Thoughts?
RB: I usually overdo it and take on more than I can handle w/ musical projects. When I get overwhelmed by it my thoughts are what the hell was I thinking? But as soon as it slows down a little I get stir crazy. If and when I get older my time will be spent more with my wife Lori who has tolerated more than anyone should have to, and spending more time with my daughters and grandson.
RRI: Let’s have some fun. I say a word or phrase and you say whatever pops into your head! New Glarus Beer.
RB: One of my all time favorites! Can you say Wisconsin road trip?
RRI: Chicago Bears organization.
RB: Virginia, would you please sell the team?!
RRI: Fender Telecaster guitars.
RB: The Swiss army knife of guitars; tone for days. Hands down, my favorite.
RRI: Bass fishing on a quiet summer’s day.
RB: I’ve got to find more time for that!
RRI: What’s next for Rob Bradley?
RB: I think when I retire from my day job I’ll start an amp repair shop that will focus on getting every little bit of tone out of the guitarist’s amps. Maybe restoring old Fenders and Marshall amps will be in the works too. I would like to do some volunteer work helping kids that have that passion to play music. I know the people on the RAMI committee have done great work in this area. Bruce Hammond has spent decades working behind the scenes keeping the Rockford area music alive. There are lot more people that have dedicated their time to this cause also and I applaud their efforts.