BOB DESTOCKI – Husband, Father, Grandfather, Sax Man, Record Man, Talent Scout, Manager, Road Manager, Producer, Arranger, Dear Friend and Mentor, lost his brave battle with cancer in November of 2017. He touched many lives in his short 80 years, and we were all saddened by his premature passing. He had a lot more living to do.
I had the chance of talking to Bob a few weeks before he passed. We had some precious moments reminiscing about the struggles and the victories we shared throughout our 50 years as friends. We laughed until we cried.
It all started when in 1968, the Ides of March were summoned to the head-quarters of Beacon Artists in downtown Chicago. We were certain that Herb Gronaur, Beacon’s head honcho and super agent, was about to give the Ides the axe from their roster. Boy, were we wrong! “You know boys, out of all the groups that we book, never a show goes by that the promoter doesn’t rave about your performance! There are a couple of local record guys I know that want to start a management company and I think you should meet them. Frank Rand is a promo man with Columbia Records and Bob Destocki is a hotshot with Warner Brothers.” We could barely believe our ears! We had been looking to go to that next step but didn’t know where to start. “This could be our big break!” Mike shouted as our Econoline van literally flew down the Eisenhower Expressway back to Larry’s house.
We had our work cut out for us.
We called Bob and Frank the next day and invited them to our upcoming show at Glenbard East High School on November 29, 1968. We were opening for the super hot Neil Diamond.
We over rehearsed like crazy for the show, learning five new songs to perform for the first time that night. Bad idea! After an encore the audience didn’t demand, I walked up to Neil Diamond and asked, “well how did you like the set?” Neil famously replied, “Jim, next time only do your best material.” Ouch. We heeded his advice from that day on.
Back in the dressing room, our potential management team was kind, but honest. Bob said, “well, the show needs a lot of work…(pause) but we see potential, right Frank?” Luckily, Frank agreed, and in a few days they ambled down the steps of Larry Millas’s parent’s “big ritzy house” on Riverside Drive to hear the Ides perform live in the basement.
Thus started a long and memorable journey with our new management- production Team – Lee Productions. Song after song, album by album, show by show we grew as a unit together. Frank Rand’s non-stop energy was tempered by Bob Destocki’s calm, cool demeanor -if anything bothered him, he never let it show.
Despite our record releases that were barely scraping the bottom of the charts, the Ides and their mentors finally hit pay dirt. Though their first single for Warner Brothers, “One Woman Man” failed to crack the top 40, Bob literally begged Warner Bros. to give the Ides one more chance. With Bob and Frank’s personal funds, the Ides went into Columbia Studios and cut a 4-song demo for the Warner’s team to hear. Buried on the tape, in the fourth position, was a song that was going over big in the teen clubs but we considered just a “dance song”, without single potential. That song was “Vehicle”. Warner Brother’s CEO Joe Smith called Bob personally to say that the first three songs were passable but “that fourth song is an absolute smash!!!”
We all fastened our seat belts for what would become the ride of our lives. We toured America and Canada together and shared the stage with some of the world’s most popular groups as we rode the wave of success. And we were barely out of our teens.
Today the Ides Of March speak in one voice: “Bob we will never forget the opportunities you helped to open up for us, your level headed advice, your fairness and honesty, your dogged loyalty and persistence, your musicality and above all your friendship. You were father, best friend and toughest critic – some folks even called you the “Polish Prince.” That’s how much you were loved.
I’ll never forget how your voice trembled when you introduced the Ides at our last concert before we took our 17 year hiatus. The show was held in the Morton West gym, the same gym where the Ides played for countless sock hops after basketball games just a few short years and a million records ago. It was a bittersweet event for all as Bob took a deep breath and intoned, “and now, for the last time anywhere…The Ides Of March”
Bob went on to a career that took him around the globe as an Artist Manager, Road Manager and Record Executive. Superstar bands and stars like the Eagles, Earth Wind & Fire, Mel Brooks, Tiny Tim and countless others considered Bob a trusted friend and associate. In fact, it was Bob who connected Sammy Hagar and I with his associate, super manager Irv Azoff. This led to us writing the Top 10 title track for the sci-fi animation “Heavy Metal”. This song is still on the radio worldwide and a staple in the Ides and Sammy’s live stage performances.
Through the years, at Ides parties, along with Bob, his dear wife Barb, and son Robbie, we would trade lines from the classic comedy album, 2000 Year Old Man, by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. All the guests around us would be mystified as we doubled over in laughter speaking the gospel according to Mel: “never run for a bus, stay out of small
Italian cars, and never, ever touch fried food. And if you’ll do that you’ll live to 2000, just like me.”
Bob, you will live forever in our hearts in fond memory. Rock in Peace.
The Ides Of March