Bobby was a stage engineer, high school theater teacher, union stagehand, merchant marine, dolphin captivity activist, navy veteran, father, husband, recording artist, songwriter, raconteur, folk-rock troubadour, and so much more.
He was also my friend.
Last week Bobby’s community got together and remembered him with a memorial service and celebration of life – the former at the beautiful Plymouth Congregational Church and the later at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. My friend Alan Campbell described the evening as “a very special evening for a very special man.”
Bobby’s musician friends got up on stage and played all of the songs we used to play with him. Some of his oldest musical partners – musicians you’ve heard of including David Crosby and Byrds co-founder Roger McGuinn – sent personal remembrances.
Besides those two well-known singer songwriters, Bobby also played with Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Jeff Walker (Mr. Bojangles), Fred Neil (Everybody’s Talkin’), John Sebastian (The Lovin’ Spoonful), Bob Weir, Kevin Hurley, and more.
Years ago, I was the keynote speaker at a conference in Las Vegas. My daughter, Aliana, who was about 12-years old at the time, went with me. When we got to the sound check we met José Feliciano, who was playing that night at the event’s gala. He and Ali started chatting and he asked if she was a musician. When she said yes, he asked her to play something for him and she played Minuet in G on the stage piano. That started Feliciano and me talking, and I mentioned that I had friends whom he used to play music with when he lived in Coconut Grove.
“I never lived in Coconut Grove” he answered.
“Oh,” I said. “My friends told me you had. I guess they were wrong.”
I figured that Bobby and another musician friend, John Brown, had just been exaggerating a bit. It wasn’t a surprise really. Bobby always told me that “any story worth telling is worth elaborating.”
Feliciano asked me what their names were.
“Bobby Ingram and John Bro…” I started to answer. Feliciano interrupted.
“Bobby and John??!! Ingram and Brown??!! Why didn’t you say so? I love those guys. They used to take me bike riding in the giant parking lot at Dinner Key Marina.”
(Feliciano was born blind, by the way).
Apparently Ingram’s stories were as true as they were hilarious.
He wanted to focus on his family, unlike his famous musical friends who would be gone for weeks or months at a time while touring.
“I wanted to have a great life. Coconut Grove was the place to come to.” Ingram said.
With everything he did, all of his talents and abilities, his exploits and experiences, his dedication to his family and his friends, Ingram was best known for one thing – being a very talented musician who lived a very big life. Indeed, Bobby Ingram was the Bard of Biscayne Bay, the Crooner of Coconut Grove.
Coconut Grove folksinger Bobby Ingram, left, performs with singer-songwriter Eric Andersen, Rick Danko of The Band, Jimmy Buffett, and Grove singer-songwriters Fred Neil and Vince Martin during a benefit concert for the Dolphin Project at the Coconut Grove Playhouse around 1975. COURTESY INGRAM FAMILY
What I Learned from Bobby Ingram
Each of us can only hope that our own brand building, and our own lives, will be just as excitingly eclectic, yet as singularly focused and well-understood as my friend Bobby Ingram’s life.
He will be missed.
Featured Image: Miami Herald (Gay Ingram collection)