Bob Dorr is about to be an empty nester.
For the past 36 years, Dorr, of Cedar Falls, has nurtured the “blue-soul-rockabilly-reggae band” that bears his name, but that will end in January, when the Eastern Iowa group disbands. During their storied history, Dorr and company have opened for B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Robert Cray, Tower of Power, Leon Russell, Maria Muldaur and Duke Robillard, to name a few.
“The Blue Band has been my kid,” he said, and as a yearlong farewell tour winds down, he’s preparing to say not one last goodbye, but several.
In addition to the upcoming Happy Blue Year celebration Dec. 31 in Johnston, he and the current band, plus two of his side bands, will perform a New Year’s Eve Eve concert Saturday night (12/30) at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids.
Then in January, the Blue Band’s Last Goodbye Tour will finish with free concerts Jan. 12 and 13 in the Riverside Casino Show Lounge in Riverside, followed by an encore concert Jan. 20 at IPTV’s Maytag Center in Johnston. Tickets to the taping will serve as a fundraiser for Iowa Public Television.
“I’m struggling to keep up,” said Dorr, who will celebrate his eighth wedding anniversary at the New Year’s Eve party and his 66th birthday Jan. 12. “There’s a lot of stuff going on around the holidays, and the end of the Blue Band. I’m experiencing some symptoms of depression about some of it, but for the most part, it’s going well.”
The Last Goodbye Tour has brought the sweet with the bittersweet.
“At least I’m preparing for the eventuality,” Dorr said, adding that the tour has been “exactly fabulous.” It’s given him the chance to reconnect with people from the band’s history, many of whom have brought their kids and grandkids to the concerts in parks, pubs, festivals and the Iowa State Fair.
The gigs have given Dorr and company “some opportunity to relive some wild and crazy days,” he said.
“The shows have been well attended, so it’s been fantastic — and it’s a fantastic way to let it go.”
But until those final blue notes ring through the air, he and his bandmates have a whole lotta notes to play.
He’s looking forward to the Blue Band’s first gig at CSPS, to kick off New Year’s weekend Saturday night. The smaller bands that he and guitarist Jeff Petersen play with — BlueMississippi and The Parlor City Jam Band — will perform short sets among the Blue Band’s 55-minute performance. An additional acoustic stage that night will feature Bryce Janey, as well as the duo of Dave Hummel and Bill “Cricket” Davis of the Mississippi Band, who team up with Dorr and Petersen in BlueMississippi.
Heading west to Johnston’s Hilton Garden Inn, current and former Blue Band members will join forces Sunday for the Last Happy Blue Year celebration, where the music, cake and champagne will be flowing.
“Most people know that I have this ridiculous penchant for cake, so we’re supplying the cake” for both events, he said.
Reality, however, has reared its head. A band with eight to 10 players has just become too big for him to manage, sustain and monetize.
“It’s the business part of the music business that’s beating me,” he said. “The music part has never been better.”
So it’s time to say goodbye, building on the title of Petersen’s haunting instrumental piece, “The Last Goodbye.”
“What a beautiful tune,” Dorr said. In addition to missing interacting with the fans, musicians and backstage folks, he’ll also miss the Blue Band’s signature tune, “Madness on Main Street,” which debuted at the band’s first gig. “It’s one of three original songs we did June 10, 1981, in Dubuque,” he said. So that song has been featured in all of the farewell tour gigs, along with a program of mostly original tunes, as well as the oft-requested “Mustang Sally,” a song he said he won’t miss.
But the music isn’t over just yet.
“We still have five dates left,” Dorr said. “The day after it’s over, I’m probably going to cry a little. I promised myself to try to take some time away from being a band leader,” even though the small groups he plays with are nudging him in that direction.
“The first Saturday night I’m sitting there doing nothing will feel kind of empty, I imagine,” he said. “I’ll take the opportunity to reintroduce myself to my wife.”
WHAT: Bob Dorr & The Blue Band: The Last Goodbye Tour
NEW YEAR’S EVE EVE: 8 p.m. Saturday (12/20) to 12:15 a.m., CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids; with The Blue Band, BlueMississippi and The Parlor City Jam Band; catering by The Village Meat Market and Cafe; $50, Legionarts.org
NEW YEAR’S EVE: The Last Happy Blue Year: Doors open at 7:30 p.m., music at 8 p.m. Sunday (12/31), Hilton Garden Inn, 8600 North Park Dr., Johnston; current and alumni Blue Band members, with Rob Lumbard between sets; $60, music, food, midnight champagne toast; (515) 270-8890
THE LAST LAST GOODBYE: Riverside Casino and Resort Show Lounge, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside; free admission. Jan. 12: 7:30 p.m. to midnight, The Blue Trio, BlueMississippi, The Parlor City Jam Band and The Blue Band. Jan. 13: Duke Tumatoe opens 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., The Blue Band Says Goodbye, 9 p.m. to midnight