‘Rod Stewart’ returning to NilesPublished 8:26pm Monday, October 22, 2012
For 17-year Rod Stewart impersonator Steve Bobbitt, every day is Halloween.
Bobbitt, of Peoria, Ill., can’t go anywhere without being mistaken for the Grammy Award-winner and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
Bobbitt, who appeared in Niles July 25 at Kar Club’s “Bring It!” car show, came face to face with Stewart, 67, July 7 when he celebrated the grand opening of Four Winds New Buffalo’s Silver Creek Event Center.
Bobbitt, who managed to obtain front-row seats, decided against dressing as Stewart. It didn’t help hide his own identity.
“When I walked into that casino, everyone thought I was him,” he said from an Illinois airport while waiting to catch a flight for Orlando, then on to the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania. “I’ve seen him many times, but it was cool to be up close and to shake his hand.
Bobbitt said Stewart “put on one heck of a show,” befitting a five-decade artist who has sold more than 100 million albums and is considered to possess one of the most distinctive voices in pop music.
No less than James Brown described Stewart as the “best white soul singer.”
Bobbitt, who worked at Caterpillar Tractor Co. for 30 years, said he had to be “talked into it from the very beginning.”
First, the stylist who did his hair noticed a resemblance and said, “Let me cut your hair.”
“I got amazing feedback,” he said. “Then, I won lookalike contests. It was progressive. I wasn’t a big fan. I liked some of his music, but I wasn’t Rod Stewart educated. I was a keyboardist. In high school, I played in a garage band. I was pianist at my parents’ church. I had music in me, but I never knew it would go this direction.”
Peoria is best known as the hometown of REO Speedwagon.
Bobbitt and his band best like the Faces period, such as “Stay with Me.”
“Hot Legs” is another Bobbitt’s favorite, but Stewart has kept evolving through 62 hit singles, including “Maggie May” (performed in 2009 on “American Idol”), “You’re in My Heart,” “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” “Downtown Train,” Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately” and “Do You Think I’m Sexy” from the disco era.
But Stewart, who is releasing a Christmas album and an autobiography, threw Bobbitt for a loop after his May 2000 bout with thyroid cancer when he began releasing five Great American Songbooks.
His version of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” featuring Stevie Wonder, on the third release won Stewart his first Grammy. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a solo artist and with Faces. He and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones first played together in the Jeff Beck Group.
The songbooks of 1930s and ’40 standards by such composers as Cole Porter and George Gershwin “caught me off guard,” Bobbitt said. “For some reason, his gravelly voice works. It actually helps spice them up.”
Aging artists usually try to appeal to younger generations, but Stewart “did it backwards. And it worked. It’s amazing the people who love those songs. He’s had an interesting career.”
Who: Steve Bobbitt
What: Rod Stewart tribute; $10 advance, $12 at door
Where: Kubiak’s Tavern, 319 State Line Road, Niles
When: Friday, Oct. 26. Doors open at 5:30; show starts at 7