Bumble Bee Bob Weil (May 4, 1934-July 2, 2021)
~ A Personal Remembrance
from Outpost Director, Tom Guralnick ~
On July 2, 2021, after a month-long fight with COVID-19, and 2 months after his 87th birthday, Bumble Bee Bob Weil passed away. BJ called me in the morning to tell me that we had lost Bob. That is the perfect way to put it. We lost him and what a loss it is! We will miss him terribly. For me personally, Bumble Bee was somewhere between a brother and a father (Frother? Brather?). He was a mentor, an advisor, a collaborator, a supporter… but most of all a friend. We had a great time and I will miss him.
If it weren’t for Bumble Bee (and BJ and the rest of the family) Outpost would not be what it is today. In fact, a case could be made that were it not for Bumble Bee, Outpost might not be, AT ALL!
Thanks to a meeting arranged by saxophonist Doug Lawrence, I met Bumble Bee over lunch in the mid to late 1990’s. Although, to say the least, we had very different personal musical tastes, we began working together, block booking concerts at the old Outpost and Bumble Bee’s “hive”—a concert hall in his home in La Tierra. And in doing so, I believe we expanded each others’ horizons and at the same time, had a lot of fun. We worked closely from then on— booking concerts— and in 2006, along with Bob Martin at the Lensic, we founded the New Mexico Jazz Festival which followed on the work of Bruce Dunlap and his Santa Fe Jazz and International Music Festival. We had a great run. Bumble Bee was the guy who tried (sometimes he succeeded) to rein in my wilder and more expensive music production impulses. More than once, always with love, he told me “Stop losing money… don’t be a schmuck!” If that’s not fatherly advice, I don’t know what is. His support of Outpost was deep. He donated extremely generously year after year, leading up to the donations by him and his generous children (Linda, Betsie, and Rob) which allowed us to buy the Outpost Performance Space building, leading to the naming of the auditorium as “Weil Hall.”
Outpost wasn’t the first or the last to be buoyed by Bumble Bee’s generosity. In the 1980’s he produced the Santa Fe Jazz Festival at La Fonda Hotel, hiring John Clayton as Music Director. He was the first to present Wynton Marsalis in the pre-renovation Lensic Theater. He supported John Trentacosta’s Santa Fe Music Collective until the end. He had a big heart and many was the time when we shared a stage with tears flowing, making announcements and thanking each other for our work together. He booked music at his restaurants for years. His Santa Fe Jazz Foundation helped countless musicians in times of need, giving them funds to pay their medical bills. He loved the musicians and loved being friends with them— James Moody, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, Joe Williams, and so many more. He produced several albums by these friends. It was all about love and friendship for Bumble Bee. He loved the music and the people who made it!
But jazz wasn’t the entire story by any means. In the 1950’s, he left St Louis where he grew up after being clear that he was not interested in going into his father’s shoe manufacturing business. He headed west and became a rancher in Bumble Bee Arizona— thus his name, “Bumble Bee Bob”— and also on the Santa Fe ranch that later became the Las Campanas development. He flew his own plane between the two. I seldom saw Bumble Bee anything less than ebullient—not until he “retired,” that is. He just couldn’t stand not working. So at age 70, for his “retirement” he opened the famed Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill— 4 of them in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. And he was a constant presence behind the counter becoming friends with the clientele. Again, it was all about the people.
We will miss Bumble Bee deeply. But at the same time, he had a long, fun-filled, and meaningful life. His last several years in Merida, Mexico with his beautiful, kind, and loving wife, BJ, were a joy for them both. In addition to BJ, he is survived by six children, 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren all of whom he loved. Bumble Bee was loved and he loved in return.
Tom Guralnick, Founder & Executive Director
Outpost Performance Space