Bobby Glenn Calverley would have turned 46 next month, on December 29, but there will be no birthday party. Instead, on November 5 at Bar of Soap, there will be a wake: Last week, Bobby died of liver failure. At 2 a.m. on October 23, the doctors at Baylor University Medical Center pronounced Calverley dead on arrival; he drank himself to sleep, as usual, only this time he would not wake up. Those who knew him best never expected him to live to see 46 or, for that matter, 36. Some thought Calverley had died a long time ago; they heard rumors, whispers that he'd been shot to death, stabbed, or that he had died in prison. Others thought he would never die; he wore the scars of the indestructible. When word began circulating late last week that he had stopped breathing, many of Calverley's oldest friends shed few tears. They shrugged, as if to say, Finally, Bobby Soxx is dead.
"Death couldn't touch him," says ex-Nervebreakers guitarist Barry Kooda, once part of the local punk scene that birthed Bobby Calverley's alter ego--Bobby Soxx, lead singer (shouter? screamer? growler?) of the band Stick Men with Ray Guns, which existed throughout most of the 1980s. "It sounded like something totally made up when I heard he died of liver damage, because the guy was bulletproof."
Bobby Soxx is that very definition of local legend: More people have heard about him than have actually heard him perform. Everyone who knew him in the late '70s and '80s has one story, if not 100, to tell about him--the time he pissed on this guy, the time he punched that guy, the time he got so fucked-up at one bar that he drank candle wax off of patrons' tables. They are tales that, over time, become the stuff of mythology--for better or worse. Those who knew nothing of his violent temper and had heard only of the name Bobby Soxx (or Stick Men with Ray Guns or Teenage Queers, his first band with the Dirkx brothers) worshipped him, if only because he was there and, somehow, survived.
It's understatement to say Bobby Soxx had lived through a lot: He had been shot at point-blank range; stabbed by burglars, who punctured his lung; incarcerated in Huntsville's prisons and Terrell's mental asylums. He fought with audience members, with members of other bands, with members of his own bands. He drank and drugged so much he insisted that he remembered few of the bad things he did during his lifetime, including the night he beat his live-in girlfriend with his fists, then a tire iron, before urinating on her crumpled, battered body.
"You probably must think I'm a pretty bad guy, that I'm probably twisting the truth, because there's a lot of bad shit going around about me," he said when I met him, shortly after he'd been paroled for the May 19, 1990, beating. "I may have done the most despicable thing in the world, but, fuck, I don't remember it, and I can't help it. I'm the classic case of some guy who fucking went to jail and really don't remember what happened."
Nobody liked to tell stories about Bobby Soxx more than Bobby himself. When I interviewed him in the fall of 1994, he talked about how he had doctors scattered all over town who supplied him drugs for various ailments and injuries, most of which he manufactured himself. He recounted, quite giddily, how he and some friends would cruise Greenville Avenue and have "tourist terrorization night, terrorize those sons of bitches." And he told about how, when he was 24 years old, he had been committed to Terrell State Hospital because he was "in peril."
"I was in the ward for the criminally insane," he said, with not a small amount of pride. "I was locked down, 'cause I fucking went wild, Jack. Pillaged, vandalized, destroyed most of the fucking malls in Dallas, like Valley View, NorthPark. I wanted to fucking take shit. I don't know why. I was just fucking crazy. Fucking went wild. Fucking ape shit...[In Terrell], I'd take all these tests. Man, I'd fly through them. The doctors would ask, 'Have you ever excreted a black tarry substance?' 'Hell, yeah! Fuck, yeah!' When all the questions were done, the psychiatrist would talk to me about shit. This one told me, 'You need to find a way to get all this out, whatever's inside of you.'" Bobby insisted the doctor told him to join a band.
Until this year, it was nearly impossible to locate any Stick Men recordings; the rare single, among them the Teenage Queers' "Hate in the '80s," would sell for $50 among collectors. Earlier this year, Stick Men guitarist Clarke Blacker released the CD Some People Deserve to Suffer, a collection of 16 songs (among them, "Grave City," "Christian Rat Attack," "Pee Pee in the Disco Mommy," and "Nazi Cowboys") performed at such places as the Hot Klub, the Twilite Room, Theater Gallery, at a Rock Against Reagan concert in Houston in 1984, and in rehearsal spaces. Much of the disc is nearly unlistenable--the recordings are crude, and Bobby's bark sounds like so much howled static--but it hints at how such a man could become legendary. Bobby sounded less like a man playing a part than he did a true believer in mayhem, the punk who lived the same offstage as on. "Chain them shackles of sin on me," he sang to "Satan Baby," and it's not hard to believe he got his wish.
In the fall of 1994, Bobby was hanging out at 14 Records, Big Bucks Burnett's long-defunct store on Lower Greenville. He barely resembled the Bobby Soxx of the 1980s, the nerd-punk raging behind thick glasses. His thin frame had put on several extra pounds; he was all pale flesh and thin scars, and his face was half-obscured by a tangle of thinning hair and a handlebar moustache. We conducted a lengthy interview outside the record store; Bobby was leaning against a car and drinking cheap beer out of a paper bag, a violation of his parole. It was just one of a dozen things Bobby didn't want included in the article, which appeared in the September 8, 1994, issue of the Dallas Observer. Bobby also didn't want his real name used, nor did he want it mentioned where he worked at the time (he was a cook in the cafeteria at the Dallas Art Institute). "And don't put too much about the pen in there," he insisted, as though one could explain where he'd been without explaining how he ended up there.
"My father absolutely loves the shit out of me," he said, when the conversation turned too long to his time spent in Huntsville. Bobby's father, Leonard, still lives in Terrell. "I don't want him to be fucking ashamed of me and shit for going out and talking to some rag newspaper. You know what I'm saying? He got fucking awful upset. I love my dad, but I don't necessarily do what he tells me. But I wouldn't be out now if it weren't for my pop. I couldn't get out. I tried every way of getting out, except I had to go live with my family." Only Bobby didn't live with his family, another violation of the conditions of his parole; he was hanging with friends, couch surfing. Soon enough, he'd wind up sleeping in the streets, hustling beer-money all day long.
He was living behind the Arcadia Theater when he met Paul Kulcsar about a year ago at Bar of Soap. Someone introduced him to Kulcsar, himself an old punk-rocker from Akron, Ohio, by saying that Bobby was "the most hated punk-fucker in town." Kulcsar didn't understand how this guy, who looked homeless, had ever been dangerous. Soon enough, he let Bobby move into a trailer behind his home in Pleasant Grove. They had even begun working on some new music together, only a little bit of which they ever got around to recording.
"Every fifth day, I asked him if he wanted to quit drinking," Kulcsar says. "He said, 'No, it's all I got. I don't do junk or speed anymore. Drinking's all I got.' He told me when he was living on Greenville, he could panhandle 15, 20 bucks a day, and at $1.25 a quart of beer, that was a lot of 40-ounces. I got him down to four bottles a day, but the damage was done. Everybody told me he had more chances than most. One of the originals we wrote was called 'Scarred.' It said, 'I've taken a bullet/I've taken a blade/I'm scarred.' He said he deserved it. He wasn't bitter at anyone. One of his personalities knew the consequences of his actions. At one time in his life there was a good guy there, but somewhere and somehow that person got squelched."
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Even those who want only to say nice things about Bobby Soxx have a hard time finding any. Nancy Soxx lived with Bobby from 1973 till the early '80s; she long ago went straight and left behind the punk-rock lifestyle. They met through Nancy's sister, who attended high school with Bobby at Sunset. Nancy thought Bobby was cute back then, a regular little hippie with hair down to his shoulders. The girls thought he was cute, and back then he was. After all, he was not so far-removed from his days in a Christian youth group, of which Bobby insisted he had been part when he was a kid.
Nancy--who doesn't want her last name used; "just say 'Nancy Soxx,'" she insists even now--isn't quite sure when her boyfriend made the transition from hippie to punk, only that by the late 1970s he had become enamored of the Ramones, Blondie, and Robert Gordon--the latter of whom they went to hear at the old Agora Ballroom in 1979. Before the show, there was a punk-new-wave talent contest, and Bobby entered, wearing a red-and-white-checked shirt and straight-legged girl's Levi's, with his hair sticking straight up. For his trouble, he took home a 1953 Seaburg jukebox stocked with 100 records. That night, he introduced himself to the crowd as Bobby Soxx. The nickname stuck.
"We had a lot of friends in punk bands, and we were hanging out with them," Nancy recalls. "He decided he wanted to sing, so he formed his own style, and different bands decided he could play with them. We had a lot of fun with them, and we hung out at some neat clothing places, like Ec-lec-tricity. We got into the scene of dressing, the fun clothing, and things like that. It was a fun time, but he changed. He turned me off after a while. I was quite a bit older than he was. I'm 55 now, and he never grew up. He did everything to the extreme, and I just couldn't live like that anymore. It broke his heart. He was a big crybaby, but I had to do it. I was sick of it. I finally got enough, and I'm still alive."
The night before he died, Bobby, who had been living with girlfriend, local artist Sunny Delipsy, called Nancy. They hadn't spoken since his release from prison, and she wanted nothing to do with him. Nancy says Bobby called to tell her only one thing: He would love her till the day he died.