Deep Ellum fixture Bob Crawford — better known as "Keyboard Bob" or "Deep Ellum Bob" — is in the hospital. He'll be at Walnut Hill Medical Center for at least week, recuperating from an undisclosed surgery.
At 67, the short, silver-haired iconoclast can often be found walking around Elm Street bars, usually with an electronic keyboard in his arms. On St. Patrick's Day, he wears a tall, green hat; during the holidays, a Santa hat.
He often walks into venues, plays some prerecorded tunes on the keyboard and sways along, no matter who’s up on the stage.
He’s been called Keyboard Bob and Deep Ellum Bob by locals for that reason alone. Sometimes he scowls at people who pass by, but for the most part, he smiles at anyone who says hello. Giving him a ride home, or at least being asked to give him a ride home, is a rite of passage for Deep Ellum regulars. He was featured in a 2014 documentary, His Name is Bob, detailing his life struggles.
At the end of March, a GoFundMe page, "Bob Needs Your Help," was set up to raise $1,000 for Crawford. "Bob is experiencing some personal challenges that are going to end up costing upwards of $1,000," it read. "His income is very limited and in normal times, Bob relies on the generosity of those who love him. The current situation goes above and beyond what is available."
It is unclear whether the events alluded to in the page are what have landed him in the hospital. But an email circulating yesterday explained that Crawford would like to have visitors between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.
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“Bob is just a Deep Ellum staple and something that makes this neighborhood unique,” says Gavin Mulloy, creative director for Trees and the Bomb Factory. “Plus he tends to custom up his attire and even hair for a show. And he's definitely roasted on some killer one-liners.”
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Corey Howe, who has been around Crawford while bartending and playing with his band, Dead Flowers, sees value in Crawford's odd presence. “As a musician, Bob's presence at a show may have meant you had to focus harder on your performance and not listen too hard to his out-of-key keyboard playing or out-of-time tambourine or percussion instrument of choice,” Howe says. “That being said, I always felt like it was just part of the gig, and I never felt angry or negative about that.”
Even though Crawford will tell you over and over again about His Name is Bob, it’s just who he is.
“The spirit of that guy is amazing, and his presence in the scene is one occupied only by himself,” Howe says. “There will never be another Keyboard Bob, and to think of Deep Ellum without Bob is truly unsettling. I don't mean this in a derogatory way, but in many ways he is the mascot of Deep Ellum, and I hope that doesn't change for years to come.”