Dave Begel is a big guy. He’s of imposing stature and imposing reputation in this town. He’s got opinions, a strong voice and he doesn’t back down easily, though he's not shy about admitting when he’s wrong (at least to me).
But when he made his solo debut on stage at Linnemann’s on Saturday night at his 70th birthday party, we saw the other side of Dave Begel. Sitting with his acoustic guitar, he was understated and he was self-effacing. There was nary a trace of the bluster that he can blow into his columns.
He reminded us that in addition to his hulking frame, he’s got a hulking big heart, too.
He played maybe eight or 10 songs – by the likes of John Sieger and Phil Lee, but also a cover of "Help Me Make It Through the Night." Despite his warnings to the contrary, Dave did a great job, rendering the songs quietly, passionately and in his own style.
Maybe I was wrong, but when he introduced a song for his wife, Susan, I thought I even detected a tear. Luckily, top-notch lensman Dave Bernacchi was there, as he was able to capture the range of Begel's emotions during the performance.
His family and friends came out – and hooted and hollered after every tune – and I was pleased to see a few Milwaukee notables in the audience, too. After Dave finished his set, Sieger and his brother John were joined by ace drummer Bob Schneider (and also John's son Sam) for a few tunes, including a nice version of the Everlys' "Bye Bye Love."
Later they added lefty bassist – and Journal Sentinel columnist – Mike Juley, who played in a newsroom band with Begel in the early ‘80s. They even coaxed me to make my debut playing the drums standing up (I apologize if I offended).
I didn’t get to talk to Dave, really, at the party, but we did share the stage for a few songs and as any musician knows, that was really communication enough.
Happy birthday Dave. Don’t make us wait another 70 years for the next gig.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.