Returning from a week away, I was shocked and saddened to hear that veteran Milwaukee turntablist and radio DJ Rock Dee died on Aug. 1. Details of his passing have not been officially released.
Dee was also promoter of gigs, a local celebrity and a husband and father. He toured with the likes of Gumbo, Arrested Development and Eric Benet and served in the military.
The funeral will be held on Friday and is for family and invited guests only.
A note on the Web site of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, where Rock Dee most recently worked as a DJ, said, "Rock was a huge part of the 88Nine family. He was loved, respected and we miss him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Rock Dee."
Local musician and DJ Eric Blowtorch was a long-time friend of Rock Dee. He remembers, "One night at the Blues Oasis he pulled me into a cipher. I was reluctant, but he insisted I get on the mic. I was terrified, but received nothing but love from the host of microphone fiends. That night I heard Todd 'T-A Wiz' Whitaker live for the first and last time. I thank Rock Dee for that, for his hilarious quips, and for treating me like a real musician.
"The Fresh DJ Rock Dee Illy Dope, a/k/a Rock Dee, was a first-rate musician. As long as he had two copies, he could keep a one-bar beat going forever and dice both sources up without missing a beat. Like any great percussionist, he had his own sound, a nice blend of the anarchy of Marley Marl's early mixes and the snare-heavy gutpunch of Premier. His vocal drops, in anyone else's hands, would have sounded comical, but in his hands they sounded biblical."
Radio station 88Nine has organized a benefit for Rock Dee's family on Sunday, Aug. 17 at The Wherehouse, 818 S. Water St., from 1 p.m. until closing time. Among the announced performers are De Le Buena, Rusty Ps and Cache. Others will be announced later.
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.