When Bobby Lindstrom was 10 years old and living in Coos Bay, his older sister’s boyfriend enlisted his help in deciphering the lyrics to The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie.”
“He comes roaring through the door with the 45 of ‘Louie, Louie.’ ‘Bobby! Help me figure out the words for this!’” Lindstrom recalled Monday at The Astro Lounge, moments before taking the stage with Ed “The Whistler” Sharlet and percussionist Chris Novak.
By the time he was 11, Lindstrom talked his father into buying him a $14 Westbrook guitar. Shortly thereafter, he heard The Beatles for the first time.
“I’ve been a goner ever since,” said Lindstrom, one of the busiest musicians in Central Oregon. See “If you go” to find out where he’ll be playing this week.
On Christmas Day 1964, the nascent guitarist received his first electric guitar and amp.
“My best friend got a drum set, and we started a two-piece band the next day,” he said. “We used to wait till some of our friends’ parents went to work and then go set up in their driveways — play out to suburbia and pretend like it’s a big concert.”
It was all covers in those days: “Gloria,” “The House of the Rising Sun, “Hey Joe” and so forth.
When he was 17, he and a friend attended a recording seminar at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and decided to hitchhike from there to Oxnard, Calif. “His cousin lived there, and he wasn’t home. We sat out on his porch, and I started playing the blues, just like that,” Lindstrom said. “I’m like, ‘Dude! Check this out! This is so easy, man.’ After that I started listening to B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, Taj Mahal, Little Richard.”
He’s been writing and playing the blues ever since. The hale, 58-year-old father of a 31-year-old son, Lindstrom describes himself as a recovering addict. He’s had a rebellious tendency and an addictive personality from childhood — “long before I found drugs,” he said — and has been clean and sober since 1995.
Following rehab, Lindstrom launched into a flurry of writing and recording, and has released a string of six albums since 1999. His most recent two are 2010’s “Hungry, Cold & Blue” and “Bring It On,” released last year. A disc of blues standards is slated for release this year. (Lindstrom’s albums are available at www.reverbnation .com/bobbylindstrom.)
“It’s been curious watching myself, as I learn to write and play and start to get some success. Success is the strangest thing for a recovering addict. All of a sudden, everything is working,” he said. “The last couple of years, everything that I’ve been through is starting to make sense. It’s starting to come into focus.”
Over the years, Lindstrom played his brand of blues-rock as far east as Texas, spending a couple of years back in Coos Bay before moving to Bend in 2010, bringing along his prized 1968 Les Paul Gold Top guitar, which he’s had through four decades of ups, downs and ups again.
That was only after reconnecting with Sharon Jensen, a 30-year resident of Bend whom he knew and dated back on the coast.
“We dated in 1969. We didn’t see each other for 40 years,” he said. The two reconnected a couple of years ago at Jensen’s 40-year class reunion.
After she heard him play again, Jensen urged him to move to the bigger arena of Bend. In short order, he began appearing with different musicians around Central Oregon — in varying configurations of trios and four-pieces — a couple of years ago.
“I have never been welcomed into a town like Bend has welcomed me,” said Lindstrom. “I take every gig I can get. I did 170 gigs, paid, last year, and I’m on double that pace right now. Double,” he added, laughing.
Sharlet met Lindstrom at a jam night. “I came up and whistled blues with him, and it was love at first trill,” said Sharlet, who also sings harmony with Lindstrom.
While no lead singer himself, “I can mesh with a good singer,” Lindstrom said. His voice smacks of authenticity and comes, Sharlet said, “from his soul, deep in his gut. I didn’t pay dues like he did. I led a sheltered life.”
Every Wednesday, Lindstrom plays as a volunteer for the locked up youth at Deschutes County’s juvenile detention facility.
“He has two hours up there,” explained Jensen. “He plays music, he talks to them, he tells them stories ... tries to tell them, ‘Find something that you love.’”
Lindstrom clearly has. “Music doesn’t come from me, it comes through me,” he said. “And I still get to be rebellious.”