RIP Bobby Poe (Poe Kat)
Bobby Poe (Sunrise: April 13, 1933 – Sunset: January 22, 2011) in Vinita, Oklahoma also known as Bobby Nelson Poe has had a long and varied career in the music business. In the mid-1950s he formed Bobby Poe and The Poe Kats, which featured African-American piano player Big Al Downing and lead guitar player Vernon Sandusky. Bobby Poe and The Poe Kats were also Rockabilly Queen Wanda Jackson’s first Rock and Roll backing band. They toured with Wanda and also can be found on her early Capitol Records recordings, including the Rockabilly classic “Let’s Have A Party”. Bobby, Wanda, Big Al and Vernon are all members of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Bobby Poe and The Poe Kats got the attention of Sam Phillips of Sun Records with their first recorded track, “Rock and Roll Record Girl”. Based on the music of the old standard “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy”, “Rock and Roll Record Girl” was at first blocked from release by Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose because of that fact. By the time all of the legal hurdles were cleared, Sam Phillips was no longer interested in releasing the track. Instead, Dallas, Texas radio personality Jim Lowe stepped in and released the single on his White Rock Records label. “Rock and Roll Record Girl” backed with “Rock and Roll Boogie” became a #1 single in the state of Texas.
After one more single for Jim Lowe’s White Rock Records entitled “Piano Nellie”, under the name of Bobby Brant and The Rhythm Rockers, Bobby Poe gave up his career as an artist to become an artist manager. His first client was Big Al Downing. In the 1960s, Poe moved to the Washington, D.C. area and expanded his operation. He managed and co-produced The Chartbusters, which featured his old bandmate Vernon Sandusky. The Chartbusters scored a Top 40 hit in 1964 with their recording “She’s The One”. Tom Hanks was quoted in People Magazine as saying The Chartbusters were one of the influences for his film “That Thing You Do!”. Poe also co-managed The British Walkers, which featured Bobby Howard and guitarist Roy Buchanan.
In 1968, Poe again switched gears and started several music tip sheets for music industry insiders and radio stations. The most successful tip sheet was Pop Music Survey, which grew significantly when Poe began an annual music convention. After 25 successful conventions, Poe retired in 1996.
After his “official” retirement in 1996, in 1999 Mr. Poe created The Grand Grove Opry in Grove, Oklahoma. This music theater showcased local and national Country music talent and shows were broadcast weekly on KITO radio in Vinita, Oklahoma. After new owners bought the Opry building, Mr. Poe continued to promote Country music concerts until 2005.
In March 2009 Bobby Poe and The Poe Kats were inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.
Bobby Poe passed away on January 22, 2011. He had been diagnosed with throat cancer in 2009. While he was able to beat the cancer, he grew steadily weaker during his recovery and suffered a fatal blood clot on the date mentioned.