The Bob Kames Story
Bob Kames learned to play the organ quite by accident near the end of World War II. While playing a piano, he was approached by high ranking officer who asked if he could play an organ. Of course his answer was yes, and without hesitation his orders were changed, starting a whole new career for Bob. In early 1946 after he was discharged from the army, Bob traveled the US as an entertainer playing on his customized Hammond organ performing in supper clubs, theaters and night clubs.
In 1949, he got lucky with a song he wrote called "You are My one True Love." Recorded on the London label it became his first million seller. Along with his version of the song, it was recorded by Lawrence Welk and Frankie Yankovich and later by Bobby Vinton.
Bob caught another break in the early 1952 when The Miller Brewing company used a song he wrote “High Life Polka” as part of their advertising campaign for Miller High Life Beer. Lawrence Welk again recorded the song but this time hired Bob to join his band as a regular guest artist. Bob played the organ and at times lead the band when Welk played the accordion.
In 1954, Starday King records signed Bob to a 16 year contract with over 40 records released. Bob quickly rose to the top of the charts as America’s best selling organ soloist. Each new album had a different theme including three Christmas albums released in the same year.
While producing records for King, Bob opened his first organ store in 1960 and soon he was in the top ten Hammond Dealers nation wide.
In 1963, Bob was awarded “Best Selling organ recording artist. That same year the All stars of Polka album reached the top of the charts for a polka album. Polka legends like Frankie Yankovic, Louie Bashell, George Cook and Romy Goz joined Bob in producing the album. It was also the first album that his father was his drummer.
In 1966, Bob produced his first Television show “The Bob Kames Family Room” centering around family fun with music and a Hammond Organ. The Show ran for 17 years and became a holiday season classic especially with the infamous Santa Clause is coming to town. Guests on his show included: Lawrence Welk, Hildegard, Frankie Yankovich, Bobby Vinton, Don Ho and many more.
1970 marked the end of his 16 year contract with King records. Bob opted not to renew a contract but rather tend to his successful chain of organ stores.
Well the recording bug bit again in 1975 when he released one of the most successful organ recording series “The Happy Organ” on the GRT label. Six records were released in a 30 day period with sales topping 2.5 million. Once again riding a tidal wave of success.
Bob was signed by GNP Crescendo records in Los Angeles in 1980 to record eight albums. Bob was joined by his son Bob Jr. and daughter Barbara to create a series called Dad and the Kids.
Two years and two albums into the contract in 1982 a crazy little song came along that once again sent Bob Kames to the top of the recording charts. “Dance Little Bird” better known as “The Chicken Dance”. Another Gold record here in America as well as Poland and a new title for Bob Kames “The Chicken Dance King”.
Today Bob’s records are still selling on the internet as collectibles. You can find them in 78 RPM, 45 RPM, 33 1/3 RPM, 8 track, Cassette and CD. He is one of the few to claim recording on all these formats.
His Chicken Dance is still selling 25 years later as the number one downloaded novelty song, number one in Walmart and now cell phone ring tones are available. Just google “Bob Kames chicken dance” and see what happens.
Bob's on stage appearances included Summerfest, Festa Italiana, Polish Fest and Rainbow Summer, just to name a few. He also had tens of thousands doing the Chicken Dance at Badgers and Packers halftime shows in 1982. Bob was also a part-time organist for the Milwaukee Braves in the 1950's.
In 2007 Bob received several more honors. He was given a Lifetime Legend award from the Hammond Organ Company at the 2007 Bob Kames Foudation Jazz Festival. In April, 2007, Bob was elected to the Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) Hall of Fame. On March 22nd, 2007, Mayor Tom Barrett proclaimed “Bob Kames Day” in the City of Milwaukee.
Even with Bob's passing, his name lives on through the "Bob Kames Foundation." Our mission is to help “Bring Out The Music In You” and to continue supporting youth music programs. Our main fundraiser is our annual Jazz Festival each Spring.