Slim Speaks

All interviews are conducted by Slim's good buddy, writer Brad Zellar.

We're hoping to do these interviews with Slim more regularly in the future, so keep checking back for new updates.

Slim Speaks • Part 2 • 4/12/13

When I visited Slim last week he was wearing his Bubble Up t-shirt and was once again getting settled in at home after a long hospitalization for a variety of infections. The Minnesota winter was overstaying its welcome, and Slim wasn’t happy about the effect the weather was having on the people in his life. “It’s bringing everybody down,” he said. “That’s all anyone wants to talk about. They can’t play baseball in the snow, and Chrissie needs her flowers.” He was still receiving intravenous antibiotics and was clearly tired, yet when I asked how he was doing he said, “Hanging in there. They haven’t killed me yet.”

After I ran through a series of written questions –we’d discussed possible topics prior to his hospitalization—we talked about his love for power pop, the prospects for the Twins season, and Thumbs Up, Slim’s old band with Curtiss A. Before I left he requested a couple songs from my iTunes stash: The Raspberries’ “Let’s Pretend,” and The Hollies’ “Look Through Any Window.”

How’d you get the nickname ‘Slim’?
(Holds up one thin arm). You’d have to ask Paul. That’s on him.

Did you ever have any other nicknames when you were younger?
Nope. I was always just Robert or Bob.

Are there any new records that have knocked your socks off since you’ve been laid up?
The dB’s record [“Falling Off the Sky”] is great, and I also liked the new Bonnie Raitt.

What’s the most money you ever paid for a car?
Twenty-four hundred bucks. It was for a Volkswagen Passat. Pretty good car. I drove it into the ground.

Can you remember your first baseball mitt?
Sure. It was an Ernie Banks model.

Could you play?
I was okay, but I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be.

Do you have a favorite player of all time?
Joe DiMaggio. I liked that he was private.

What was the best concert you ever saw?
The Rolling Stones in Chicago. I think it was 1972 at the Amphitheater. “Sticky Fingers” is my favorite Stones record, and it was right around that time.

How about the biggest concert you ever played?
The Replacements opened for Elvis Costello at Madison Square Garden. I think it was 1991.

Do you have a favorite movie?
Lots of them. “Orphans,” with Albert Finney, is one a lot of people haven’t seen. I love westerns.

What’s your favorite western?
“High Noon.” Or maybe “Rio Bravo.”

How about your favorite actor?
Gary Cooper.

Do you remember your first gig?
It was in somebody’s house. All the early shows I played were in basements or garages.

Did you go to college?
One year. I hated it.

What would you have done if you hadn’t been a musician?
I don’t know. I’d probably have spent my life working in a factory.

Who’s the funniest comedian?
I love W.C. Fields, because I grew up watching him, but I’ll say Dave Chappelle.

A few more. If you could put together a dream foursome for a round of golf, who’d you get?
Clint Eastwood, my son Louie, and Curtiss A.

Is there anybody who comes to mind as the most underrated musician of your generation?
Peter Holsapple. He should be a star.

Okay, how do you think the whole Songs for Slim project is going?
So far, so good. I hear they’ve raised a lot of money. I’m so not worth it, but it’s still incredible. Tell people I said thanks.


Slim Speaks • Part 1 • 1/12/13

After nine months of bouncing between hospital rooms and rehab facilities, Bob “Slim” Dunlap is back at home now. There are good days and bad days, yet he’s always a gracious and funny host, even when he’s feeling pissed off. He still can’t eat or drink (an understandable source of ongoing frustration), and requires more care and fuss than he’s comfortable with, but his legendary memory, reserve of stories and trivia, and sense of humor are all still intact. When I stopped by Saturday, January 12th with a list of questions, he was ready for me, and rattled off his answers without any hesitation. After I’d finished he said, “Go back through the questions again and I’ll give you a new set of answers.” We did, and he did; the second time around he was hilarious, and virtually every answer was a pure fabrication. Before I left we talked about game shows (“Did you ever see John Wayne on Password?” he asked me. “He was horrible.”), Slim Whitman (whose “Birmingham Jail” was his alternate choice for best song by a different Slim), and houseboats. His parting words were, “I love sleeping on a boat. That’s how I want to go.”

What was your first guitar?
It was a Woolworth’s special. I got it for Christmas when I was 14.

How long did it take you to learn to play?
One year and I was rockin’. I mostly taught myself and learned from copying friends.

Did you and your friends have a band?
Not until later. I think I started my first band when I was 18 and living in Wayzata. We were called Mrs. Frubbs.

Who was Mrs. Frubbs?
I have no idea. It wasn’t my idea.

What was the first record that knocked your socks off?
Chuck Berry’s “Tulane.” We learned it and played it at every practice. I never could figure out what that song’s about, but it still kills me.

Do you have a favorite guitar player?
Chuck Berry has always been the man.

Who belongs on the musical version of Mount Rushmore?
Are there five guys or four on there?

Beats me. We could look it up.
I think there are four, but I’ll give you five names: Hank Williams. Buddy Holly. Chuck Berry. John Lennon. And Jimi Hendrix.

What’s your favorite song by another Slim?
Slim Harpo’s “Rainin’ in My Heart.”

How about your favorite Replacements song?
“Favorite Thing” is genius, but I’ll say “Go.” It’s sad and haunting, has a big guitar part, and a great vocal. All the things Paul does best.

Any music that comes to mind that’s given you a lift during this whole thing?
There’s so much. I hear as good as ever, and I’m always happy to hear good songs by people who can really play and sing. Dana Thompson and Hannah Lynch came to see me and sang Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

It’s been almost a year since your stroke. Do you remember anything from that day?
I don’t remember anything. Nothing. That’s probably a good thing. I don’t even remember the question you just asked me.

You’ve had a lot of ups and downs in that year. What’s kept you going?
I feel the love. And I still dream of writing one more good song. That never goes away.

This is a sore subject given how long it’s been since you’ve been able to eat or drink, but what’s the present status of your hierarchy of food cravings?
Hamburgers, French fries, and soda pop are still at the top. And I’ve been having dreams about a meatloaf sandwich.

Let’s talk a little bit about the Songs For Slim project. I know you’ve had all sorts of mixed emotions about all this attention, but now that you’ve had a chance to hear some of these people perform your songs, how are you feeling about it all?
It’s embarrassing, but I really do appreciate everyone’s hard work and kindness. It’s truly touched my heart, all the help everyone’s given us, and there’s just no way I can feel worthy. My only problem with the records is that I wish I’d written better songs; every one of those people has written better songs than I have. It is nice, though, to hear people who can actually sing do my songs. I can’t sing. I howl. 

I know you’ve always hated the whole social media/Facebook thing, but that monkey business has really made it possible for people all the over the world to keep up with how you’re doing and let you know that you’re in their thoughts. Has this changed your perception at all?
Again, it’s embarrassing, because I have no control over anything, but I hadn’t realized how big Facebook and all that other stuff was, and how much people used it to stay in touch. I was stupid. I’d probably join Facebook now. As it is, Chrissie runs it, and tells me what’s going on out there. I love Chrissie. She didn’t bargain for this, and she’s the one who deserves a break. When someone saves your life as many times as she’s saved mine you owe them everything, and I’d give her my life a hundred times if I could.

A couple more questions and then I’ll leave you alone for awhile.
You’re feeding me softballs. This is a piece of cake.

You want me to get all 60 Minutes on you?
No, I’m clean. Keep the softballs coming.

Okay, let’s suppose right this minute you could get up and go out to your car and get the hell out of here; where would you go?
I’d head for New Orleans. I had a dream that Gordon Lightfoot was playing at Tipitina’s and the crowd was eating him alive. I’ll go bail him out.

Anything else you'd like people to know?
I’d like to hang around a little bit longer, but if I died today you can say that I was a happy man and I had a good life. I stuck my neck out and got to do stuff that a lot of people only get to dream about. Who knows? Maybe this is finally my chance to get that spoon necklace I missed out on in the ‘80s.