Bob Flannery was born Robert L. Hertenstein to his parents Ithial Gustav and Violet Flannery (Davis) Hertenstein in 1929.
This got a little confusing as his mother was part of the Flannery Sisters singing duo. She was
known as Violet (Billie) Flannery and her sister Alene (Allie) Flannery.
Ancestry.com tells us he was born in Illinois. But a biographical sketch may have tried to paint him as a
cowboy or western singer and indicated he was born in Craig, Colorado. This is not the first
time we have seen such a contradiction in an artist's birthplace.
Bob's mother did not exactly want her son making singing and music a career. She knew all too
well what he would have to go through based on her own personal experiences. Bob tried to
honor that advice and took a job with the Stanolind Pipe Company but his heart was not in it.
Now the biography provided then indicates he tried his hand at ranch work. We tend to think this
was another way to make him sound like a western or cowboy singer. But as the bio state, "...after
a year of breaking broncs, riding line, etc., the urge to be in the music and radio business
got the best of him."
Somewhere along the way, Bob found his way down to Laredo, Texas and with no previous experience,
he passed an announcer's audition for radio station XENT that broadcast out of Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican
state of Tamaulipas. It is across the Rio Grande from Laredo. XENT at that time did not do
live talent on its broadcasts. But Bob kept practicing his singing and playing. He kept an
eye out for an opportunity. He signed on to station - KPAB that broadcast out of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Bob got his first break from the legendary disc jockey Randy Blake of WJJD in Chicago. It seems a
representative from Capitol records heard Bob sing over one of Randy's shows and signed him
to a recording contract. Bob was part of the famed Flannery Sisters family and Jenny Lou Carson,
who was a long time friend of the family, signed on to manage Bob's musical career.
Billboard magazine reported in 1949, that Lee Gillette of Capitol and Charlie Adams
of VAnguard Music in Hollywood recorded two sessions on September 6, 1949 at the WJJD
studios. One session was with Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle and his band the Frontiersmen.
The article noted Bob had worked in Southern Illinois and Laredo, Texas. The Frontiersmen
also worked Bob's session as well. We think he cut four sides that session - "Revenge", "Won't
You Come Into My Heart" (written by Jenny Lou Carson), "I'll Keep Smiling", and "I've Lost You, So Why Should I Care".
You might imagine some kind of promotional efforts after that session. The Escanaba Daily Press
reported that Bob was following in the footsteps of his mother, Billie Flannery (then known as
Mrs. Billie Black of Chicago). Bob was living with his aunt Mrs. Edgar Newman. It was said
Capitol had signed him to a 'long term' contract even though he was only 20 years old. Bob
grew up originally in the Gladstone, Michigan area, in Michigan's upper peninsula.
In late October, Billboard was reporting that Charles Petzold, the Chicago chief for Capitol
Records was setting up a series of hillbilly shows for the Veterans' hospitals in
the Chicago area. Jenny Lou Carson was also going to appear with Bob on those first few appearances.
The following month we learned that Bob's mom, Billie, Jerry Davis in Chicago.
Billboard in those days would rate the records along with including a few comments. Bob's
second release was "I'll Keep Smiling" and "I've Lost You, So Why Should I care?". Billboard
gave the two tunes an overall rating of 62 and 67 respectively. In that same issue, they rated
two of Hank Snow's releases - "Nobody's Child" and "The Only Rose". Hank got an 86 and 76 rating
in comparison. Billboard said the first tune was a "slow country torcher too placidly warbled."
The other side of that release they noted "more pop than country, gets an okay vocal."
In January of 1950, we learned that Bob was signed to do a two week engagement at the
North View Hotel in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
In early 1950, Wesley Tuttle had parted ways with Capitol. But Bob Flannery and Randy Blake of WJJD
cut four sides on February 7, 1950. Presumably these sessions were again at the WJJD studios
in Chicago. It was at this session that Bob recorded his duet record with the 19 year old
Phyllis Brown of WLS fame - "We Get Along So Good Together (When We're So Far Apart)" and
"Second-Hand Heart". The other two sides were penned by Don Johnson according to National
Hillbilly News - "Mirror on the Wall" and "Thorns In My Heart".
Cowboy Songs also promoted the duo as up and coming young talents, noting that Phyllis
was just out of high school.
Late in 1950, Billboard reported that Bob was working at the 3030 Club in Chicago.
National Hillbilly News was touting his recording of "Second Hand Heart" in 1950.
Our research shows that Bob's personal appearances would take him to various places in the midwest.
In November 1951, Bob was working with a group called "The Westerners" that was featuring
Wild Bill Lee who was from Clarksburg, West Virginia. The band included Steve Melek on the Twin-neck
hawaiian guitar and Solo-Vox, Bob-A-Long Kaskidy on Bass. Bob was listed as the "Special
Added Attraction". Also being advertised for a following engagement was "Chief" the
Chesterfield smoking dog. This was at Popeye's (down by the waterworks) in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
In late summer of 1952, Bob was playing the Lariat Club on South Third Street in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
They were billing the headliners as "The Texas Round-Up" featuring Dusty Lee, Hillbilly MC
and starring Bob Flannery. Also getting billing was Frank at the organ.
In June and July of 1954, was part of what was being billed as "The Greatest Western
Duo In The Land" when he teamed up with Art Gibson at a place called Little Mike's in
Escanaba, Michigan, near Bob's roots. The ads not only noted that Bob was recording for Capitol, but was
featuring his Hawaiian steel guitar as well. They would entertain folks from 9pm to 1am
four to five nights a week.
Later in July he was appearing with Red Lauscher's 4 piece Band at Skinny's Bar that was
across from the C & NW depot and run by Al and Ester Dagenais.
Another personal appearance was at the Lincoln Hotel in Escanaba. This time he
was the feature artist along with his steel guitar with Red's Rhythm Rascals.
Bob married the former Barbara Jean Druger on September 10, 1951.
In 1967, Bob was apparently living in Wheeling, Illinois. From separate news articles,
Bob was died at the age of 38 in an auto accident in Wheeling on April 12, 1967 and later
died on April 15. His body was returned to Strawberry Point, Iowa, where his wife was from
and he was buried there. He left behind his wife, Barbara, four daughters - Jenny, Debbie, Jeri
and Jesse and three sons - John, Gregory and Timothy.
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its appreciation to
Jenny L. Thoma and Jessi Hertenstein Moorman, daughters of Bob Flannery for providing info and details about
her father's career.
- Billboard Magazine; September 24, 1949; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
- Escanaba Daily Press, October 15, 1949; Escanaba, Michigan
- Billboard Magazine; October 29, 1949; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
- Billboard Magazine; November 26, 1949; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
- Billboard Magazine; December 26, 1949; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
- Escanaba Daily Press, January 30, 1950; Escanaba, Michigan
- Billboard Magazine; March 11, 1950; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
- Billboard Magazine; March 18, 1950; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
- Billboard Magazine; April 1, 1950; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
- Billboard Magazine; November 4, 1950; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
- Green Bay Press Gazette, November 2, 1951, Green Bay, Wisconsin
- Green Bay Press Gazette, November 9, 1951, Green Bay, Wisconsin
- LaCrosse Tribune, August 26, 1952, LaCrosse, Wisconsin
- LaCrosse Tribune, August 29, 1952, LaCrosse, Wisconsin
- Escanaba Daily Press, June 30, 1954; Escanaba, Michigan
- Escanaba Daily Press, July 3, 1954; Escanaba, Michigan
- Escanaba Daily Press, July 13, 1954; Escanaba, Michigan
- Escanaba Daily Press, July 16, 1954; Escanaba, Michigan
- Escanaba Daily Press, July 23, 1954; Escanaba, Michigan
- Escanaba Daily Press, September 25, 1954; Escanaba, Michigan
- Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 19, 1967; Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- Dubuque Telegraph, April 19, 1967; Dubuque, Iowa
- Oelwin Daily Register, April 19, 1967; Olewein, Iowa
- National Hillbilly News; Vol. 5, No. 4; March / April 1950;
Mr. and Mrs. Orville Via; Huntington, WV
- National Hillbilly News; Vol. 5, No. 6; July / August 1950;
Mr. and Mrs. Orville Via; Huntington, WV
- Cowboy Songs; No. l7; November 1951; Charlton Pub Corp. Inc.;
Charlton Building, Derby, CT
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The Greatest Western Duo In The Land