Author:Kemp, Louie


It was at summer camp in northern Wisconsin in 1953 that I first met Bobby Zimmerman from Hibbing. He was 12 years old and he had a guitar. He would go around telling everybody that he was going to be a rock-and-roll star. I was 11 and I believed him.

Even at that tender age, I could see that most of the other kids weren't really buying it. None of them would say so to his face, but I could hear them making comments and laughing behind his back, and it bugged me. Why didn't they see what I saw? Maybe I was the most gullible kid at Herzl Camp, or maybe it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Maybe a little bit of both.

Ultimately, of course, it didn't matter whether the other kids bought into Bobby's dream, or whether I did. The only thing that mattered was that Bobby believed in it. And that's why it came true.

Don't get me wrong. Bobby was very popular with the other kids, especially the girls. This was due in part to his natural charm, but also to his talent. He was not just the kid with the guitar--he could play the thing. He was a maverick and a freethinker, always fun to be with, challenging, and sometimes very disruptive.

When the counselors came up with a good idea for an activity, Bobby came up with a better one. He was a prankster who liked to stir things up. Add to that a hip, edgy sense of humor and a surprisingly well-honed ability to be provocative, and that was Bobby. He always knew when a dose of sarcasm was called for, or when a little bit of ruckus was needed--and I was down with all of it. Bobby was my kind of guy!

Bobby and I teamed up with a third kid in our cabin, Larry Kegan, who, like Bobby, was talented and deeply into music. He was also a natural-born hell-raiser. Larry was fun and passionate, but, as the boxing champ at Herzl, I was the protector of our little band.

I'd been well prepared for the role by my father, Abe, an old Golden Glover who handed me my first pair of gloves in our backyard when I was nine and said, "Put these on. I'm going to teach you to box." When I'd done as...

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