The old folk music band above posed for this portrait while performing at
Bob's Great-Great Grandparents Miller's 50th wedding anniversary held at the Miller Homestead
in the North Hills of Pittsburgh in the year 1898. The Miller clan, 19th century west
German immigrants, were simple country folks whose love of folk music was at the heart of
every Miller family gathering. On both sides of the family, there was always folk
Bob was born in Pittsburgh in '47 and spent much of his early youth on his mother's Nofsinger farm in McDonald, Pa. As an infant, his grandma would serenade him to sleep with Appalachian lullabies and gospel hymns with her soft finger pickin' guitar which she brought from her roots in the hills of eastern Tennessee. As a young child, he recalls the elder folks at the farm sittin' 'round the kitchen table late at night singin' the old songs of the South. His grandpap's favorite was "O Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"; for he was from the foothills of the Shenandoah in western Virginia. These early childhood influences undoubtedly formed the roots of Bob's interest in folk music.
When he was 9, Bob developed an interest in playing the guitar. His father would drive 15 miles every Monday to a small music shop in the North Side of Pittsburgh to take a weekly lesson. Bob recalls the first song he learned in chord melody on the guitar -- an old Steven Foster favorite called Old Black Joe. And he still has that original miniature Stella guitar. What he didn't know back then was that he learned the song about a mile from where Steven Foster was actually born and memorialized. Bob took lessons for a number of years and occasionally played solo guitar at local school and church concerts.
Bob's family sure loved to sing and no family get together was complete without some sort of live performance, dancing or sing-a-long. Each summer, his Great Uncle Albert from Switzerland would play the concertina at the Miller family reunion until his stomping feet were sore, and the kids and elders would sing-a-long with Al. The player piano was a standard piece in the homes of all the relatives and at every party you could always hear the family around the player "Sing Along with Mitch."
In his teenage years, while Rock n' Roll and Doo Wop music were emerging on the western Pennsylvania music scene, Bob migrated instead to playing the folk revival music. He often picked guitar with his sister and his high school sweetheart who loved to sing to the songs of Peter Paul and Mary. But then, the British Wave moved inland, and inspired by the "Fab 4", Bob turned his musical interests to the early Rock music. He bought a Rickenbacker 12-string and a Gibson Melody Maker and started a psychedelic rock band, the Plastic Nightmare, playing rhythm guitar and performing for high school events, college parties and night clubs around the Pittsburgh area during his high-school and early college years.
In the '70's, Bob's interest turned again to the folk music scene, and he sold his electrics to buy a Martin. He was influenced strongly by the Mississippi delta blues artists like John Hurt and classic county songwriters like Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams and Willie Nelson. He especially liked to play guitar, sing and blow the blues harp to the 60's folk music of Dylan and Donovan. Bob went on from there for the next 20 years raisin' his own family and pickin' solo guitar whenever he got a chance at family gatherings and at parties.
Then in the early '90's, Bob dusted off his Martin and played Christmas sing-alongs for his son's Cub Scout pack, and in the Holiday season he would perform at the Wiley House for the underprivileged children. Experiencing the joy of music with the children convinced Bob that he had a lot more to offer musically, and so he began performing regularly. He joined a folk trio for awhile and then discovered the LVFMS where he founded the Society's performing group to promote old time folk music. Bob has now played regularly with the LVFMS performing group for nearly 20 years. He sings and mostly picks the banjo, which he self-taught himself to play, but he also plays a variety of other stringed instruments in the band, including the mandolin, the Dobro, the ukulele and, of course, the guitar.
Bob is a excellent songwriter with many recorded and copyrighted songs. He often visited his family cabin in the Allegheny National Forest each summer which inspired his songwriting. His favorite is The Clarion River, a country-style waltz recorded on the LVFMS's Generation after Generation album.
Bob always had an interest in recording, dating back to his teenage years when he was given an old Concord reel to reel recorder. So it is no surprise that Bob manages all of the sound for the LVFMS performing group. He set up a home recording studio in his barn on Willow Street in Ruchsville, Pa. where he produced and recorded all of the music for the Society, including the Generation After Generation, Home Beyond the Sky and the Garlic and Angels albums. In 2007, Bob recorded and produced his own 20-track album, called Mountaintop Essence, that captures the essence of his songwriting and his instrumental playing.
Bob is proud to represent his ancestral heritage as a performing artist with the Folk Society band. He said, "Every time now when I play the old folk music, my ancestral heritage is in some way remembered, for as a 19th century philosopher put it so nicely: music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit in you that never dies."