Home » Musicians » Bobby Holt » Biography
Bobby Holt - Biography
Tony Zano

Robert "Bobby" John Holt
by Chet Williamson

DOB: June 13, 1921 (Worcester, MA)
DOD: June 22, 2001 (San Antonio, TX)

Instrument: Piano

Education: Worcester Public Schools (North High School), self-taught piano

Playing experience: Candy Boys, Eddie Dolbare, Emil Haddad, George Robinson's Orchestra, Will Bradley, Ray McKinley, Ina Ray Hutton, United States Air Force Band, Teddy Lockwood, and Al Hirt

Touring and other highlights: Traveled the world as military pianist, performed with Al Hirt on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

Discography: "Bounce Me Brother with a Solid Four,"Misunderstood","Get Thee Behind Me Satan,"From the Land of Sky-Blue Waters","All That Meat and No Potatoes,"Booglie Wooglie Piggy", and "Love Me a Little", recorded in June of 1941. Personnel includes: Lee Castle, Steve Lipkins, Alec Fila (tp) Will Bradley, Jimmy Emmert, Bill Cortif (tb), Mahlon Clark, Art Mendehohn (as), Peanuts Hucko (cl/ts), Johnny Van Eps (ts), Bob Holt (p), Steve Jordan (g), Doc Goldberg (b) and Ray McKinley (d).

He was born a child prodigy of the piano, who by the age of 9 years-old led his own band. His mother gave him early lessons, but soon young Bobby was teaching himself to play the popular songs of the day. He was particularly enamored with the emerging style of the late 1930s called boogie-woogie.

His dynamic barrelhouse style was quickly recognized by Worcester musicians and while still a teenager, Holt was quickly enlisted into the band of drummer Eddie Dolbare, a band that also featured guitarist Lou Mercuri, who would later tour with Claude Thornhill.

Holt was an early participant at the Saxtrum Club, a jazz cooperative in the Laurel/Clayton section of Worcester that held weekly jam sessions. Holt's first big break came in 1941 when he was hired to replace the great Freddie Slack in the Will Bradley Band and moved to New York. While in the City he befriended the great pianist Art Hodes, further
immersing in the style of boogie-woogie. He also freelanced, working with Ray McKinley and Ina Ray Hutton.

As WWII approached, Holt enlisted in the Army Air Corps and spent the war playing for military troupes the world over. The pianist returned to Worcester after the war and opened a teaching studio in the Day Building on Main Street.

He also played in an early version of Emil Haddad and the Noteables, as well as, appearances with George Robinson's Orchestra. However, in 1948, he re-enlisted in the military where he remained for more than 25 years.

Originally stationed at Westover Air Force, Chicopee, MA, Holt's tour of duty took him to Waco, Texas; West Palm Beach, Fl.; Reykjavik, Iceland and the island of Guam.

Holt retired in 1969 and settled in western, MA. He took a job teaching at the Cathedral High School in Wilbraham, taught privately, and moonlighted as the pianist in the Teddy Lockwood Band.

In 1977, Holt was invited by old military friend, Al Hirt to play in his New Orleans-based band. The pianist worked with the trumpeter for two years, highlighted by and appearance on the "Tonight Show with Johnny Caron".

By the 1980s, Holt had settled in the Kerrville/Fredricksville area of Texas where he continued to play, taking gigs with local bands. By the early 1990s, Holt starting showing early signs of memory loss and later diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, yet continued to play to the end.

He died on Friday, June 22, in 2001, in San Antonio, Texas.