NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET BOB 

The guy's a personality. A radio personality, that is, which gets him a lot of play. Airplay, anyway - on San Antonio College's radio station, KSYM 90.1 FM. Between Postal Service and Wilco, Beck and Johnny Cash, Bullet Bob is the best thing on the radio. Really. His charismatic banter transitions listeners from the esoteric Sea & Cake to the local Electric Latin Love Machine to an enigmatic group known as Turbonegro. His mantra: "If it's good, I'll play it. If it sucks, I'll play it." And, despite his initial commitment to himself at his show's inception to never play the Smiths, listeners can tune into Bob's show and hear "This Charming Man" wailing away. "I don't discriminate," he explains.

 
click to enlarge cultlede-bulletbob_330jpg
Roberto Flores, aka Bullet Bob, clowns around during a recent shift at San Antonio College's radio station.
Check out Bullet Bob on KSYM 90.1 FM from 9 to 11 p.m. on Friday, March 7 for his special edition, 9th Annual Pledge Drive show. "I'm thinking of a disco show with a disco ball, everyone dancing," he says. "I figure, if I play booty-shaking music long enough, someone's gonna start shaking a booty." Photo by Mark Greenberg

Yet his set has the distinctive sound of discriminating taste: Where there is back-to-back Björk, Ryan Adams, Los #3 Dinners, Rufus Wainwright, and Willie Nelson, there is Bullet Bob. And who else could juxtapose classic Texas swing with super-charged Japanese pop so seamlessly? Perhaps that is why he was appointed KSYM's Adult Album Alternative (Triple A) director, whose duty is to select the music to accommodate the station's Triple A format on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. He is one with the daytime DJ "Otto," KSYM's computer-automated system that plays preprogrammed (by Bob) sets of music sprinkled with public service announcements when there is no human host to be had. Bob is, in fact, so savvy in the sound department, that his self-produced audio promos set to classics such as Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia" rival the original recordings. Where did this guy come from?

After a five-year stint as an electrician's assistant, Bob says he "woke up" to realize his childhood dream - the one about the career in radio. He quit his job, returned to school, and is currently working toward two associates degrees at SAC: journalism and radio-television-film. He has been in school for a year, and has been on the air as long. His regular (untitled) show is scheduled in a cushy spot on Friday nights from 9 to 11 p.m., following "The Casbah," hosted by KSYM Program Director Brian Parrish. "When I first started on Fridays, I was really nervous," explains Bob, whose original show aired Tuesday evenings. "Brian Parrish has such a good show. I had to find a way to keep the listeners, but at the same time, build my own audience." And so were born Bob's popular chart shows, an approach he attributes to Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" countdown and CMJ.com.

Bob's shows are Bullet-proofed: The songs are solid, but the listeners eat up Bob's smooth voice that occasionally breaks into giddy giggles. There is never a dull moment in Bob's set because he can carry on a one-sided conversation with his invisible audience for hours with all the humor and charm of a genuinely witty host and without devolving into a fast-talking doofus with a hokey "DJ" voice and an insatiable desire to hear himself talk. His audience is loyal and receptive. Bullet Bob is everyone's friend.

BULLET BOB
9-11pm Fridays
KSYM 90.1 FM
www.ksym.org

"I tried to call myself 'Daycamper' once, because I like to camp," says Bob. "But the day I was Daycamper, people kept calling in, calling me Bullet Bob. They pretty much just ignored 'Daycamper.'" Another time, Bob renamed himself "B.O.B.," and for an all-blues set, he introduced himself as "Bobby Cobalt," but it didn't matter to his listeners, who know his sets even when he assumes another crackpot alias.

"At KSYM, I'm as free as I want, within the guidelines of the FCC, of course," Bob says. "At mainstream stations, you're just a puppet operating the computer. I want to play a little bit of everything. I want my set to reflect that variety, and have an element of surprise in each show. Requests really help out." Case in point: One caller once requested a song, adding, "A friend of mine wants you to stop playing banjo music." "Sure," Bob replied, before fiercely launching into three consecutive banjo songs.

"I love banjo music," Bob explains excitedly. "It's a lot like punk rock. It's so fast and hard. I love to rock out." Among Bob's other loves are karaoke, $1 albums from thrift stores, his 150-pound English mastiff Zoe, and new music. "I play a lot of new music. I want to bring listeners to a point of premature e-rock-ulation."

And there you have it, folks: the top reason why Friday evenings between 9 and 11 p.m. are number one with a Bullet. •


More by Wendi Kimura

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.