A Chat With Father and Son: Bob and Rob Fletcher
Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Authors of REMEMBRANCE: A
Tribute To Americaís Veterans
Bob and Rob Fletcher
With the unusual outpouring of patriotism
experienced in America since 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, and now
the one in Iraq, it is a pleasure to talk to men who are really two
patriots who have shown all of us in their book the proper respect
for the veterans of our country and those heroes of ours who lost
their lives on behalf of a greater good Ė freedom.
Q: Bob, how and when did you and
Rob determine the two of you would write a book together? What was
it like working together as father and son? From beginning to end,
how long did it take to publish the book? Where did the two of you
do most of your research? Also, tell us about Iron Mountain Press.
A: In November of 1999 during
National Veteranís week, 25 of my paintings were on exhibit in
Washington D.C. Rob was there video-taping everything and just
seemed so enthusiastic and interested in it all. He noticed that
people were moved by the paintings. It was then that we began
talking about taking it step further - putting words to the art. Rob
immediately began to gather material. I had a very comprehensive
file on the military. We collaborated and expanded on that. The
Internet was very helpful. The quotations were Robís idea, and I
think that the addition of other peopleís voices deepens the book.
The book took three years to
complete. The closeness that developed between Rob and me was very
special, an underlying blessing of the project. We were amazed to
discover the similarities of our thoughts and work habits and
motivations. We have great respect for one another as individuals as
well. Rob is a very special son.
We established Iron Mountain Press
in order to insure that the book would be published and that we
would maintain control of the content and quality. The world of book
publishing is a complex one and we wanted to keep this part of the
process as straightforward as possible.
Q: Bob, whose inspiration was it
to publish Remembrance, "the first book to portray veterans
and military scenes from all of Americaís wars in a series of
outstandingly precise watercolor paintings and pencil drawings"?
Tell us about the original concept(s) of the book you and Rob, your
son, worked out.
A: My interest in veterans goes
back to when I was six or seven years old. My mother would take me
to parades in Paterson. The bands were made up of veterans. It
struck me, as a child, that these men had served in wars and that
wars killed people. I knew that they had been through a lot. I also
remember seeing veterans who were gas victims begging on the
streets. I think of one man in particular. His skin was a
bluish-brown tone, and he was blind. I remember his military jacket,
the street corner, his cushion, his tin cup.
One time, I was visiting my cousin
in the next town. We were sledding and a veteranís funeral cortege
went by. I left my cousin and followed the funeral until it was
dark. So I guess Iíve always noticed and wanted to pay tribute to
Americaís veterans, both those who are still living and those who
were lost and to their loved ones. In 1986, after I left the
business world, my attention was devoted to the military scene. My
first painting was of a Civil War funeral. I was walking by a little
church one night in a snowstorm. I thought of all that had happened
there. It was the inspiration for that painting. I was astounded by
peopleís interest in that painting and dedicated myself to honoring
veterans in my art. So I was painting for many years before Rob and
I thought of collaborating, of bringing words to the art.
Q: Please elaborate more on why
"the word Remembrance was chosen very specifically" as the title of
your superb book?
A: The purpose of the book is to
recognize our veterans, their families and what they have
contributed. They will never forget their wartime experiences. May
we never forget them.
Q: Rob, being the talented writer
you are, what is the next book project for you? Do you and your Dad
have another joint effort in mind you could share with us?
A: Neither of us is happy unless
weíre immersed in a project! Weíve started working on a book
detailing the history of family farming in America tentatively
titled The Way Home: Americaís Family Farms. My fatherís good
friend, Luther Barrett, was the last member of a multi-generation,
traditional farming family in my hometown. He visited Luther every
week, drew and painted his life, and wrote down his stories about
farming. Every summer weíd go up to his farm, pick blackberries, and
get our winter hay for the cows. So, thereís an emotional connection
for us, and we feel itís an important piece of America to chronicle.
Weíre at the information gathering stage, which is always fun. It
means many trips to the library and many hours searching the web.
Weíre also collaborating on a book
of my poems, which is an incredible experience for me. My father is
illustrating the cover and doing pencil drawings to go with the
words. Itís going to be called Writing on Water. The drawing
Returning Fishermen will be on the cover, one of my favorite
works of his. Writing on Water will be dedicated to my
grandparents - my grandfather Alexander Fletcher was a fisherman in
Aberdeen, Scotland. And now I can see the ocean from the window of
my home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, so it feels as if things have
come full circle.
Q: I notice, Rob, that you have a
BA degree in music performance and a background with the harmonica.
What are the books you have written in your chosen field? How did
you acquire your love for music?
A: Iíve written two music
instructional books. Blues Harmonica for Beginners and
Blues Grooves for Guitarists (both Alfred Press), as well as two
harmonica transcription books, Gospel Harmonica Workbook and
Kim Wilson: My Blues (Kevinís Harps).
Music was always present in our
house - we didnít have a TV. My father loves choral and organ music,
and he also plays harmonica. So I grew up with that in the air along
with my older brother and sisters playing 60s and 70s rock and roll.
I used to lie in bed and get utterly transported to a wonderful
place listening to AM radio on my yellow Mickey Mouse radio. Music
was one of those things that was a constant friendly force helping
me along as I was growing up. Oddly enough, I always thought it was
too late for me to actually learn how to play an instrument. It
wasnít until I was twenty that I realized that youíre never too old
to do what you really love, so I bought a guitar and enrolled in
Q: Rob, this remarkable book also
has a CD. It is, in my opinion and as described in the CD booklet,
"an incredible collection of songs and musicians." I enjoyed all of
them, but in particular God Bless America, Rally ĎRound the Flag,
Dixie, Yankee Doodle, Nearer My God to Thee, When Johnny Comes
Marching Home, In the Gloaming, and Amazing Grace. Tell
us about the CD, and is it sold separately?
A: The Remembrance CD is an
all-acoustic collection of songs that were originally played and
sung by soldiers and the people that waited for them to come home.
The songs span the different eras of American history, and some even
go farther back than that. For example, the Revolutionary War-era
ballad "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" has its origins in the Irish
lament "Shule Aroon" from 1691 when William of Orange crushed an
The musicians on it are all pretty
amazing. To me, the level and diversity of musicianship on the CD is
stunning. Theyíre all my friends and are from all over the country,
from California to Texas, from North Carolina to New Hampshire. Iím
fortunate to know so many incredible guitarists. I didnít even pick
mine up; I just sang and played harmonica. We recorded in an old
grange hall in New Hampshire, at home and in studios across the
country where and when we could, and put it all together from start
to finish in about two months.
Because of the nature of the book,
we had a unique chance to really focus on the tenderness and emotion
of the songs. Itís a quiet, reflective collection, and it feels like
it really captures the humanity behind the history.
The CD also features spoken word
readings by Pulitzer-prize winning poet Louis Simpson, who is a
World War II veteran and a very inspiring man. We were also lucky
enough to have 93-year-old Irene Carlisle read her poem "The
Welder." Irene is an original "Rosie the Riveter" and the poem first
appeared in the Saturday Evening Post during WWII.
The CD is available both with the
book and separately. It can be purchased at
People have really responded to it, and Iím putting together a
touring group of musicians to perform Remembrance throughout
Q: How does one go about
purchasing this book and CD that I cannot recommend too highly?
Please give us the complete details.
A: You can order Remembrance
on the website - go to
www.veterantribute.com. You can email us at
or phone us at 845-986-9861. Or mail a note to Iron Mt Press, P.O.
Box 7, New Milford, NY, 10959. We love to hear from people. I think
we have enough material for another book from all the great stories
that people tell us - everyone has a connection to a veteran
somewhere in their life.
Q: Thank you for your cooperation
and the courtesies you have extended to me during our chat. Is there
a final word the two of you would like to leave with our readers?