Bob began his career as a singer-songwriter in 1965 while still in college, and since then has been playing at coffeehouses, colleges, festivals, bars, streets, homes and churches across the U.S., Canada and England. As with most folk musicians, he very quickly learned that he would be hauling his own gear around, and that the places where he played would vary greatly in the quality of sound and facilities. Most importantly, he learned that, as with the Boy Scouts, the folksinger's motto is "Be Prepared."
For those of you who are musicians, or for the merely curious among you, here's some information about the tools of the trade.
For touring, a Takamine EAN40C is the workhorse. Bob traded in an old Guild F-30 that had spent too much time in his closet for this great sounding cedar top guitar with built-in electronics, including EQ and a tuner. When he's driving, for slide work he uses a National steel resonator guitar from the late 20's, which he got back in the days when no one wanted these wonderful instruments. He also has a Martin D-35 which is used more for recording than performing these days, and a Guild F-212 12-string which is used once a year for the finale of his Meditations on the Passion.
In addition to playing in standard tuning, Bob uses a variety of alternate tunings, including Dropped-D, DADGAD, Open C, Open G and Open D, the latter being the dominant tuning for the National guitar.
In the old days, the idea of a folksinger plugging a guitar into any kind of amplifier was heresy. (Bob Dylan got booed at the Newport Folk Festival for plugging in.) Besides, pickups for acoustic guitars were awful. They distorted the beautiful sounds which only an acoustic instrument can make.
However, technology has improved greatly, and it's common now for performers to plug guitars into the house sound system. Bob often still plays guitars into a microphone on stage, but his Takamine EAN40C has great built-in electronics.
For fingerpicking on either the Martin or the National, Bob uses a thumbpick and National steel fingerpicks on two fingers.
Strings are the "Post-It" notes of the guitar player's world. They have a very short useful life, but they are indispensable. They are also a significant expense, since they need to be replaced often. Choosing the right strings makes a huge difference in the sound of any instrument, but the variety available is often mind-boggling. A working musician has to make some choices, balancing the cost with artistic preferences.
Bob has settled on D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Light strings for the Martin, and on D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Medium strings for the National and the Takamine. As an alternative when touring gets hectic, Elixer mediums give a sweet sound without having to be changed as often. For the 12-string, which doesn't require the same frequent change of strings, he uses whatever medium gauge strings can be found.
Road Gear Survival Kit
All sorts of emergencies can arise on the road, so being prepared for anything becomes a matter of survival. Bob's equipment survival kit is miniature Leatherman-type multi-tool with wire cutters, and a string winder. Not to mention AAA Plus towing insurance, and instrument insurance obtained through the North American Traveling Musicians Union, AFM Local 1000. A traveling coffee mug comes in handy quite often.
Sound Gear (PA System)
Most of the time, Bob uses the sound system provided by the venue or promoter of his concerts. However, on those occasions when he brings his own sound gear, he uses a Bose Personal Amplification System, which delivers great sound and is easy for a lone folksinger to handle. So if you see Bob on stage with a funny looking 7 foot tall cylinder nearby, that's what it is.