Local musician Bobby Kerr can seamlessly move from nerdy math-rock to flashy hair bands to modern-day southern rock.
Such is the life of a frontman of three bands - two of them of the tribute variety - who also owns four businesses.
Kerr, a resident of Lake Lotawana, fronts Bob Jovi (a tribute to Bon Jovi), Just What I Needed (a tribute to The Cars) and Soulshine - a southern rock band, with the sound of, as Kerr puts it, “think Chris Stapleton meets Tom Petty.”
Born and raised in Blue Springs, Kerr cut his musical teeth during choir practice in elementary school, but he quickly learned guitar - for good reasons.
“As early as I knew, I could sing, so maybe kindergarten,” Kerr said. “My first instrument was the drums and I got my first kit when I was 11. When I was in high school, David would be playing guitar and I would be singing. All the girls were paying attention to the guys playing guitar and not me, so I had to teach myself to play guitar.”
The ‘David’ Kerr refers to is American Idol winner David Cook, a classmate of Kerr’s at Blue Springs South, who joined Kerr in forming the group Axium in high school. Kerr stayed with Axium until 2005, moving on to the tribute band Almost Kiss as the role of the Starchild, Paul Stanley.
Tribute bands seeped into Kerr’s soul, it seems, as he embraced a range of rock and roll genres on top of Almost Kiss, from the mathematical, complex sounds of The Cars to the theatrical and long-haired look and sound of Bon Jovi - a band with a quintessential rock and roll beginning.
“We were having drinks at a casino and I said, ‘We should do a Bon Jovi tribute band and call it Bob Jovi.’ So we did,” Kerr recalls. “That band has really taken off. Everywhere we go, it’s an instant sellout. And it’s an 80s Bon Jovi show - the hair, the costumes, the lights. It’s the world’s most authentic 80s Bon Jovi show. As close as you can get to the Slippery When Wet tour.”
Just What I Needed - a Tribute to The Cars was actually born before Bob Jovi as Kerr’s bands were performing a few songs from the popular 80s band when they decided to go all Cars.
“Each one of these bands, before they get released into the wild, so to speak, it takes about a year’s worth of rehearsals to get the shows where they need to be for a live concert,” Kerr said, noting the authenticity is essential to truly paying tribute to these bands on stage.
“The choreography, voices, the exact guitars they use on stage, all of it,” Kerr said. “If Bon Jovi is overweight, can’t sing and has short hair, that won’t work for very long. It’s always a grind to put on the best show possible.”
Both tribute bands feature the same five musicians, too.
“We can provide this ultimate nerdy experience and then turn around and play a hair band experience.”
Kerr’s propensity for launching bands comes honestly. He taught business and entrepreneurship at Moreland Ridge Middle School and currently runs four real estate-related businesses that focus on home inspections, mortgage brokerage, and property and casualty insurance.
“I like to think that my entrepreneurship started in music. I was scheduling tours, a marketer, finding vehicles to house the band; that’s how that really took off,” Kerr said.
His outside-the-tribute-box band, Soulshine, started in 2021.
“We had such success with the tribute bands and playing Jon Bon Jovi for 10,000 people, but I wasn’t having the opportunity to be Bobby on stage,” he said. “Honestly, I just can’t get enough of the Soulshine shows. I totally forget about everything and get sucked into the spirit of rock and roll.”
Bob Jovi and Just What I Needed will perform Feb. 18 at Knuckleheads; Soulshine will take the stage March 4, also at Knuckleheads.
Bobby Kerr graphic information
Bobby’s favorite musicians (in order): The Beatles, KISS, Frank Sinatra, Eagles, Billy Joel
Favorite song to cover: “I’ll Be There For You,” Bob Jovi
Biggest hit songs: “Drive” (The Cars); “Livin’ On a Prayer” (Bon Jovi); “Run Away From it All” (Blackberry Smoke cover by Soulshine)