My friend Hosea Robinson died on July 3 from congestive heart failure. He was 57. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, but back in 1998, we played together for eight or nine months in a blues band – his first – before we came to a parting of the ways.
I first laid eyes on Hosea at the Keys Lounge annual Christmas party in 1997. I’d recently come to the realization that there were better ways of getting back into playing music than sitting at blues jams for three hours in the hopes of getting to play three songs at the end of the night. A few weeks later, I was working at my second job, selling CDs at the now-defunct Borders Books and Music at I-20 and Hulen Street, when I saw Hosea perusing the blues rack and invited him to join a group of musos who used to jam at my house on Sunday afternoons.
Hosea was an unlikely bluesman: a degreed civil servant with two sons in college, who told me he’d first gotten the urge to play harmonica after seeing Lee Oskar with War while he was in college himself. (At his funeral, I learned that his grandfather also had blown the harp.) Hosea had a stressful day job as a counselor for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Music was his release. (Before he got into music, he’d been a CB radio nut.)
He was a big man with a basso profundo voice, and you got the impression that he’d been using his imposing physical presence to get his way for some time. He could be as irascible as he was tenderhearted, the former probably a mechanism for disguising the latter in the unforgiving environment where he worked. Even though our collaboration ended badly, when he heard I was out of work before I started writing for the Fort Worth Weekly, he generously called me to play on some gigs that his regular guitarist couldn’t make.
His funeral, at the Inspiring Temple of Praise on East Lancaster Avenue, was well attended, and the many people who spoke about him did so with genuine warmth and affection. The music was astonishing. In particular, Pastor Nero Foster on bass and vocals and guitarist Jeff West, who accompanied Hosea for years in the band Blue House, played beautifully. As his eulogist, Bishop Reginald D. Jordan, said, Hosea would have loved it.
The things I’m going to remember about Hosea are the sheer joy he took in performing, how deeply he loved blues music, and that you can start doing what you love late in life – the way both he and I did.