Bob Burger has been a part of the Jersey Shore music scene since the eighties when he moved here from Erie, Pennsylvania. He's been a member of the Bobby Bandiera Band, a solo artist, performer in Beatle tributes, and is currently a member of The Weeklings with Glen Burtnik - an artist he's written songs with for decades. On June 5th, he was just finishing a show at The Vogel in Red Bank when he had a heart attack in the dressing room.
Less than two months later, Burger began performing again. It's a busy summer for him and The Weeklings who had a pair of songs on the recently released Jem Records Celebrates Brian Wilson record and will release "In Their Own Write" on September 17th. In addition, he's back with Max Weinberg's Jukebox as well.
New Jersey Stage caught up with the musician via email to get the full story and see how it feels to be back on stage.
Can you tell me how it happened? You had just finished your show and were backstage, right?
I was playing my Elvis Costello tribute to a sold-out crowd at the Vogel Theatre on June 5. I felt fine all day, but upon hitting the stage, I felt a little weird. That feeling got worse and worse during the set. After about an hour, I realized I could not go on. I apologized to the audience and asked John Merjave to finish out the show (which he did!). I went back to the dressing room, covered in sweat, and very pale with chest pains. Tony Pallagrosi quickly assembled the Basie EMT staff. With his quick action, Tony saved my life.
Did you instantly know it was a heart attack? Or just knew something was wrong?
I didn’t know or think it was a heart attack initially. The EMTs told me that. They then called 911 / Riverview. I was quickly taken in the ambulance and admitted. The cardiac unit operated within an hour with a stent operation. I had 100% blockage of my main “widowmaker” artery. I would not have lasted for long without the operation. But as soon as they put in the stent, the pain and illness instantly stopped. Amazing!!
What was your recovery time like? Did you have to avoid playing the guitar at all or just could not do shows for a while? Were you stuck in bed at all?
After the operation, I never felt sick. I stayed in the hospital for two nights for observation and then went home. Except for the hospital, I was never stuck in bed. I played guitar and worked the day after I got home. But on doctor’s orders, could not gig or exert myself for at least 6 weeks.
Now that you've returned to performing, what did you find out you missed the most about live shows?
It was really kind of like Covid Part II. I felt fine, but couldn’t gig. I always miss playing! It’s just part of my DNA.
What was it like that first time back on stage?
A little scary if I am honest. The Sun Eagles venue on 7/16 was extremely hot, and I did feel woozy a couple times. But that passed and overall I was fine. Max Weinberg did not take it easy on me, and I sang most of the show! I was a little winded at the end... I played with the Weeklings on 7/21 in Asbury and that was very comfortable. I felt great throughout the show!
Do you have to take it easy for a while or are you back to your old schedule of performing each week?
I’m back to my regular schedule next week, but I am going to avoid going on road gigs for a while. It would be a little scary being far from home if something were to happen.
Any plans for another solo album or working on another with the Weeklings?
Both. I’ve been working on a new solo album since the beginning of the year and should finish around the end of this year. The Weeklings have a new live album of original songs coming out next month. We hope to start rehearsing material in the fall for a new album.
Finally, anything you'd like to say to friends and fans of yours who were worried about you?
The love and support I received was amazing!! I’m very grateful that so many people were thinking of me and reached out! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!