Triggered by a stickup
Robbery spurs singer to quit his Gary milk route, jump-start musical career
Alittle more than a year ago, Robert Rolfe Feddersen was on his morning milk route in downtown Gary when two men held him up. Feddersen was dragged into an alley, where one man put a gun to his head and demanded money from his truck. Feddersen played his music card, telling them he was a struggling singer-songwriter.
The day after the robbery he called Chicago recording engineer Steve Albini. And quit his day job soon after.
Feddersen’s “American Loser” CD was born. It’s a pastiche about sense of place, ranging from the Hemingway-inspired “Two Hearted River” to the bluegrassy “Black Oak Indiana,” about a neighborhood on his milk route. “Dave’s Lament” is a rocker about Dave Mustaine getting kicked out of Metallica, and the ballad “Home” is sung by Feddersen’s wife, Terri Ann, also the band percussionist.
He and his four-piece band (with violin) will play Wednesday at the Beat Kitchen.
Feddersen, 43, is from Oak Lawn. His parents met while working at the Nabisco factory at 63rd and Kedzie. His father was an engineer, his mother worked in personnel. Feddersen lived in Bridgeport and Lake View before moving to his wife’s hometown of Crown Point, Ind.
But nothing happened to him in Chicago like what happened near his Indiana home.
“The stickup looked like death,” said Feddersen, who is 5 feet 9 and 210 pounds. “The guy next to the guy with the gun was telling him to shoot the m-----f-----. It was brutal. It happened at 10 in the morning. They took my money. I had about $300. After I told them about music, they let me go.” The thieves have not been caught, and of course, Feddersen is writing a song about the experience.
Feddersen’s music has appeared in the movie “Varsity Blues” and television shows including “Parental Control” and “The Osbournes.” He sang the national anthem for the minor league Gary SouthShore RailCats baseball team. “It’s pretty nerve-racking when you’re used to having a guitar in your hands and a guitarist and violin player next to you,” he said.
Albini met Feddersen in 2006 after he wrote the Chicago White Sox anthem “Win or Die Trying.” Radio personality Steve Dahl liked the song but didn’t care for the production. Baseball fan Albini was listening to Dahl’s show, called in and said he would produce the song. Dahl contributed backing vocals, although the song has never been released.
“American Loser” was recorded in two days at Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago. “The thing with Steve is that you have to be able to play live and record everything live,” Feddersen said. “That’s the school I’m from. I used to record on [analog] 2-inch tape. Steve Albini is an approachable guy and fun to talk to.”
In the 1990s Feddersen led a rock band, Loudmouth. A 1995 album review by this reporter actually said, “Loudmouth opens wide and jams super naturally hard.” Huh?
“We put that quote on every CD,” Feddersen said, “and Metallica got ahold of it. Metallica came out twice to see Loudmouth at the Double Door. When our song ‘Fly’ started charting we got picked up by Megadeth to tour [in 1999]. I got to know [Megadeth co-founder] Dave Mustaine pretty good.”
Getting robbed gave Feddersen perspective. “The first thing I thought about was that I would never play music again,” he said. “I always thought I had music in my back pocket. I realized I didn’t. And I didn’t want to waste any more time.”