Reanimating Bobby Jealousy

Southern pop comeback courtesy of Comedy Central

Bobby Jealousy 2.0: Rockyanne Bullwinkle, Justin Smith, and Seth Gibbs at Hotel Vegas, 3.27.15
Bobby Jealousy 2.0: Rockyanne Bullwinkle, Justin Smith, and Seth Gibbs at Hotel Vegas, 3.27.15 (by Kevin Curtin)

“I don’t know how I made through last year,” says Seth Gibbs, letting out a heavy sigh. “I was a wreck. But things are getting better now.”

It’s minutes before Gibbs takes the stage at a crowded Hotel Vegas to front a new version of Bobby Jealousy, a band he once led with his estranged wife, Sabrina Ellis. 2013 had been coming up roses on an excellent sophomore album, The Importance of Being Jealous, and an appearance at ACL Fest. Then, that December, Gibbs and Ellis broke up and the band dissolved.

Promise – in music and in matrimony – proved fleeting.

“A year ago Bobby Jealousy was tentative, but completely dead,” offers Gibbs. “We were on a hiatus that we soon realized might be permanent. We could not work with each other.

“Call it creative differences.”

Gibbs, the optimist who co-wrote the group’s songs, played bass, and recorded their albums, took it hard.

“It was hell,” he shutters, recalling the depressing year following Bobby Jealousy’s breakup. “Just terrible.”

Hope came via Comedy Central, specifically a new, Ben Stiller-produced show called Big Time in Hollywood, FL, which secured Bobby Jealousy’s 2011 anthem “Rainbow” as its theme.

“I thought the opportunity was too much to waste,” says Gibbs. “This is a great thing that finally has a future. I said, ‘We gotta try! We just got to try!’”

So Gibbs rebuilt Bobby Jealousy, not with past members, but instead recruiting his younger brother Jimmy Wildcat and Rockyanne Bullwinkel from the Bad Lovers, Justin Smith from Roland Hazzard, and Weston Young from Dick Sex. Ellis remains busy with A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit.

She’s a “silent partner,” according to Gibbs.

Last week brought the premiere of Big Time in Hollywood, FL, and with it Bobby Jealousy’s new release, Welcome Back, featuring five new songs and a re-recording of “Rainbow.” The EP also brought out a cutting Facebook post from Ellis, displeased that they’d re-recorded “Rainbow” and withdrawing support of the band.

Asked for reaction, Gibbs hung his head.

“It’s been tough the whole time,” he says. “It’s been a lot of arguing and trying to work it out.”

When they hit the stage, everything was right. The band played the old songs tight and honest – more voices now giving to bigger choruses. Smith stands out as the band’s new all-star, handling bass while Gibbs has switched to guitar. Where Bobby Jealousy’s sound began as a joyous collision of idiosyncrasies, they’re now an all-terrain vehicle for Gibbs’ Beatles-esque songwriting.

As old fans sang along, a few faces in the crowd showed confusion, eyeing Rockyanne as if they’d been duped by a Sabrina switcharoo. The look on Seth Gibbs’ face said the most. He was happy.

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Bobby Jealousy, Seth Gibbs, Sabrina Ellis, Justin Smith, Hotel Vegas, Jimmy Wildcat, Ben Still, Comedy Central, Big Time in Hollywood, FL, Rainbow, A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit

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