In Bob ('s Sister) We Trust
You wouldn't know Judy Pollard is Bob Pollard's sister just by talking to her. At least you won't find any of the telltale signs that would brand her as kin to one of indie-rock's most-recognizable and talked-about figures.
You won't catch Judy discussing the merits of Wire's 154 or contemplating the career of the Walker Brothers -- admittedly her own tastes run toward mainstream fare like Creed and Jewel. Oh, and Judy doesn't drink beer either.
The fourth of five children -- three sisters and two brothers -- Judy moved to Phoenix this past March. Tired of Dayton's oppressive winters and eager to leave small-town life behind, she headed west, landing a job as an office manager with a local chiropractic firm.
Her family has other roots in Phoenix. The youngest Pollard sibling and frequent GBV collaborator, Jimmy, was a basketball star and state scoring champion at Dayton's Northridge High. Recruited by Arizona State University after graduating in 1980, Jimmy joined the same team that would feature future L.A. Laker Byron Scott. But Jimmy injured his knee between his freshman and sophomore seasons and would never again return to the hardwood. He stayed in town for three and a half years attending ASU before returning to Ohio and into the Guided By Voices fold.
Judy recalls her brother Bob's lifelong passion for music quite vividly. "He was doing it as long as I can remember. Even when he was in school, he'd be in his room with his headphones on studying."
Though no one in the Pollard household was especially musical, Judy says her parents always played a wide range of things from Frank Sinatra to Lou Rawls. "Everybody in the family liked music, so it was around, even though sports was always a bigger thing."
Sports was the predominant passion in Bob Pollard's life for most of his youth. A three-sport star in basketball, baseball and football, he went on to Wright State University on a baseball scholarship, where he threw the first no-hitter in the school's history. "Bobby was the baseball star, Jimmy was the basketball star and [the Pollard sisters] were cheerleading for them," remembers Judy.
It wasn't until his athletic career came to an end that Bob would pursue the real passion that would come to dominate his life. Judy admits her brother's hissing lo-fi records and weird retro pop collages fell on deaf ears initially. "When he started doing the music thing -- this is in the late '70s and early '80s -- we were kind of into the whole disco craze," chuckles Pollard. "So we weren't really into the rock music at the time."
Though it took more than a decade for anybody to realize exactly what Pollard and his cronies were up to in the basement, the widespread recognition that began after 1994's Bee Thousand finally turned the rest of the Pollard clan on to just how serious Bob was about giving up his position as a grade school teacher and pursuing music full-time.
"That was a scary period, but it was good, too. After all, he had a chance to realize a lifelong dream, and very few people get that opportunity. Now that's he's done it, it's great to see all the [success] that's come his way."
Judy says it's been an eye-opener seeing just how popular her brother's band is nationally, especially within the Tempe music scene where GBV has even spawned a tribute band, Secret Fox. "In Dayton it's not really a big deal, but when you go to other places you kind of see that, 'Wow, people really know who he is and who the band is.'"
Pollard is understandably proud of what her big brother has been able to accomplish, going from the anonymity of the basement to a career that has found him the subject of a film documentary, a frequent cover boy on rock magazines and the object of worship for fans who regularly send letters with inscriptions like "Praise Be to Bob."
"The whole family is really proud of him. I don't know if he knows just how proud we all are," Judy says.
Guided By Voices' upcoming Valley stop is the first chance Judy will have to show off her brother's band to her co-workers. Pollard says her colleagues are eager to experience the GBV phenomenon first hand, even if they're not especially savvy when it comes to the cramped club scene of the indie-rock world. "The doctors I work for, and everybody else, they're really excited to see the show. They were asking if we had good seats," adds Judy laughing.
Judy says she fallen in love with Valley life, with one exception. Though a Phoenix resident for only a few months, she already sounds like a local veteran echoing an oft-heard complaint about the city's radio programming.
"Well, that's the only bad thing about Phoenix so far. It makes me sick to hear things on the radio sometimes, and I wonder, 'Why aren't they playing Guided By Voices?'"
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.