THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
May 13, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Remembering Bob Koester and Van Beuren’s ‘Merry Kittens’ (1935)

Another legend was lost yesterday, a wonderful man named Bob Koester. Bob was a colorful character who I’ve known since the early 80s. I first met him when I traded a print of a feature for some cartoons somewhere around 1982 or 83. I had put an ad in The Big Reel, and he responded — and ran down a whole series of cartoon titles that he’d trade me for this feature. I was very happy to get some Lantz Oswalds and other goodies back then, and got a dose of Jazz history in the process!

Not too long afterwords, I met Bob in person at one of the film and memorabilia shows in Chicago. I was fascinated to learn that he had started Delmark Records, a record label formed back in the 50s (!), and had recorded Chicago Blues musicians ever since. He also owned Jazz Record Mart, an amazing Jazz record store of the kind that just barely exists now. It was exactly what you’d expect it to be: the ultimate place to buy Jazz records in Chicago, or, honestly, anywhere else in the world. This quiet little man was always full of surprises. He inspired me to start my own business in many ways.

Bob says hi to Jenji, 2018.

Some time later, Bob had a space at one of the film shows — as usual—selling records and films and other things. This time around he had lots of films as well as some really cool projectors with him. I managed to fix an old Ampro machine for him (if memory serves) and he sold me another he had as well.

This Stylist is just like the one he sold me back then.

Bob and I kept in touch, and I came out to Chicago with Mary to attend his weekly film program on a Friday night, running 16mm prints of any cartoon I wanted in Delmark Record’s warehouse. There was a feature we watched as well, but I honestly can’t recall what one it was. That was right at the beginning of Snappy Video (perhaps in 1988) and Bob gave me all sorts of advice of how to expand the little video business at the time. That 20 year-old that I was absorbed some of that— but wish I had absorbed more or brought a tape recorder with me.

He lent me a few key things on that trip – a Cinecolor print of Merry Kittens (1935) and a few Cubby Bears, including Barking Dogs and Fiddlin’ Fun. I had never seen either, and these are the prints that were transferred for Snappy Video sets back then.

Over the years I would always see Bob in Columbus and always got a chance to chat with him. He especially loved all the cartoons with Jazz scores, as you would expect, but he also had a love of Van Beuren cartoon like Pastry Town Wedding. I would make him sing a song almost every time I saw him: ‘There’s Gonna Be a Wedding! A Wedding in Pastrytown!’. Bob once even helped rescue Mary when she had a flat tire, driving around in my then- hoopdie- car (probably an old Skylark) while we were at the film show. I remember driving with Bob to get her on the road again and fix the flat tire, listening to some jazz in his car. He lived and breathed music.

I took a little trip to Chicago to personally pick up that same print of Merry Kittens from Bob back in July 2018. It remains the absolute best print I’ve ever seen of the title, and it cleaned up beautifully with the newer technology we have now. Here is the article from here when we visited Bob back then:

A Visit with Bob Koester – and a Good Print of “Merry Kittens” (1935), and “Sassy Cats”(1933)

The Chicago Sun-Times did a really nice article on Bob yesterday.

And here is Merry Kittens from the in-replication Rainbow Parades set.

Thank you so much Bob. You did wonderful things in your 88 years on the planet and shared so much beautiful art. You never truly new how many people your actions inspired or how many you entertained. We’re all better for your efforts whether we were aware of you or not.

Thank you especially for finding this really good print of Merry Kittens and lending the thing to me twice! Your efforts are now entertaining a whole new set of people.

Make sure to watch in HD!

Have a good week all!

9 Comments

  • Bob sounds like my kind of guy – a film collector, animation buff and music nut. Delmark Records waxed incredible blues and jazz! R.I.P.

  • R.I.P. Bob, Delmark released the legendary 1965 blues album Hoodoo Man Blues by Junior Wells which was my dad’s favorite record. Thanks for the killer music and the great cartoons!

  • I kinda got turned onto Bob by accident. Then found out he started in St. Louis, my home town, on Delmar. A street I know very well growing up in University City, the community next to Washington University. I’m very sorry for your loss, he was a great guy!
    Mark Polinsky San Diego,CA

  • Sorry for your loss Steve. Thoughts and prayers sent ya’lls way.

  • My condolences to all of Bob’s friends and family. Anyone who can sing songs from the Van Beuren cartoons is a kindred spirit; I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve burst out with “Love Is a Popular Pastime” or “The Cop on the Beat, the Man in the Moon, and Me”.

    “The Merry Kittens” is a cute cartoon that makes the most of its Cinecolor palette. That’s a beautiful print that Bob provided for us to enjoy.

  • Thanks for sharing your memories, Steve. I never actually got to meet Bob, but I spoke with him on the phone a few times in the late 90s, he shared a lot of great tales about the legendary bluesmen he’d known, and I wound up licensing a couple of tracks from Delmark for the blues compilation I produced when I ran American Roadhouse. I never knew until today, however, that he was a film collector and classic animation fan too.

  • My condolences, Steve. Bob sounded like a wonderful man. It seems like he touched a lot of people throughout his life.

    I played this print of Merry Kittens next to my DVD Thunderbean copy of the same title, and the difference is night and day! The colours and clarity in this presentation are astounding! I think those of use who ordered the new Blu-ray really have something to look forward to.

  • Steve: He sounds a lot like a number of film collectors you and I have met at CINEVENT or Veto Stasionautis or Jack Mulqueen’s shows in the Chicago area. Now that I think of it, if I saw him, I usually saw YOU talking to him. One of those guys – like Mickey Gold – who truly loved vintage cartoons!

  • my condolences to family & friends of Bob Koester. May 2017 I met him in his Chicago Record Store & spent a great time @ this place

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