BY BRIAN HOWARD The crowds have changed since [Nate] Wiley first began playing at the bar in 1983 with the Joe Whalen trio. Back then, Bob and Barbara’s drew primarily black crowds as one of the last of South Philadelphia west-of-Broad’s jazz bars. (Many nearby establishments had closed or vacated in the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s due to the long-planned-but-never-realized crosstown expressway, which eventually became the Vine Street expressway.) Bob Port, who had owned the bar since 1978 with his friend Barbara Carter, retired to Kansas City in 1995 and sold the bar to Prince, who used to own J.J.’s Grotto. Prince kept B&B’s largely intact — the clear acrylic lamps, the circa-1965 white-Formica-and-red-Naugahyde bar (made in 1965 by National Restaurant Supply), the raucous neighborhood parties advertised by poster-painted signs, right down to the bar’s name. But feeling that the place needed a shot in the arm to survive, he added some new attractions.
Thursday became home to a now-famous drag show. He brought in Black Hole Productions, the booking company for Upstairs at Nick’s, which scheduled Bob and Barbara’s gigs for young, gritty anti-folk singer Mia Johnson, and funky, acid-jazzy Dr. Ketchup. He also established a signature drink for the bar, the Happy Meal: one shot of Jim Beam whiskey, one can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, $3. (This dubious invention is credited to Black Hole’s Rick D.) [Via City Paper]