Robert Whitstein was a knee-slapper.
Not in a painful or vicious way, but that was his way of letting his friends know he was joking.
Robert could be as straight-faced as the best dramatic actor while pulling their leg. Then he'd slap the poor victim's knee and everyone was in on the joke.
One of my favorite times was at the 1994 IBMA convention. Robert and Charles had just reunited after Robert took some time off because he didn't like the road. (That's understandable when you're in St. Louis tonight, Boise the next night, and Minneapolis the night after!) After their showcase performance we were heading up to the Rounder Records suite in the elevator. A young boy, maybe 10 years old, was in the elevator with us. He gazed up at Robert for a long time and finally said, "You guys were good."
"Thanks," Robert replied politely.
When we got to the suite things changed.
"You know what I should've told that boy?" Robert asked me with a solemn face. "When he said, 'You guys were good?' I should've said, 'Hell, I know it!'"
Then came the knee slap.
Robert Whitstein at City Stages in
Birmingham, Alabama, 1998
There are probably a lot of people in Heaven who've had their knees slapped in the eight years since Robert left us on November 14, 2001.