Photo: Fred Lopez
When it comes to helping patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Bob Chubboy rocks it.
He’s a self-described “flat-land hillbilly” who wears a straw hat, denim jean overalls, and dark glasses.
But he personifies the salt-of-the-earth rural American who does wonderful things for his fellow man.
As a radio personality on WLBE 790 AM in Leesburg, Bob Chubboy found an effective way to dial in therapeutic benefits for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients.
His one-hour radio show, “Pull My Finger,” works like magic. He interviews rock ’n’ roll legends from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s and plays familiar songs from those eras. For dementia patients, it conjures up pleasant memories from their youth.
“While Alzheimer’s disease affects many parts of the brain, patients retain long-term memory of music from when they were young,” Bob says.
A 55-year-old resident of Zellwood, Bob has interviewed musical legends such as Kenny Lee Lewis of the Steve Miller Band, Lamonte McLemore of the 5th Dimension, and Steve Katz of Blood, Sweat and Tears. His weekly show airs at 9am Sunday and again at 11pm Friday.
“I did a phone interview with Kenny Lee Lewis when he was on a tour bus and a phone interview with Lamonte McLemore when he was riding in an airplane,” Bob says. “I ask these rock stars questions about transistor radios, eight-track tapes, and jukeboxes—things that will jog the memories of Alzheimer’s patients. I try not to make these interviews but rather a conversation between friends.”
Before starting his radio gig 10 years ago, Bob scheduled local musicians to perform at nursing homes throughout Central Florida. Upon entering, he’d see many dementia patients slumped over and unresponsive. But they underwent a remarkable transformation once the performance began.
“The patients would start tapping their feet or shaking their hands to the music. You could see a twinkle in their eyes,” he says.
Although he continues making occasional visits to nursing homes, having a radio show gives him a much larger geographic reach. His show airs across nine Central Florida counties.
“Now I can have a positive impact on numerous nursing homes all at once,” he says. “My target audience might not remember me personally, but I know they’re tuning in and listening.”
In the future, Bob hopes to secure a venue where dementia patients could attend live concerts.
“I would do it in a talk-show format like Dave Letterman and Johnny Carson,” he says. “We would talk, then the musician would perform, then we’d take questions from the audience.”