Fifty years and tens of thousands of songs later, Bobby Wetherbee sits down at his piano to create melodies that have been a staple of Provincetown, Massachusetts since he began performing in 1962. Wetherbee epitomizes Ptown’s diverse and sometimes raucous brand of live entertainment, which ranges from classical or jazz music and hard rock to sidesplitting drag reviews and killer cover bands. The foggy night air at the tip of Cape Cod has been filled with exotic sounds for as long as locals can remember.
America’s first constitution, The Mayflower Compact, was scripted in Ptown, which is also the birthplace of modern American theatre. Provincetown revels in its creativity, diversity and history. So where else would you find Wetherbee belting out tunes for five decades other than in America’s First Destination, where they love his favorite Sister from The Color Purple or the nightly crowd favorite, Mame.
“My show never changed, but the crowds changed. The height for sing-along piano was in the 60’s to early 70’s, where showroom sizes ranged from basements holding 30 singers to bigger showrooms seating about 120,” says Wetherbee. “What’s nice about it is that it is physical social networking. It is fascinating that the crowd is so diverse, with 70 year-olds intermingling with 20 year-old kids. They have heard some of these songs, like the sound of music, so they know the words. They also all know “As time goes by – You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss…,” Bobby croons.
Asked how this historic run came about, the singer says he doesn’t know how he lasted 50 years. “Maybe it’s genetics,” says Wetherbee, whose lifetime memory is of singing. “When I was eleven and doing summer stock, I realized I would do this the rest of my life, and then the fights started with my father,” says Wetherbee. “I have three brothers and they never liked my singing. In fact, I would sing on TV in New Hampshire opposite the Mickey Mouse Club and my brothers wouldn’t let mom watch me.”
Struggle is a part of most singers’ stories, and Bobby has had his years of ups and downs, always battling his demons at the keyboard, finding a life of free expression in gay-friendly Ptown, where the crowds fill his shows nightly and treat him like a cultural icon in his renaissance years. After several stints, Wetherbee now calls the Crown and Anchor lounge home, having survived the elite of the St. Regis in New York and The Copley in Boston. Now the entertainer carries the Key to the Town around with pride saying it was an honor to be called a 50-year destination. Visitors to Provincetown’s “second summer” in the fall can count on Wetherbee filling the crisp cool nights with a particular sound of music heard nowhere else in America.