CHICAGO — A sound engineer who toured with Blues Traveler, Run-DMC and Devo while mentoring others, playing guitar in local punk rock bands and operating various recording studios over a three-decade career in Chicago's music industry, has died.
The sudden death of 49-year-old Charalambos Papadopoulos, who was known as Bob Popp, has shocked hundreds of friends who knew him in Chicago and Denver.
"We had no idea he was in as much mental pain and anguish as he was. He was always the guy with a big smile on his face. It was a huge surprise to all of us close friends in his immediate social circle," said Jody Cox, a Humboldt Park resident and friend of Popp since 1989.
Popp, who recently suffered from debilitating knee and lower back pain related to a foot injury, died early Thursday in Denver, confirmed his sister, Loukia Verhage, who said they are awaiting a coroner's report on the cause of his death.
"This is a very hard, grieving time for us, and he will be dearly missed, not just by the music industry, but by everyone in his family," Verhage said.
Born in Oak Park, Popp was raised in a few Western suburbs and moved to Chicago in the late '80s, where he lived in Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, Pilsen and several other neighborhoods, Verhage said.
In 2011, Popp opened Gunpoint Recording Studio in Pilsen with business partner Quentin Poynter.
After moving to Denver four years ago to start a studio there, Popp traveled to Chicago frequently for work and to visit with his family.
Over 400 mourners have joined a remembrance page for Popp on Facebook; a concert celebrating his life with performances by seven bands that Popp was either in or had been on tour with is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sunday at Liar's Club, 1665 W. Fullerton Ave.
"Bob's life and religion was music, I can't think of a better way to memorialize him than with music," Verhage said.
On Sunday, John Haggerty, a guitarist for punk band Pegboy and a former member of Naked Raygun during the band's heyday in the late '80s, will be playing with members of a band Popp helped form in the early 1990s that is reuniting for the show.
Liar's Club was one of several music clubs that Popp, who started his sound engineering career at the now closed Avalon in the late '80s, worked at over the years, including House of Blues, Excaliber, and "virtually every major venue in Chicago," Cox said.
A few days before he died, Popp deleted his Facebook pages, though some said they thought nothing of it since Popp had removed his social media accounts in the past.
"I asked him about it [deleting the pages], and he said he is just tired of talking to all the a------s on Facebook. I thought nothing of it; that's just Bob. He was the life of the party, a straight shooter," said RB Green, a West side resident and musician who met Popp about 25 years ago.
Popp's wry, self-deprecating humor is apparent in his LinkedIn profile, where he boasts of a "virtually useless skill set" as a musician and audio professional and titles himself a "Nobody" at a company called "Life, as I Know It."
Though he brushed off his talents, Popp was highly regarded in the industry, said Poynter, his business partner at the Pilsen recording studio.
"He was a teacher at heart, who taught and mentored people as part of his personality," Poynter said.
David Tantillo, a musician who was living in Wicker Park in the early '90s when he met Popp, called him "a mentor, a go-to guitar tech, a whiz and a master at music."
"He made quite an impact on many lives; he was just so talented. Any time I had a gig, and I could hire him to be my sound man, I did," Tantillo said.
Popp also helped others who were going through difficult times.
"He was the kind of person who would give others advice when they were in their own holes. He was so good at lifting other people up," Tantillo said.
Eric Plonka, a musician who said he and Popp were "inseparable" for about 10 years when they were band mates, described him as "unbelievably talented."
"He was so humble about it, he never even considered himself a fantastic guitar player," said Plonka, who credits Popp for helping him to get started in his music career.
"He introduced me to everybody and knew every person that worked at every club," said Plonka, who would later start another band that ended up getting signed. "If he didn't show me all the things he showed me, I wouldn't be where I am now."
Plonka, a member of Scientist, added, "I owe a lot to him and love him and never got a chance to tell him that."
In addition to Verhage, Popp is survived by two other sisters, Tara Dooley and Trina Howell, a brother, Carl Howell, and parents Michael Papadopoulos and Katherine Betinis and a stepmother Susan Papadopoulos.
After a private gathering in Liar's Club for friends and family from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., The "Bob Popp Send-Off Concert" is scheduled for 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday/early Monday at Liar's Club, 1665 W. Fullerton Ave.
Local bands performing include Beer Nuts, Bloody Spades, Scientist, Making Ghosts and When We Was Kids. Donations can be made in Popp's memory to KT's Kids, a favorite charity of Popp that hosts an annual toy drive at Liars's Club.
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