Hyperion Outfall Serenaders Founder and Cornet Player Is a True South Bay Original
- Written & photographed byKat Monk
Bob White cruised his automatic wheelchair around Manhattan Beach’s Old Hometown Fair while his son and nurse stuck close. Fans, friends and acquaintances stopped him repeatedly to say “hello” to the beloved South Bay resident.
He’s unapologetic in his love for a fresh cold beer on Sundays at Ercole’s. As a founding member of the Hyperion Outfall Serenaders, he’s also a bit of a celebrity for his vocal and cornet talents.
After graduating from Iowa State University, Bob started working in sales for Allen-Bradley in Milwaukee. In 1956 a transfer took him to Los Angeles, and soon thereafter he discovered the Beach Cities. His first apartment was on 35th Street, just below Highland, where he enjoyed a bachelor’s life of cigars and martinis.
While on a flight to Hawaii—a 10-hour flight at that time—Bob charmed his soon-to-be wife, Connie, a stewardess. Bob had made a mess with his newspaper, and Connie was tasked with helping him tidy up. “I’m not surprised that my dad made a mess; that sounds just like him,” says Lincoln, Bob’s son. He adds that he and his sisters would like to make sure that their mom is referred to as “stewardess,” because that was what her position was called in those days.
Ercole’s 1101 became Bob and Connie’s local watering hole, thanks to the proximity to her apartment just up the hill on 10th Street in Manhattan Beach. After the two were married, they settled into a 10th Street home in the Hill Section—still in walking distance to the bar.
Married life did not slow Bob down. A consummate entertainer, he was known for hosting cocktail hours every Friday night and ran the annual Bobo’s Beach Bocce Ball tournament, now in the hands of a younger crew. Every year the kegs overflow as Bob hosts a Spring Rites party for his band, his friends and his kids’ friends. Guests view walls covered with historical moments from the event while the band plays standards.
Working his entire career life in sales for Allen-Bradley, Bob was afforded time to play gigs with the band, coach his kids’ athletic teams and serve as president of the Manhattan Beach Little League. He even attempted a run at the Manhattan Beach school board.
Specializing in Dixieland music, the Hyperion Outfall Serenaders formed in 1969. It’s hard to believe the band originated as a fluke. Bob and a couple friends brought their musical instruments to the airport to greet a friend as he came off the plane. The entire airport loved their music, and a stranger even offered to pay them to play for someone else about to deboard a plane. They named the band after Los Angeles’ oldest sewage treatment facility in El Segundo.
In 1975 the mayor named them the “official band of Manhattan Beach.” More than 50 years later, the band can still be seen performing at weddings, bar mitzvahs, 10k races and Little League opening day parades. Best of all, they remain a fixture at hometown fairs and concerts in the park.
Longtime residents have vivid memories of Bob on Christmas Eve, cowbell in hand, leading a packed Ercole’s in singing the lyrics he penned, “Christmas Eve at Ercole’s,” to the tune of “Oh, Christmas Tree.” According to Steve Napolitano, Manhattan Beach mayor pro tem, “The song immortalizes the annual holiday gathering of friends and families at Manhattan Beach’s celebrated and oldest bar.”
Recently Bob had a few health setbacks, including getting a new pacemaker in December. He missed playing with his band at the annual Manhattan Beach Holiday Fireworks, but he did not miss Christmas Eve at Ercole’s. Shares fellow musician Doug Weems, a Manhattan Beach native and former member of the band 98 Mute, “He is a living legend.”