While many know Bob Whitelock as the neighborhood’s resident locksmith who has faithfully served Beacon Hill for the better part of the past 34 years, he is also an accomplished actor, author and musician.
The eldest of nine siblings from Spotswood N.J., Whitelock started playing the drums in marching bands as a grade schooler before moving onto drumming in rock bands as a high school student. His parents forbade him from keeping his drum kit at home, however, so Whitelock stored it in a friend’s garage, where he practiced.
A year after graduating from high school, Whitelock joined the Air Force at 19. He wasn’t permitted to bring his drums with him, but his roommate was kind enough to teach him how to play guitar and loaned Whitelock his extra axe. “It was a lot harder to play than drums,” Whitelock said of learning the new instrument. Still, he started writing songs on guitar at this time, fulfilling a longtime desire to present his own music.
The Air Force brought Whitelock to Loring, Maine, and he landed in Boston in January of 1981. After two weeks in town, Whitelock took over lead vocal duties for Masterpiece, alongside future and current Billy Joel sideman Dave Rosenthal and Joe Stamp, a Berklee guitar teacher whom Whitelock describes as a “shred guy.” Masterpiece covered songs by popular bands of the time, including hits by Duran Duran and Quiet Riot.
Two weeks after Masterpiece broke up, Whitelock landed a gig as lead vocalist for the Lines, which went on to open for Aerosmith, Billy Idol, Ratt, Twisted Sister, Cheap Trick and Lita Ford, among other acts. The band released two records with Whitelock on the now-defunct local label Sideman Records – “Standby” in 1983 and “Dirty Water” the following year – both of which received regular airplay on Boston’s WBCN at the time.
In 1984, Whitelock quit the band and started doing odd jobs for dentist Fred Weinstein before signing on as an apprentice locksmith for Weinstein’s son, Walter, at his business, Walter’s Lock and Hardware, formerly located at 49 Charles St.
Although Whitelock had no prior experience as a locksmith, Walter Weinstein agreed to train him on the condition that he commit to the job for two years. Whitelock fulfilled that agreement and ended up staying on with Walter’s for 14 years until its namesake retired to New Hampshire, entrusting his customer base to Whitelock.
“I see people when they’re frantic and at their worst, but generally, they’re pretty cool,” Whitelock said.
Whitelock bought Beacon Hill Lock & Key from Tom Rubenoff in 1996 and continues to own and operate it as a one-man outfit, but he never gave up on his musical aspirations. He lived in Reno and Las Vegas from between 1989 and 1991, making a living as a karaoke emcee and as a musician performing a repertoire of mostly country covers.
Upon returning to Boston in the early ‘90s, Whitelock joined the local country group Jeannie Ryan and the Ivory Kats as its drummer. He later landed the role as drummer for Robin Right while still performing as lead singer in his own Colt .45 Band.
Whitelock also recorded two country albums under his own name: “This Time Love’s for Real” in 2000 and “Hired Guns” the next year.
Looking to take his artistic pursuits even further, Whitelock began acting in 1991 as a member Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AGTRA). His credits include the films “Black Mass, “Ted 2,” “Live by Night” and “Purge 3,” as well as the recent “Chappaquiddick.”
When his son, Dan, was born in 1995, Whitelock said he “started doing the Dad thing,” and under his father’s tutelage, Dan was playing drums by the second grade. Dan has gone on to receive a full scholarship from the City of Boston to the Berklee School of Music, and schedule permitting, he still joins his father for some of Whitelock’s otherwise solo performances.
“Dan’s going to be better than I am,” Whitelock said. “He’s already he’s light years ahead of me in terms theory.”
Today, Whitelock performs mainly solo gigs at Panificio Bistro & Bakery on Charles Street, as well as the Old Sod Pub in Dedham, the Midway Restaurant in Jamaica Plain and Ralph’s Bar in Worcester, among other venues. Often catering to audience requests, he performs largely covers, ranging from Johnny Cash to the Backstreet Boys or even Whitesnake.
Whitelock also sings with the Usual Suspects on a less-frequent basis, performing what he describes as “progressive classic rock,” including covers by Kansas, Styx and Genesis. “I wanted to sing those songs before I died,” he said. In September, the Usual Suspects will open a performance by Poison’s Brett Michaels at Indian Ranch in Webster.
Between his music and lock-smithing jobs, Whitelock has also found time to write two works of fiction under his pen name “Gerard Daniels.”
His first, “110 db,” was published in 2012 and explores the world of sex, drugs and rock and roll, drawing loosely from his earlier days as a rock musician.
Whitelock’s second effort, “T.E.I.T.S: The Eye in the Sky,” was edited by The Boston Globe’s John Harrington and published three years later. According to Whitelock, it tells the story of a vigilante handyman on Beacon Hill by combining fantasy and mystery tropes.
But despite any perceived similarities between Whitelock and the protagonist in his latest literary work, he insists this is a work of pure fiction.
Visit bobwhitelock.com to learn more about Bob Whitelock’s music and literary endeavors. Gerard Daniels’ books are also available at amazon.com. To reach Whitelock at Beacon Hill Lock & Key, visit beaconhilllock.com or call 617-851-6721.