Stephen Jones, who performs under the name Bobcapella, sings and does comedy routines at corporate retreats and private marijuana parties.
Since California voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, dozens of dispensaries have popped up, the biggest concentration being in Mission Valley. A budding cannabis connoisseur can tour the region’s top weed hot spots or choose from the growing number of cannabis delivery services.
Experts believe he may rob Bernie Sanders of the stoner vote.
And there are local weed-centered businesses including bakers and candy makers making and selling all sorts of cannabis edibles.
Others are finding unique ways to grow their own living in this brave new world of legal bud. Meet Stephen Jones. He is a Lyft driver who hopes to provide a different sort of lift as a professional impersonator of Bob Marley, the famous reggae singer who would surely be on Marijuana Mount Rushmore along with Willie Nelson, Paul McCartney, and Snoop Dogg.
“There must be 10,000 Elvis impersonators, but I don’t know of any people who do Bob Marley,” Jones said to explain his budding business as Bob.
Pre-dreadlocks Jones graduated from college and sold insurance.
Not only does Jones perform Marley’s music, but he also does comedy routines in the guise of the reggae legend, such as one bit he calls “Bob-polar,” where he has a conversation with himself — a black American — and as “Bob” in Marley’s Jamaican patois.
“As Bob, I will call myself out as an American guy imitating a Jamaican guy,” he laughed. “I did it first when I was driving some people who were really high and it was freaking them out!”
Jones isn’t content bobbing along at clubs, casinos or other venues that host impersonators. Instead, he sees his mission, to paraphrase Marley, as helping people “emancipate themselves from mental slavery” and learn to experience that “one love,” to quote yet another classic song.
To that end, he is also creating a series of corporate training seminars where he teaches people what he calls “the principles of Bob.” One such example was a talk he recently gave at a nursing retreat.
In addition, he hires himself out to smoke pot with people who think getting high with a Bob Marley impersonator is the height of cannabis chic.
Jones, a 49-year-old graduate of Regis University in Colorado, worked in the business world for more than a decade before deciding to take another path, one that started by growing his hair into the dreadlock style associated with Rastafarianism, a religious sect that started in Jamaica which views the smoking of marijuana as a sacrament.
“Really, when I grew them, that’s when I finally recognized myself,” the former insurance salesman said.
Growing dreads may have helped Jones recognize himself, but others see him as a lookalike for the reggae legend. To my eyes, other than the hair, there isn’t much in physical resemblance.
That’s OK with Jones, who prefers to recreate the Marley vibe rather than imitate his appearance.
“The first two people who called me Bob Marley were a three-year-old girl and a Middle Eastern guy whose plane just landed in America,” he said. “Everyone knows Bob. I’ve had people from all over the world call me Bob. Everyone except China. For some reason, they don’t know who he is.”
Jones has performed as “Bob” at various events, including last year’s Pride Celebration. Although he sings Marley songs, it’s in the guise of jokes. For instance, at the Gay Pride event, he quips the singer was gay and that the classic song “Jammin’” was originally written about Marley’s (fictional) gay lover, “Benjamin” or “Ben-jammin” in Bob talk.
Jones performs without musicians or recorded backup music, which is why his website is Bobcapella.com, a portmanteau of “Bob” and “a capella.”
“My brother is a professional musician, and he asked if I wanted help, but it’s just better I work alone,” he said.
Jones showed his M.O. — “Marley Operandi” — during a recent interview on the streets of La Mesa. While he and I walked up the street in the Village area, we heard three people arguing about a car part very loudly.
Jones said, “Want to see Bob in action?” He snuck up on the arguing trio and started singing a Marley classic: One love/ one heart/ let’s get together and feel alright.
Immediately, the conflict ended — at least temporarily — and one guy threw his arm around “Bob’s” shoulder and started singing along.
At the end of his song, Jones high-fived two of the guys, but the third man — the loudest one — settled for an elbow tap as his hands were covered in oil. The three were noticeably calmer as we walk away then they were before Jones’ intervention.
“See? That’s how it’s done,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t charge to attend private parties as “Bob,” thanks to a deal he has with various cannabis industry sponsors, such as Babylon Gardens, Discreet Wellness, and AddCBD.com in exchange for product placement.
However, a non-cannabis-themed corporate team-building exercise costs $250 an hour.
In addition, Jones jokes that he can help customers “emancipate themselves from party planning slavery” by organizing appearances by other people working in the cannabis space.
For instance, at a recent party in Normal Heights, Jones included TH the Chef, a cannabis cook who prepared stoney vittles such as Mac and Cheese balls with a pot-infused marinara sauce, and massage therapist Cara Sherman, who rubbed down guests with CBD, a non-psychoactive substance found in marijuana, while reggae versions of Beatles songs played in the background.
Jones sees himself as someone who can unite the disparate aspects of the local cannabis scene — something he says is sorely needed. “I find San Diego’s cannabis scene to be stale on community. They pretty much frisk you and then you buy stuff or they shuffle you out,” he said. “That is where Colorado and Portland, Oregon have us beat. They have laws that say you can smoke and hangout.... Some of the San Diego locations are waking up to the community idea. Columbia Care near PB just started a Senior Sunday where they bring in nurses and professionals to educate seniors on Cannabis.”
For Nick Baxter, having a Bob Marley impersonator at his party was a no-brainer. “People think of pot when they see Bob,” he said. “Back in college, every dorm room had a poster of him smoking a spliff.”
A friend jumps into the conversation: “Yeah, Bob’s a rasta, so it makes getting stoned seem more spiritual.”
A female partygoer who asked not to be named concurred, and said Marley is like a member of her family.
“Bob is just fun. He reminds me of beach campouts with my family,” she said.
As you might expect, a lot of marijuana was smoked at the party, while people gorged on the TH the Chef’s food. “Takes 30 minutes for the effect to kick in,” she told the crowd.
Although Jones can arrange for pot deliveries, most of the people at this party were already “holding.” One guest, hearing that it was a “Bob Marley Pot Party” — which apparently sets it apart from just a regular old “pot party” — came in and threw down a bag of gummi edibles.
“Party’s here,” he said.
He wasn’t wrong.
After people ate TH the Chef’s offerings, and had their CBD massages, Jones stood up and did a brief stand up routine that probably benefited from the other guest’s altered states of consciousness.
Still, the guy who brought the gummies was impressed.
“Best party ever!” he said.