Butch Bos isn’t wearing his black Western shirt.

The shirt, with the white detailing, has long served as the unofficial uniform for Quad-City’s go-to sound guy.

If you’ve been to the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Fest, the Quad-City Air Show, local bar shows, school band recitals or theater performances in the area over the past 40 years, you’ve likely seen Bos, 65, behind the soundboard, donning his favorite button-down shirt and making sure all is going according to plan.

"I know pretty much everyone who has anything to do with music here," Bos said. "And they know me as that tall blonde guy with the black shirt."

But as of two weeks ago, his trademark black shirt, along with nearly all of Bos' possessions, is gone.

Bos was running sound for the Arconic Jr. Bix 7 just after 6 p.m. Friday, July 28, when his wife, Joanne, called and told him to hurry — their Port Byron home and neighboring repair shop were in flames.

"When I got here, flames were coming out of everything, and there were four firetrucks here," Bos said. "My mind just kind of went blank. I thought, ‘Is this really happening? Is everything gone?’"

Their home on 214th Street in the Rock Island County village, where they have lived for 21 years, was scorched in the fire, and “nearly everything” — including thousands of dollars of sound equipment belonging to Bos and his clients — was lost. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

“It’s mostly ashes,” Bos said of his properties, currently surrounded by police tape. "There’s not much to see; it’s mostly the lack of things.”

Shortly after “the shock,” as his wife describes it, the couple started thinking about what to do next. They had phone calls about insurance and inspections to make, and they arranged to stay with one of their children, who live down the road. 

Meanwhile, Bos had his busiest work week of the year ahead of him: Doing sound at the Bix Jazz Fest and at each day of the Mississippi Valley Fair.

Thankfully, Bos said, his career has prepared him to be “one step ahead.” More than 30 years ago, he took over Boom Electronics, which opened in 1934, and renamed it Bos Electronics, a business that includes a mix of repairing equipment and sound gigs. 

"Things always go wrong, and you have to learn how to fix them," he said. "My claim to fame is I can fix them really quickly."

Following the fire, Bos’ phone rang “constantly” with friends checking in, offering places to stay, meals and money. Bos has declined most of the offers.

"I'm not rich, but I'm in a position where I can get through this without help," he said. "It's a mess, but we're getting through it.”

Word spread fast in the area music community, said Timm Dalman, director of New Anthem, a nonprofit that organizes charity events and Christian concerts here. He posted photos of Bos and his damaged house on Facebook and wrote, “Let him know you appreciate him and Joann, and all the hard work they do. Show your support in this difficult time.”

New Anthem has hosted nearly 1,000 events over the past 25 years, and Dalman estimates Bos worked at least half of those.

“Butch singularly does more for the community than any other sound (guy) across the region,” Dalman said. “He earns his bread and butter by taking more work rather than charging a premium for any one job. He does that because he really cares about the community and knows that if he didn't, the number of these events that occur would need to diminish due to event costs.”

In 2009, New Anthem honored Bos Electronics with a community service award, “just to try to get the word out to the public what Bos does for them,” Dalman said.

But Bos isn’t one for attention. He would rather be “hidden” in the sound booth or backstage than in front of people.

"I want everyone to have a good event, because without a sound guy, a lot of these things would be a disaster," he said. "If I can pay for my gas and my food, I’ll try to do it.”

From big events where he keeps track of five miles of cords and more than 100 microphones to smaller crowds where he’s adjusting levels for middle school students, Bos shows up for a simple reason: “It’s fun,” he said. "I never want to retire because I love my job so much.”

Bos said his work will keep him going in the coming weeks, as he rebuilds his home and life.

“We lost a lot things that are hard to replace,” he said, referring to mementos, photos with his favorite musicians and former Presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter as well as his extensive music collection, hard drives, computers and amplifiers.

That also goes for his Western shirts, many of which were custom-made by his mother. She embroidered several tops, including one with Christmas trees for the annual Festival of Trees event, with the Bos Electronics logo.

"If you look at my closet, it looks like it vaporized," Bos said.

But Bos wants “everyone who’s asking” to know this: You’ll still be able to spot him around town like usual. This weekend, he's doing sound for Tug Fest as well as the final concert of Bettendorf Public Library’s summer series, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Faye's Field. 

"We’ll keep doing what we’ve always done,” Bos said. “We just had a little hiccup in it."


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).