Potato-Head Bobby is a re-occurring character in Zappa's work. He's described as a loser and an underdog, having "a head like a potato". He is the main character in the songs "San Ber'dino" and "Advance Romance" and is briefly mentioned in "Legend Of The Illinois Enema Bandit" (although there are no further clues about his person in that song).
Potato-Head Bobby in "San Ber'dino"
Bobby first appears in the song "San Ber'dino" from Zappa's 1975 album One Size Fits All. In the song, he's working at a rodeo but one day he is arrested for getting drunk "at the Palomino". His sentence are "thirty days in San Ber'dino" (a hint at Zappa's own ten-day stay in the San Bernardino County Jail). Bobby also has a girlfriend and is planning their future life together in "trailer park heaven". The song then goes on to mockgege their love for each other by contrasting the couple's thirty-day separation during Bobby's term of imprisonment with the eternity they are going to live together in the trailer park ("Gonna spend the rest of their lives / In San Ber'dino").
Potato-Head Bobby in "Advance Romance"
Bobby would make a second appearance later that year in "Advance Romance" from Bongo Fury. By now the relationship with his girlfriend has come to an end, apparently because he failed to earn enough money and therefore has to stand "in the food stamp line." However, he cannot leave her, which is why "Later that night / He drop on by" and "Told her all he wanna do / Was step up and say 'Hi'!" Thereupon she "frenched his fry" and threw him out again ("Bobby, say good-bye"!)
Like "San Ber'dino", this song is another sideblow at the concept of "true love", and is especially striking when compared to that other song's lyrics.
Potato-Head Bobby and the Mammy Nuns
While Bobby himself never explicitly appears in Thing-Fish, there are several things that he and the latter's protagonists, the Mammy Nuns have in common:
- Both Bobby and the Mammies have heads that look like potatoes.
- Both Bobby and the Mammies are victims of society.
- Like Bobby, the Mammies have served time in a prison, although not in San Ber'dino but San Quentim; however, while the Mammies' potato-heads are a direct result of their treatment in prison, it is never actually stated why Bobby looks like a potato.
- One of the Mammies is actually called Sister Potato-Head Bobby Brown (which combines the names Potato-Head Bobby and Bobby Brown).
Especially the last point implies that Bobby actually is one of the Mammy Nuns.