Meet Bob, your new favourite 74-year-old air guitarist

Bob Wagner is a septuagenarian and a competitive air guitarist — and he's hoping to take the world by storm this year in Finland.

The septuagenarian and competitive air guitarist is hoping to take the world by storm this year

Bob Wagner is a septuagenarian and a competitive air guitarist. And he's hoping to take the world by storm this year in Finland. 4:17

Bob Wagner is many things — Toastmaster enthusiast and former scuba diving instructor, among others. But at 74 years old, he is now perhaps the world's oldest air guitarist.

Unfamiliar with air guitar? Think Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure or the action performed by anybody who can't help but play along to rock n roll — even if they're without instruments.

While this might seem like a pastime or a niche interest, air guitaring is remarkably popular. The Air Guitar World Championships has been running for over 20 years and attracts competitors from Sweden to South Korea. Their motto? "Make Air, Not War."

For Wagner, the air guitar passion was inflamed when he was a preteen, and it started with a hospital stay recovering from surgery for appendicitis. When a fellow patient switched on the radio and the voice of Elvis Presley filled the room, Wagner grabbed a nearby broom and started hopping on his bed, playing along with the guitar. The doctor poked his head through the door, took a look at the rambunctious convalescent and swiftly discharged him to go home. "My mother was not impressed," reminisces Wagner, 60 years later.

Bob Wagner. (CBC Arts)

The joy of broom playing never left Wagner, who eventually graduated to playing with pure air. And at 74, he can't even sit still when the music is pumping. Wagner has found a whole community of people who love playing as much as he does. Last year, he competed in the Air Guitar Toronto 2017 Championship and nearly won a place at nationals. This year, he plans to do better. The Air Guitar National Championship begins soon and Wagner is already planning his next routine.

Why does he keep at it? Wagner loves the community, the challenge and the charity — and it's also a great way to stay in shape! He laughs: "We do this most ridiculous, stupidest thing you'd ever want to do by going on stage for one full minute and just exploding, right? And yet it makes the most sense in the entire world."

Follow Air Guitar Canada here to keep up with the competition. The Air Guitar World Championships take place in Oulu, Finland, August 23-25, 2018. And just a note: Bob Wagner uses strong language in this video, because of course he does.

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

Cat Mills

Cat Mills is an award-winning filmmaker based in Toronto. She is a CFTPA, Doc Accelerator and Golden Key Fellow. She is drawn to the quirky side of life.