Friday, March 13, 2009
Robert Francis "Bob" Guida 1954-2009
Bob Guida playing at the Jalopy--photographed by Kenf225--See Comment 1 Below
Bob Guida had a gig at a Queens library playing his kind of music with a mixed-genre-bag band of friends last night (Thurs. March 11th). He'd packed his amp, his mic stands, mics, cables, and such in his Chevy station wagon and had gone back down in his basement to get his bass, "Old Number Nine," as Bob respectfully referred to it because it was the ninth Fender Jazz Bass ever made and "#9" was inscribed on the end of its stock by Leo Fender himself back in 1952. Bob's wife, Phyllis, called me this morning and told me all about it. She said he was really happy yesterday afternoon getting ready for this gig that he really enjoyed, talking about it as he loaded the station wagon, feeling about as happy as she'd ever seen him. [Mr. Ed.: We must apologize for thegrowlingwolf's misleading you on where Mr. Guida died. It was as he was bringing "Old Number 9" into the library where his gig was. He collapsed just inside the entrance to the library. We also add that the library gig was the gig of great guitarist & great gentleman & pretty good singer, too, Eddie Lee Isaacs. Eddie said that one of the band members gave Bob mouth-to-mouth but it was too late--he'd left the mortal coil.]
So Bob got Old Number Nine, put it in its case, and headed back up his basement stairs [actually inside the entrance to the library where the gig was] on his way to a gig--a bright moment for musicians like Bob Guida. Bob loved the music he played and he learned it off records and Bob taught himself to become proficient on the upright bass, the electric bass, then the acoustic guitar, then the electric guitar, then the mandolin, even once I saw Bob play a ukulele. He played in several genres as varied as old-timey blues (field hollers, moans), rockabilly, electric blues, and I've even played John Coltrane's "Equinox" with Bob. Bob collected 78 rpm blues records when I first met him. One of his projects at that time was to collect all of Robert Johnson's original 78s--I remember the night at a gig he told me he'd finally gotten the last record he needed to complete his collection--how he paid $400 for it--he even made me a cassette tape of all these 78s, recording it off his 78 rpm record player he kept in the basement of at that time his mother's house out in Flushing, Queens, NYC. In that basement was Bob's whole life; that basement was totally his, where he kept his other collectibles, and there wasn't much Bob didn't collect, from an autographed Babe Ruth baseball or an Elvis Presley signed 45 rpm to a large collection of 50s and 60s robots, an original Edison roll recording machine, a huge collection of LPs of all types, a huge collection of blues 45s--and Bob's passion musically was the Blues--and Bob, though a successful businessman, lived his life as close to the Blues Idiom as he could--and also in that basement was at one time Bob's collection of electric basses and electric guitars, at its peak reaching around 35 instruments, about half of them rare basses (like a Mosrite (pronounced mose-right), a Premier double-neck, a Steinberger fretless, a bass with rubber strings, all electric except for one upright bass made in the US in 1811 that had deer gut strings on it. Bob eventually sold his basses and guitars (except he kept Old Number Nine) and made enough money to buy him another one of his passions, a Classic US automobile, in this case a 1950 Mercury--it became Bob's pride and joy and on one of his released recordings he's shown on the cover sitting on the fender of that beautiful perfectly reconditioned car playing a special-edition National electric guitar whose body was shaped like the United States and was painted red, white, and blue.
I first heard of Bob Guida back in the late 1970s. My friend Jesse Cohen and I had formed a band called the Fabulous Swilltones and one of our first gigs was at Dan Lynch's, a notorious and famous and infamous blues bar on Second Avenue around E. 12th. At that time, we had a bass player but he really wasn't a bass player so we had our eyes and ears open for a bass player and one night Jesse came banging on my door and he rushed in and he said, "Wolfie, I just was down at Dan Lynch's and I heard the god-damnedest bass player--I mean, we have to get this dude under contract. He calls himself Cadillac Slim--I mean, Wolfie, he's perfect--he weighs about 400 pounds and he sings--Jesus Christ he can sing--and he's into the blues--and he's with this band that sucks, man, and I conversed with him and he's ready to talk turkey with us."
The first time I met Bob Guida was at a rehearsal. We had a gig and Bob was going to play bass with us. The minute this dude walked in the door I knew he was my kind of dude. He was a big man. He did weigh 400 pounds, but with that 400 pounds Bob carried what he liked to call "a bad attitude," using that 400 pounds to literally throw his weight around when it came to the music he was eager to play, though he'd tell you in a minute if you sucked and he wasn't interested in playing with you. That gig brought Bob and me about as close together as two musicians in New York City can get. We immediately hit it off over the music. I didn't have a car in those days, bad news for a NYC musician, so I depended on bumming rides off those of us who did have cars. Bob Guida had a car. At that time it was a Buick station wagon, a big long Buick, and Bob loved big long cars, especially fishtail Cadillacs, just like me, and he had a cassette deck in that Buick and when he'd take me home we'd listen to tapes of everybody from Lonesome Sundown to Moon Mullican or Juke Boy Bonner to Wayne Raney. We became so close, Bob suggested we get together when we could and jam. I had a friend, Fred Parcels, who happened to have just opened a rehearsal studio on West 38th St., so Bob and I booked a Wednesday night there, I remember it as Wednesday because that's "Prayer Meeting Night" to a bluesman, and we played for two hours that first jam, just Bob and me--me playing an Aeolian grand piano that had once been one of those pianos you could attach a autoplaying machine to and that machine's piano rolls would play the keys of that piano. It was a grand old grand--only trouble was, Fred had gotten it cheap because the soundboard had a crack in it--still it was the perfect piano for the blues--and Bob was playing an electric bass--I don't now remember which one it was--and we jammed for two hours and by the end of the session both of us decided we had to continue getting together once a week--both of us were single at the time--and so we booked the place for the next Wednesday night. This was around 1981 and we continued those Wednesday night blues jams for the next 5 years. Those jams became famous around town among blues musicians and during the course of those 5 years we jammed with some of the coolest NYC blues musicians there were, Major Contay (Pat Conte), Guitar Slim (Bob Aherne), the amazing Eric Warren (from New Orleans), former Legends of Blues and Muddy Waters guitarist Brian Bisissi, Eric Baker, a damn good harmonica player [Bob wouldn't let me play harmonica--he said down deep he hated harmonica players. I'd tried to pull mine out and blow it occasionally but every time Bob would say "No, put that son of a bitch up" and I would obey]; also, now-Upstate-New York guitar whiz Jesse Cohen joined us many times, as well as Rich Oppenheim, one of the best god-damn alto sax players in music, I think, now down being a star in San Antonio, Texas, and the rocker guitarist, last I heard he was fronting a band in Miami, Eddie Gregg--and our favorite and for years the only drummer we'd tolerate, the blues perfectionist drummer Tadd Kotick--Bob, Tadd, and I eventually becoming the Cool Drivers (one of Bob's very favorite blues as done by the uniquely great bluesman Johnny Shines--I think Bob paid maybe close to 1 grand for his first-edition copy of Johnny's 78 JOB record of that song). Tadd Kotick, who's father was the great jazz bass player Teddy Kotick, it turned out, according to Bob, had the fifth largest blues record collection in the world, and so then we got to going over to Tadd's and listening to his records, for hours and hours, and I made 4 hour-and-a-half cassette tapes of Tadd's records--and Bob was there and the talk was inspiring and the knowledge both Tadd and Bob had about all these records and all the musicians on them was info-jammed like the Internet.
And then all of us grew older, less free to jam when we wanted. Bob got married. Though we still got together, it became harder. Times were changing. Then I got a regular gig with a downtown band and I drifted away from the jams and finally, we had our last get together at Fred's final rehearsal space on East 23rd...and in 1986 our jams ended.
In 1985, at the beginning of the year, Bob showed up to one of our jams with two dudes I had no idea who they were. Bob said they owned a record label and were interested in producing a recording of us and issuing it and distributing it on their label. We jumped for joy, and when Bob jumped for joy the whole room shook. We rehearsed our asses off and we made the recording of 11 tracks, the whole recording, in one long night, each track nailed in one take; and in the fall of '85 our recording was issued on the Global Village label as Settlin' Up the Score--and every time we'd play it we'd call each other and talk about how god-damn good we sounded--and then we played a concert at the 23rd St. YMCA and we were told by the record guys that our cassette was the fastest selling album on their list--in the promos we were referred as players of "the Uptown Blues." We were more really Downtown blues players, most of the blues clubs in those days being in Lower Manhattan.
One day Bob called me and told me we'd gotten terrific press in England. He said he called the GV Records office and they said, yeah, we had sold 200 cassettes in London and were getting airplay. When Bob asked, "When do we start getting some royalties?" he was told we hadn't sold enough yet to pay for the recording--that's the record business, folks. After that we heard nothing more about the cassette nor from the recording company. One day last year, Bob called me and he said, "Guess what?" "What?" "Global Village is selling our cassette, which is now a CD, on the Internet...check it out." I did, and there we were, the Uptown Blues on CD! Bob again called the record company and this time he said their phone was disconnected. We never saw a dirty dime from that recording--and both of us were so into the Blues Idiom, that's exactly how we expected a record company to treat blues people.
After Bob married and his business took off (Bob was a funeral home director running a funeral home in Queens his grandfather had started back in WWI), we drifted apart for a bit, but then in 1990, Bob was asked by a Cajun restaurant on Long Island if he'd like to play there--they were going to have blues in there. Bob said damn right. They said, not a big band, but, you know, a tight little trio or something. Bob said he knew just who to get and that was me and we were booked into this Cajun restaurant and for the next couple of years I would truck my keyboard and shit out to Shea Stadium where Bob would pick me up and we would drive to Rochdale Village, actually North Bellmore, Long Island, and play this Cajun restaurant gig. Our first night there was a big success--everybody loved us--especially the staff--and a good bunch of people they were, too--and it got exciting and Bob and I were happy as possums eating their own you know what and we really got into that gig. The owner of the restaurant loved us both but she especially liked Bob and soon she was booking us for parties and shit--things looked great. And Bob and I both loved cigars and at intermissions we'd step outside the restaurant and smoke our cigars--Bob loved a cigar handrolled in my neighborhood and he'd order these La Rosa cigars by the boxloads and he kept them in a special humidor he'd paid 700 bucks for--and those were the days, my friends.
One day, the owner of the restaurant who would call us once a week to verify we were making the gig didn't call. We didn't know whether we were booked that week or not. Bob called her and she was in New Orleans. We went on out and set up. The joint had changed. The bar was packed but it was a different crowd than we were used to. Then one of our favorite waitresses told us they were all getting fired and the staff we knew and loved wouldn't be there next time we played. What? What's going on?, we asked. Bob finally got a call from the owner and we got ready for our next gig there. When we set up that night and started playing, we got no crowd reaction at all. There were only three or four people in the restaurant and there were a lot of women at the bar, none of them the usual regulars we'd gotten to know over the years. Suddenly as Bob was singing a Hank Williams tune he loved a couple of women in front of us started kissing. Now Bob's a tolerant dude--you have to be when you're a bar musician--so he ignored it--me, I didn't give a shit if they fell on the floor and started eating each other out--I was there for the music and the money (we were paid good bucks, too). Then a big babe got up from the bar and came over and ask if we knew anything besides the blues? By the time we collected our money and packed up, we both realized the joint had turned into a Lezzie bar--every woman at the bar was a Lezzie--and the restaurant--and great food it was, too--Bob and I got free meals and I'd eat a wonderful certain steak they had there and Bob loved the crawfish pies or the catfish--and on the way back to the City that night we both knew that gig was over--we weren't wanted there anymore and sure enough, the next time Bob called the chick, she said she wasn't having music there anymore--in fact, she was closing it down.
After that, except for a couple of Cool Driver gigs out in Queens and Long Island, Bob and I drifted apart, except for occasional phone calls.
Back in 2005, the thedailygrowlerhousepianist and I decided to put a band together featuring him on the piano and me on organ. I called Bob and Tadd and set up a rehearsal at Michiko in Times Square. I filmed that session--glad I did. We had not played together in I'd bet 5 years at least. We were rusty, we dragged a bit, but eventually we started getting our old cookin' abilities back together and by the time Bob requested I do Jimmy Reed's "Oh John," one of his absolutely favorite tunes that I did, we were Cool Drivin' again just like we used to.
Then last summer, it'll be a year in May, out of nowhere, I got a gig down at this restaurant on Seventh Street off Second Ave. where I sing a blues with a Latin jazz fusion band I used to be the boy singer with--made a CD with them in 2004--once a month. The restaurant offered a gig to me. Any kind of band I wanted to bring in there, they said, the joint was all mine. I called Bob Guida. By now, Bob had reorganized the group he's really most famous for around New York City, the Otis Brothers, the Otis Brothers being Bob and his friend from childhood on up, Pat Conte's old-timey blues band (Pat Conte is also one of the great record collectors in the world--also a collector of dinosaur bones and folk instruments (Pat found one of the first electric guitars ever made (a Rickenbacker) in a garbage can while he was walking around his Queens neighborhood one day)), and The Otis Brothers had been getting a lot of gigs based on their having issued a new Otis Brothers CD, the first in several years. I went to see them several times and they were gettin' it all tied up in such a neat little music package even adding a tremendous sidekick, a guy named Joe Bellulovich, who played the guitar, sung, and also played the harmonica (Bob tolerated Joe's harmonica playing because Joe played the tunes they knew and he played the harmonica parts to perfection--some difficult in having to jive with Bob and Pat and their virtuosic pranks). So, as a result of the Otis Bros. coming back alive, Bob had trouble finding a day he was free to make my gig--I booked it, then had to rebook it, then had to rebook it again. Finally, it happened. Bob, myself, and my bandleader friend and great drummer Mark Holen were the band, along with thedailygrowlerhousepianist sittin' in for a couple of tunes--an especially divine version of Billie Holiday's "Fine and Mellow," and dammit we did it, and oh hallelujah how wonderful it was, how smooth and easy it rocked and rolled and shuffled--and Bob and I went back and dug things out of our old repertoire and we were in such harmony, singing together, working the music out together with stranger really Mark Holen punching us on--driving us on to hard-but-cool drivin'--and after the gig, I shorted Bob $25 on the gig money because I didn't think I was gonna get paid and then they paid me and it was way more than I thought but Bob had already left for home and I ended up owing him 25 bucks. The last time I saw Bob, I helped him pack his equipment into his station wagon, including two old Ampeg amps he would bring especially for me--and he was feeling great, tired, but great. "Look," he said, "we've got to do this again. You think you can book us in here again?" "Yeah, sure." "Great." Then he got in his station wagon and off he went back to Queens.
About a month ago I'd called Bob to find out if he was ready to do the gig again. Oh you bet he was--and he started talking about maybe not bringing both amps, new tunes we should do, blah, blah, blah. That's the last time I talked to Bob.
Yesterday morning, I was looking for something to put on my CD player so I could drown out the construction noise going on next door and I found a cassette tape I'd made in 1986. It was a rehearsal for a second album Bob and I were planning on making. It's just Bob and me. After I listened to it, I thought, I gotta call Bob. I even noticed his name and phone number at his house were by my phone. I almost picked up the phone and called him but I didn't.
And this morning when his wife called me, I was already thinking, now why is Phyllis Guida calling me, she never calls me, and then it hit me and I knew why she was calling. "Bob's dead, Wolfie," she said through tears. I reacted immediately as though I'd suddenly been shuffled off to the dumps. "He's was getting ready for this gig he's been doing now at this library--and he was so happy--I'd never seen Bob so happy--and he collapsed just inside the entrance to the library, and he fell dead, still holding on to Old Number Nine--he had a massive heart attack, Wolfie. They said he went so fast he couldn't even of known what was happening. He's gone, Wolfie, Bob's left us."
I'm still sitting here thinking (a tune old Bob did to blues perfection "Sittin' Here Thinkin'") about my good total friend and I'm choking back the tears, hell yes I feel like cryin' like a baby. I've lost a good friend, in music and life, but I've also lost a high respecter of my own love of the blues and my own interpretations of the blues and the blues I've written over the years. Bob was a friend who looked up to me as a true blues idiom character. On the tape I was listening to the day Bob died, Bob requested I do my tune, "The Day They Made a Record," which we did, at a ferocious pace--it's a very fast drivin' blues. At the end of it, Bob says, "God-damn, I love that song." That's what I've lost. In the The Daily Growler list of characters, by the bye, Bob Guida was theryefarmerfromqueens--it comes from a blues, "Crow Black Chicken" that Bob sang--in that song Bob sings about ploughing a field of rye--when he sang that, he'd always noted out the side of his mouth, "Yeah, I'm a rye farmer from Queens."
Robert Francis Guida, goodbye...so long...it was so good to know you...and god-dammit, Bob, am I gonna miss you.
wearin' black for The Daily Growler Bob Guida Memorial Edition
Here's a YouTube Video of Bob Guida and Pat Conte, the Otis Brothers
Here's Kenf's Flickr Page Showing More Photos of Bob Guida and Friends That Night at The Jalopy
More Tribute to Bob Guida From the Next-Post The Daily Growler:
Bob Guida, from a tgw photo taken in April 2005 at Michiko Studios in Times Square, NYC, on the occasion of a rehearsal.
...and Still in Praise and Remembrance of Brother Bob Guida
The friendly staff of the The Daily Growler thanks everyone who responded so magnanimously to thegrowlingwolf's tribute to Bob Guida, our own ryefarmerfromqueens. We even got word from Mr. Guida's wife and his two sisters how much they appreciated it. Also, it's the most comments we've ever gotten here at The Growler. We apologize for some of the Wolf Man's "wrong" remembrances--as in the case of the fact stated nicely by Mike S (Bob's favorite bass player) [see comment 8 below] that Mr. Guida was not carrying Old #9 when he departed the mortal coil--that he was playing guitar that night--or the fact that Old #9 was a Fender Precision and not a Jazz--The Wolf Man claims he was there when Bob first took it out of its case and played it seriously and he'd taped Bob playing it and had marked the tape in 1986 "Bob playing #9 Fender Jazz Bass"--of course, he'd certainly played it before he bought it and when he was restringing it and tuning up for that first time the Wolf-Man remembers. thegrowlingwolf emailed us the following, "Hey, come on, folks, I wrote that tribute faster that a speeding bullet--and I only went over it twice in an editing sense--and now, yes, I am reconstructed in terms of where Bob collapsed--and, yes, now I am aware--from the mouth of Eddie Lee Isaacs of exactly what happened. As for Old #9, yes, Bob was the bass and guitar expert--there wasn't anything Bob didn't know about basses and guitars--not just electrics but all guitars--and mandolins (one of Bob's proudest purchases a few years back now was the mandolin that had been the personal mandolin of the world's greatest mandolinist--Bob was so proud of that--and, I might add, he paid a pretty hefty sum for it, too--so it's no big matter that I called it a Fender Jazz bass--it was a Precision--longer neck or something, right?--I know Bob told me he knew Leo Fender had set the neck on it, though he also admitted that Leo Fender was notorious for being sloppy with his numbering.
"A few years back, I saw a Silvertone Thin Twin (Kay Guitars made the Silvertone brand for Sears-Roebuck in Chicago) 1957 Jimmy Reed model electric guitar on eBay for a starting bid of $500. Since I'm a great collector like Bob and especially since I collect rare Jimmy Reed memorabilia, though I'd never played a guitar, I wanted that damn guitar worse than I wanted "you know what"; I wanted it bad and itchy like collectors get when they see something they have to have no matter the consequences in terms of coin of the realm. So I called Bob and sought his opinion in the matter. Bob said, "Hell yeah buy it...well, that is if it's in good shape." I emailed the cat with the guitar and asked him the questions Bob told me to ask him and he wrote back that the guitar was in great condition, the neck was straight, all the pick ups were original, with original knobs, all that kind of info. The only thing wrong with it, the dude said, was that it had a rough spot, some veneer damage, on the lower right side of the body. After I told Bob the dude's answers to the questions, he shouted out, "Buy it!" So I bought it. I paid $575 for it in the end. I called Bob and told him I'd bought it and he got happy as a baby boy. He eagerly said, "Have it sent to me here at the Home and I'll check it out stem to stern, see where I think it needs work, whatever...." And that's what I did; I had the dude in L.A. ship it to Bob. The day it arrived out at the Home and Bob unpacked it, he called me, "Wolf-Man, it's beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I'm sittin' here in the office playing it now." "You mean you approve of it?" "I restringed it, cleaned it up, plugged it in, and it plays sweet, man, what a great sound. I love this guitar. And the neck is perfect, straight as an arrow, tight, solid. Any time you want to sell it, I can get you a thousand for it easy." I went out to Bob's house to pick it up. As soon as I got there and Bob told his wife to get me a beer, which she did, and before I could get down to the basement, Bob was already playing my guitar. "That's my guitar, Bob? That's so cool." Then Bob took me into his little workshop room and showed me how to string it--how to tie the strings around the posts the professional way--plus he gave me two sets of strings. Bob had just been on a trip to Tennessee and had visited the Jack Daniels Distillery and found out they weren't gonna make Jack Green Label anymore and Bob showed me how he had bought 3 or 4 cases of it it looked like--I swear I saw some half-gallon Green Jacks in the mix--maybe not, but he had a goodly supply of it, enough to last several years it looked like to me--so he took out a fresh bottle of Green Jack, busted it open, and poured me out a healthy slug then he poured some on one of his famous rags and cleaned the strings of my guitar with it. "Best thing to clean strings with--Jack or vodka." Then Bob set me down at the table workroom and handed me some sheets of paper. He had hand drawn me out the fret board diagrams with the finger positions drawn on them for all the keys. Then he showed me how to play an E major chord, then an E-minor chord, then an A chord, etc., telling me as he taught me, "I'll have you playing Jimmy Reed tonight--you'll be Jimmy Reed the Third in no time...." "Bob, there's already a Jimmy Reed III...." "Jimmy's kid; he plays the bass, he's no good, you'll be Jimmy Reed the Third in my book." And by the end of that night, Bob had me strummin' along with him doing E shuffles, Jimmy Reed lugging shuffles, showing me how to strum different ways, then giving me a sheet of paper showing me the right autotuner to buy and also the right capo--even where to go, to Sam Asch, he insisted. Then Bob presented me with one of his special snakeskin shoulder straps and took me over to the 7 train and I carried my first-ever guitar home and it sits here by me now, still looking like brand new--"Never leave it in its case. Leave it out of the case and it shouldn't go out of tune that much at all." Then he taught me how to tune it by ear.
"I'm not even close to Jimmy Reed the Fourth yet and certainly not the man himself, but I'm getting pretty damn good--especially in the key of E--though I can also play pretty good in the key of A, too. And I still have these handdrawn chord charts Bob drew for me--I'm thinking of framing them as art. I was going to play my Silvertone '57 Jimmy Reed-model Thin Twin on the last gig Bob and I did together last summer--the last time I saw Bob alive--but I decided not to--not in front of such a great guitarist as my mentor Bob--so I didn't bring it--Bob was disappointed, very disappointed--I felt bad; I felt like I'd chickened out on him.
"Here's the guitar Bob convinced me to buy. The sheets of paper on the pottery piece under the lamp are the diagrams of the fretboards, the keys, the chords, the finger positions for chords Bob handmade for me. The guitar strap (one of Bob's signature snakeskin straps) is the one Bob said went perfect with this guitar.
"I met up with Tadd Kotick, Bob's and my favorite drummer, at Bob's funeral, and after the funeral Tadd drove me over to Roosevelt Ave. and the subway and we got to remembering Bob stories from our pastimes with him. In talking about how Bob wasn't afraid of death--I mean, that's was Bob's profession, he was a mortician, his father and his grandfather had been morticians, but in terms of Bob's struggle with his weight over the years, sometimes you felt like he was challenging his body constantly--I mean Bob and I one time played in the middle of August in a rehearsal room with no windows and while we were setting up, the air-conditioner went out and soon it was like Hadean hot in that room, but when I said, "Bob, let's get the hell out of here; we could have a stroke in this heat," Bob said, "Fuck the heat, we've paid our money, so let's play." It was so hot, you couldn't breathe very well, plus you got soaking wet, and I was sweatin' like a Georgia mule and Bob was passing me over a couple of his famous towel-like rags he always had a fresh-washed batch of in his gig bag--and we were both wiping down--I mean the heat was awesome--and Bob never played better.
"Then Tadd reminded me of the time he and I and Bob and the great Major Contay (Pat Conte, the other Otis Brother) got on this extremely ancient jail-cell-tight elevator at Giant Studios when it was on West 38th in Manhattan--the studio was on the 5th floor--and as that old elevator started creakily going up, suddenly Bob started jumping up and down, no signal to the rest of us, just jumping up and down--and I don't mean a pussyfooting jumping up and down but a serious thunderous jumping up and down. At that time, Bob weighed at least 4oo pounds and Pat Conte equaled Bob in weight easy--together Bob and Pat weighed 800 and I was around 200 then, and Tadd, though not a big dude, at least weighed 150, so here we were, over a thousand pounds of weight on this ancient elevator and Bob was jumping up and down having a ball--and then, Bob's twin that he is, Pat starts jumping up and down, too. I was cracking up; yet, as Tadd said, I was a little scared shitless, too. Hey, that old elevator took it like a man, and Bob and Pat appreciated that and never again teased that old elevator.
"And then one time at Kenny's Castaway--a "play for no pay" club as we blues guys called it, down in the Village on Bleeker Street--I got there late and caught the end of Bob's first set. At intermission Bob came back to the bar where I was sitting and he said the stage was so flimsy he thought he could easily crash down through it the next set. "How do you know you want fall through to the basement or something?" I asked. "No, I just think it would be cool to just suddenly disappear down a hole in the stage, keep on playing...." I met a lot of Bob's close friends at that gig, Bob's sister was there, Doctor Lou probably. Bob, I'm pretty sure was playing with Little Mike that night. And sure enough, during the next set, Bob started purposedly jumping up and down on the stage while he played his bass and the stage was bending and rocking but it resisted--Bob didn't fall through--nor did he make any money that night either though he and Little Mike had brought in a big following. Little Mike started up playing in the early years of Dan Lynch, around the time I first met Bob there, and Mike went on, along with Bobby Radcliffe, another one who got his start in the pits at Dan Lynch, to get pretty popular in the blues world and chances to back some great older bluesmen in the 1990s, like Hubert Sumlin--I think Little Mike toured the South with Hubert--not sure about that. The reason I'm pretty sure it was Little Mike (and the Tornadoes, I think was his band's name) is because Bob said Little Mike was a true blues gig hustler. You see, old Kenny, the owner of Kenny's Castaway, the bastard, he'd give bands one-hour sets based on how many of these tickets Kenny had made up and he'd give bands these tickets to hand out to friends and fans before the gig--the tickets were good for a free drink as long as the holder paid a $5 cover charge at the door--so Bob said Little Mike would take a double fistful of these tickets and he would walk up and down Bleeker handing out hundreds of them--to tourists, to sailors, to bums, to whores, to anybody--still, even if you gave out 1000 tickets, you were lucky if 5 of your friends came and actually paid the cover charge, though most people you gave tickets to either didn't show up or they got in free even if they refused to pay the cover charge--the cover charge was supposed to go to the band--yeah sure. I played Kenny's several times in life and I never made one god-damn dime off old Kenny. The last time I played I was playing harmonica with this kick-ass band and since I was blind as a bat (in many physical ways) I had my harmonicas lined up on a chair--12 harps out there with their blues keys (the suck up key) registered on the boxes in big marker letters--during one tune I went into one of showboat harp solos I was getting famous or infamous for with this band and in the process I kicked over the chair holding all my harps and they went scattering across the small stage, most of the coming out of their boxes. As I picked the harps up I suddenly realized I couldn't read the keys on the harps themselves and I sat there on the stage floor picking up harps and holding them up to my face trying to see the small etched in letters on the end of the face plates--this was before a Japanese harp maker put the key letters in white against black on the woodstock ends of the harp. I spent the rest of that gig trying to find the right key, standing there like a stupid geek, fiddle-fucking around--it ended with us--and me--getting booed off the stage--at Kenny's Castaway--what an insult! It pissed the other guys in the band off so much, they put me on the bench for a couple of gigs.
"Tadd Kotick said he made it through Bob's funeral without bawling right up until the very end when the organist and singer up in the choir loft started singing "Shall We Gather at the River"--as they were hauling Bob in his casket out to a big fine Caddy hearse in front of the church. Tadd and I were the last exiting the church and we stopped at the top of the steps and looked down onto the street, Bob's street, with his business, the Guida Funeral Home--there it all was, the hero shop next door, Bob's "land of milk and honey." Then I noticed sitting at the curb in front of the Funeral Home was Bob's 1950 Mercury. All slicked up--with the Styrofoam dice still hanging from the rearview mirror--and I remembered Bob taking me for a ride in the Mercury one time, out to Smithville, Long Island, to a gig. I remember Bob buying that car, too. Even remember what he paid for it.
"The first time I ever went out to Bob's house, back in the 80s, his mother was still alive--it was her house then, and he took me out in the backyard and showed me a '49 or '50 Caddy up on blocks--he was intending to restore it, but one day he up and sold it--that's the first time I had the pleasure of not only meeting Bob's mother, such a dainty little lady to be Bob's mother, though Bob said she cooked the best Italian food in the world, but also meeting his dog Elvis. I remember when Elvis died. Bob was very nonchalant about it. Death to Bob, and I know this sounds macabre, was his best customer--"there's a time and place" when all of us have to face Death, so Bob could tender the grieving with great compassion, he saw death every day of his life--Sunday his only real day off--and Bob used to joke about how his business stayed steady no matter the state of the economy--like I say Death was his best customer.
"Anyway, Bob's in another world somewhere now. At the church service, Bob was said to be a "good" Catholic--his family probably helped build the church his funeral was in--and the priest who knew Bob very personally kept calling him a believer in our lord and master Jesus Christ and saying that Bob had already arisen from death in the casket and had been resurrected in Heaven, blah, blah, blah. And I got to thinking, Bob in Heaven?--though Bob was once a choir boy at Marist College, I got to thinking, is that gonna make Bob satisfied, singing in the heavenly choir? Bob passionately worshiped the Blues, but I don't think many of the blues idols Bob worshipped went to Heaven--did Elvis? did Hank Williams? did John Lee Hooker? Did Skip James? Maybe Son House went to Heaven since he dropped blues singing and became a reverend of the Gospel in his later years--and, hey, Sister Rosetta Tharpe surely went to Heaven and Bob loved doing Sister Rosetta's songs, especially "If You Don't Know Jesus," so I'm sure she'd love having Bob in her celestial gospel band--and Thomas Dorsey, too, first a blues singing piano player named Georgia Tom--and I'm sure Bob knows a lot of Georgia Tom's blues--and surely Robert Johnson went to Heaven--or how about there must be a Blues Heaven. I used to sing a Tanya Tucker song with Bob and the chorus of that song says, "When I die I may not go to Heaven/I don't know if they'll let an old cowboy in/If they don't then take me back to Texas/That's as close to Heaven as I've ever been." With Bob I'd change that to "When Bob dies he may not go to Heaven/I don't know if they'll let a Bluesman in/But if they don't then take him back to Queens/That's as close to Heaven as he's ever been.""
thegrowlingwolf has excused himself to the world and is currently going through boxes of cassette tapes he made with Bob Guida from 1985-through-1987--hours and hours of tapes--especially those in which they left the tape deck running while they jived and conversed and learned tunes and talked about music and the Blues and each other and guitar stuff and the Blues over and over. No one is allowed to bother The Wolf-Man while he's listening to these tapes and marking the ones he wants to copy from cassette tape to CD--"I'm in mourning--so leave my funky ass alone." And that was the last time any of the Growler Staff saw him. In the meantime--keep on truckin'.
for The Daily Growler
Will Bob Be in Hell With This Guy?
Or Will He Be Up in Heaven With This Lady?
Note: doesn't that look like Pete Seeger back there on the right?