Final Notes, Bob Guida

Country-blues and gospel singer, guitarist, and bassist Bob Guida died suddenly of a heart attack while setting up to play a concert at the Union Street Public Library in Flushing, Queens, New York.  He was carrying his touchstone bass – a 1952 Fender Precision that he called “Number Nine” (it is stamped with serial #0009) when he collapsed. Bob was going to do what he loved doing best: playing music with good friends, singing, and bringing joy to his audiences.  He especially enjoyed the concert series at the library as it gave him an opportunity not only to perform but also to open a discussion about music history and vintage instruments with his audience, which ranged in age from school children to seniors.  He had just told his wife, Phyllis, that he loved her, via voice mail, moments before he was taken from us.

Bobby started discovering the world of blues, country, and sanctified music as a teen along with his lifelong friend, fellow 78 rpm record geek, and musical soulmate Pat Conte.  The two would form the traditional musical group the Otis Brothers in the late 1970s, primarily performing as a duo, and making numerous recordings. Their material drew from and emulated the blues and gospel songs they grew to love by listening to original records from ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s, and a wealth of field recordings. The Otis Brothers continued to give live concerts and record up until Bob’s untimely death. \

Although best known for his “mile-wide” voice, Guida also worked as a back line bass player, accompanying legendary musicians including J. B. Hutto, Hubert Sumlin, Otis Rush, Junior Brown, Big Walter Horton, Roy Buchanan, Reverend Dan Smith, Billy Lee Riley, Charles Brown, Snooky Prior, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee.  In the past few years Guida formed a quartette which he called Raoul Otis and his Blues Serenaders, using his nom de guerre from his band with Conte.  Bob had just finished recording a gospel project and was in the process of final mixing.  He was noted for his genuine and seamlessly loud singing style – an attribution that must have been inspired by his tireless love of the music and deep spiritual faith.  Guida was just as at ease singing the Louvin Brothers’ “There’s a Higher Power” as he was Little Walter’s “My Babe” or Little Feat’s “Fat Man in the Bathtub.” He also fingerpicked a mean version of the Third Man theme on guitar.

His passion as a musicologist, archivist, and vintage instrument expert led to his working on a book about the birth of the electric guitar. The Story of Paul A. Bigsby: Father of the Modern Solidbody Electric Guitar, by Andy Babiuk, was just published in February 2009, with title page contributor credit to Bob Guida for his decades of research on the subject.  Bob’s historical knowledge about instruments and twentieth-century American music and recordings could fill volumes and he was often called upon by writers, guitar dealers, and collectors as a consultant.

Bob grew up in Flushing, New York, and was a devoted son to parents Robert E. and Carolyn Guida. He was a funeral director by vocation and entered his family’s funerary business located in Corona after graduating from McAllister Institute in New York City, where he received an Associate’s Degree in Funeral Service.  He is survived by his loving wife Phyllis Guida, mother-in-law Josephine Frangione, sisters Suzanne Knips and Carolyn Clarke, brothers-in-law Bob Knips and Tom Clarke, his nieces and nephews Theresa Knips, Stephen Knips, Margaret Mana Clarke, Thomas Clarke, Rusty and Michelle Munno, Anna and Gino Iannuzzi, grand-niece and -nephew Kristen Landolfi and Joseph Munno, cousin Ed Guida, and cousin Louie Kromm – one of the original Otis Brothers.  He also leaves behind on this earth the many friends with whom he shared his love, music, and enormous sense of humor. Bob had a profound effect on just about everyone he came in contact with, whether as a friend, co-worker, performer, fellow musician, or spiritual advisor. His premature passing has deeply saddened us all. It will be hard to imagine this world without Bob Guida. We know he has his “two wings ‘round my head ...on my feet ...flyin’ away – heaven gonna be my home.”

In the words of Raoul Otis: “To live for today, and love for tomorrow, is the wisdom of a fool.”  Bob showed me his love each day we chatted or played music together.

Steve Uhrik

 




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