ELLWOOD CITY — Six years ago, Bob Viccari was diagnosed with cancer, and it changed his life.
Excruciating pain in his right side sent him to the emergency room. After the tests, the doctor told her that they found no problem on her right side, but found a lump on her left kidney. The doctor said they were lucky to find him, as he has no symptoms until he starts spreading.
“When the doctor told me the pain just went away. My left kidney was removed, the cancer was encapsulated, they figured it out. I had no treatment and have been cancer free since. five years,” says Viccari. “It changed my life. I had been playing secular music, mostly in bars, and I switched to Christian music. Having a religious experience changes your life, changes your whole outlook, not just the music, but the way you think and feel.”
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Currently Viccari is the leader of the First Baptist Missionary Church Band in Chewton which performs on Sundays and supports the choir.
Viccari’s band played at Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church in Ellwood City for three years. As they prepared for spring break, the Rev. First Baptist Missionary Church minister Eric Board came to hear them play because he was looking for a band. They accepted his invitation to play there.
“We enjoy being there. Rev. Board, choir and congregation are very supportive,” he said.
Viccari, who plays guitar and sings, has a clear voice that listeners compare to the sound of Elvis. The band members are Viccari’s brother Bill on drums, Gary Fray on acoustic guitar, Lyle Borgar on organ, Joshua Catansariti on clarinet and guitar, and Adam Soergel on guitar.
Music has always been part of Viccari’s life. By age 15, he was playing in Leroy Cortez’s country band at county fairs, including the Stoneboro County Fair, and in bars.
“Once, while we were playing in a bar, I heard some bikers saying that I was a pretty boy. I was 15 and I was scared,” Viccari said.
While Viccari was in high school, he worked summers for his uncle Ron Stiles, a cement contractor and excavator, and when he graduated from Lincoln High School in 1979, he went to work full time. Currently, he owns his own block and concrete business.
“As a child, I watched my dad perform on stage with Dave Mack and the Country Swingers, a band ahead of their time. Twenty years later, my dad watched me on stage,” Viccari said.
His father gave him a bass guitar and a Ray Price tape and told him to learn to play bass because a good bass player who can sing is a great combination.
“I went to my room and played those 13 songs over and over and learned how to play bass,” Viccari said.
He remembers one night when he was living with his grandfather, he answered a knock on the door and there was Steve “Scratch” DeGennaro and Bob Lucarelli in trench coats looking for him.
“I was 16. It was a bit scary. They heard I played bass and invited me to play with the band Capri. I was surprised because I had only been playing bass for a few months,” Viccari said.
For six years he was with the DiBuono brothers’ band Capri, playing at dances and weddings at the Sons of Italy venue. Viccari said they play a variety of music, including Italian music and popular songs.
For about a year, Viccari hit the road with country band Cheyenne, then hit the road with Mason/Dixon.
“We were playing six or seven nights a week, about six hours each night. It got old really fast. Once in Florida, we played 30 nights in a row. The good part is you hone your skills, you learn a lot” he said.
In the Ellwood City area, Viccari played bass and sang with the Clyde Houk band with Bob Stevenson as emcee. They started playing at the Veterans Hospital, then branched out to other venues.
Viccari lives in Ellwood City with his wife, Carolyn, and they have two daughters and five granddaughters.