Gear Community Rallies Around Bob Sweet
BY BRITTANY HOGENDORN
Considering how frenzied online gear forums can become in the
middle of intense gear debates, you’d think such a venue might
be an unlikely place for mobilizing musicians and manufacturers to
work together for a worthy cause. That’s exactly what happened
when word got out that one of their own was suffering from serious health issues. In fact, the collective efforts of these gearheads
are still at work.
by Steve Vai; a Lovepedal 200lbs of Tone pedal; a Teese Picture
Wah, autographed by J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.; a Teese Wizard
Wah, autographed by Moby; a Dunlop Slash Wah, signed by Slash;
a Pro Analog MKIII fuzz, signed by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top; and
an assortment of custom-built pieces designed specifically for the
Bob Sweet Charity.
Bob Sweet is a pedal maker out of southern Florida whose line,
Sweet Sound Electronics, is often noted for its high quality construction and truly sweet sounds. In December, Bob found out that
he had a cancerous tumor in his neck (squamous cell carcinoma).
More items are expected to be posted in the upcoming months,
each listed without shipping fees, which – along with eBay’s posting fees – are being taken care of by Rasch.
Since the start of chemotherapy he has
encountered problems with his back.
Several of his vertebrae have cracked
as a result of calcium depletion. This
has required more surgery and brought
additional debilitating pain, beyond what
was caused by the tumor alone. The back
surgeries forced Bob to put off some of
the chemo treatments and have limited his
ability to make pedals that people continue to order – pedals that he desperately
wants to make.
In addition to the enormous help generated through eBay auctions, the South Florida Blues Society hosted a Bob Sweet
Fundraiser. The Happy Hour Open Mic
Jam at Red’s Club in Fort Lauderdale
featured 2006 International Blues
Competition winner Joey Gilmore and
Premio Estrella Music Latin Rock Award
winner Galo Rivera. Sweet is a member of
the Blues Society, so the event consisted
largely of fellow players, friends and fam-
ily from the region. Bobby Weinberg,
president of the South Florida Blues
Society, put the event together after a
suggestion was made by Bob’s friend,
Jack Carchio. The following morning,
Carchio, on behalf of the Blues Society,
Bob Sweet jamming at a show in 2005. handed Bob an envelope containing cash
and checks totaling $1000.
In an interview with Premier Guitar, Bob
described the pain, saying that at times
he cannot even write an email without pain
shooting up his back and forcing him back to his bed – a reclining
chair that keeps his back at the correct angle.
Besides being an emotionally and physically draining experience,
the actual cost of fighting the cancer is staggering – chemotherapy
costs up to $3500 a week. Being a boutique pedal builder and
musician usually means having no health insurance and Bob’s situation is no different. However, Bob is not fighting alone, thanks to a
charity started by Musictoyz.com Owner/Administrator, Ted Rasch,
and user Paul DiBenedetto.
Bob’s response to the help is fairly typical for someone in his
position – he has no words. Sweet told Premier Guitar, “I cannot
find the words that will relay the extent of my feelings of what
the online community is doing for me. From manufacturers, dealers, rockstars, musicians to non-musicians and just plain old good
folks from Norway to Singapore, Japan to Germany and of course
across the United States – I don’t know what to do to thank people. It can really change you. I really look at things differently.”
Since the public announcement of Bob’s situation on forums like
forums.musictoyz.com and thegearpage.net, both noteworthy and
lesser-known gear makers and musicians, most of whom compete
with or have never met Sweet, are pooling resources in an effort to
raise money for the electronics maker. Fundraising methods have
included community-based fundraisers, direct donations to Sweet’s
PayPal account, forum-based auctions and eBay auctions.
The wealth of items contributed to eBay auctions for the self-described “old musician making pedals” should restore anyone’s
faith in humanity. With the help of manufacturers like Dunlop and
Lovepedal, and musicians like Slash, Steve Vai and Steve Stevens,
the call to action started resonating quickly. Gear already auctioned includes an Ibanez Jemini Distortion Proto-Type #2, signed
As for Bob’s condition, the tumor is responding well to the chemo
treatments. He is in his third round of chemotherapy (once a week
for about eight hours) and radiation treatments ( 39-40 treatments
five days a week) started in February.
Want to help? According to Rasch and DiBenedetto, the best way
is to contribute any amount to Bob’s PayPal account (b0bsweet@
bellsouth.net – with a zero). Otherwise, go to Sweet Sound
Electronics to see what Bob makes, keep a lookout on eBay for
Bob Sweet-related items or visit the forums at Musictoyz, The Gear
Page and Plexi Palace.
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