It’s time to put a few bucks in the tip jar for Bobby Gideons. The beloved entertainer, who has tickled the ivories for Marco-area audiences for decades, is battling ALS, and his friends are rallying to help.
Erin’s Isle restaurant on Collier Blvd. is hosting a benefit show on Wednesday (May 9), to help Gideons and his wife with his medical expenses. The evening will feature an all-star lineup of local and distant musicians, many of whom have shared a stage with Gideons during his long career.
“Don’t wait if you are hoping to be here for the show,” said Erin’s Isle owner Mike Ward. “Tickets are selling out. We’ll seat as many as we can, but I can’t guarantee anyone gets in.”
The Wednesday evening show will feature a special dinner menu, with a flat cost of $35, which includes the meal and the entertainment. Proceeds, said Ward, “go to helping our friend Bobby.”
The cast of musicians who will appear is still being finalized, as players are rearranging their schedules, and coming from as far away as Texas and Arizona. Those scheduled include Bob Leary, who plays regularly with Gideons and has performed for years on Mississippi riverboats, jazz vocalist Jebry, who anchors Jebry’s Jazz Jams, Wes English of the Marco Island Strummers, and Bob McInnes from the New Liberty Jazz Band out of Andover, Mass.
And will the guest of honor take a turn behind the keyboard?
“They told me I wouldn’t have to play,” said Gideons, who performs several nights a week at venues including Erin’s Isle and the Hideaway Country Club, but no one should bet against Gideons contributing a few tunes before the evening is done. Behind the piano, whether at the piano bar at Erin’s Isle, on the jazz festival circuit that he played for many years, or in a Nashville recording studio, is home to Gideons, who has spent his whole life making music.
During his musical travels, Gideons joked, he was responsible for placing Bibles in hotels all over the country.
“Don’t believe it? Just look in the drawer of the bedside table in your hotel room,” he said, and see what you find. “If there’s a Gideon Bible, you know I’ve been there.”
Gideons started playing at the Olde Marco Inn for the late Marion Blomeier, in 1973. And while Bobby Gideons played at the piano bar, the man behind the actual bar was Mike Ward.
“We’ve been friends almost 40 years. He’s created a musical family here,” said Ward. “All those years at the Olde Marco Inn, at the Marco Lodge, and here. It’s time for the family to come to his aid.” Gideons owned the Marco Lodge in Goodland, and hosted a Sunday jam session that attracted players including Billy Butterfield, “Wild Bill” Davison and Bob Snyder.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The degenerative motor neuron disease took the life of Bobby Gideons’ oldest brother 25 years ago. Bobby Gideons is the youngest of 9, and at age 77, says he’s had a fabulous life.
“I’d rather not be the guest of honor at a benefit, if I had the choice, but it’s wonderful what people are doing,” he said. His wife, Sharon, is retiring in June from the clerk of courts’ office so she can spend more time with him, said Gideons. The couple have three children, including a Florida Highway Patrol sergeant who lives in Naples.
While they last, tickets for the Wednesday event are available at Erin’s Isle. Those who would like to offer additional help may make out a check to Robert Gideons, and deliver or send it to Erin’s Isle, 6190 Collier Blvd., Naples, Florida 34114, said Mike Ward.
“Bobby has given us all so many years of good music and good times,” said Sue McKenna, sitting at the piano bar at Erin’s Isle as Gideons played, as she has “since the late ’70s. It’s his turn for us to thank him.”