Cincinnati Musicians Remember Bob Nave, Veteran Rock/Blues Organist and Local DJ

A member of bands like The Lemon Pipers and Blues Merchants and onetime Jazz DJ on WVXU, Nave reportedly died on Jan. 28.

click to enlarge Bob Nave - Photo:
Bob Nave

WVXU's reported yesterday that longtime Southwestern Ohio musician Bob Nave has died. He was 75.

A Hammond organ specialist inspired by the likes of Ray Charles, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and Groove Holmes, Nave began playing in R&B cover bands in the 1960s. In 1965, when he was a student at Miami University, he became a member of the Oxford, Ohio band Tony and the Bandits, which morphed into The Lemon Pipers.

As part of a record contract, the group was instructed to record a "Bubblegum Pop" song outside of their usual rootsier Rock style. Written by Paul Leka and Shelley Pinz, that song — "Green Tambourine" — would go all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard and Cashbox charts in early 1968.

The label pressured the Pipers to stick to the poppier sound, which Nave and the other musicians were not hip to. Nave would later say the band was "ruined by commercial success." The Lemon Pipers broke up in 1969.

Nave continued to play with various bands (including Starstruck and The Crystal River Band) until largely retiring from music by the early ’80s. He dusted off his Hammond organ in the mid-’00s to help form the R&B/Blues group The Blues Merchants, which performed regularly in clubs around Greater Cincinnati and released a pair of albums, including Tattooed with the Blues in 2012, when local vocalist Amy McFarland fronted the band. That album included just one cover — the Merchants' updated take on "Green Tambourine." Nave took over on lead vocals for the album's tracks "Why, Why, Why" and "Ode to Congress."

Nave had a longtime presence on local radio, most notably on WVXU, where he hosted a Jazz program for over 20 years. According to Kiesewetter, Nave's "day job" was serving as an investment counselor at a local bank. Nave was also treasurer for the local nonprofit Play It Forward, which helps area musicians during times of medical and financial strife.

On the website Fandalism, Nave once responded to several questions about his musical life. In response to the query, "If you could jam with anyone, who would it be?," Nave recalled one of his favorite musical memories involving one of his music heroes, Southeastern, Indiana-born guitar legend Lonnie Mack.

"I have always wanted to play in Lonnie Mack's band. Several years ago I had the opportunity to play with Lonnie for a couple of nights. It took 3 days to get the smile off my face," Nave wrote. "I know Lonnie's music and feel like I know how to play organ behind him. I loved playing with his piano player, the late Dumpy Rice. Dumpy & I knew how to compliment one another without getting in each other's way and yet lay down the carpet for Lonnie to play over."

Since news of Nave's death began to spread, there has been an outpouring of grief, remembrances and tributes on social media from his fellow musicians and friends.

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