Dave Riccioni goes to the gym regularly where he routinely gets on the treadmill for a good 15 minutes. He’s been doing so with no apparent problem rearing its snaky head.
“The beginning of February, I get on and about a minute and a half later I was totally out of breath,” the 65-year-old guitar player says. “So, that went on for a couple of weeks. I went to my doctor. He sent me to emergency and a pulmonary specialist checked me out.”
Initially they thought it was something with his heart. But no. It was cancer.
Cancer. Until then, he had no symptoms. He never smoked. He always ate reasonably well. This diagnosis came out of left field and floored him.
Stage 4 lung cancer.
Ten to 15 percent of all lung cancers arise in people who are never smokers, making lung cancer in never smokers one of the leading causes of cancer-related death.
“They say it’s more common than you think,” says Riccioni. The irony isn’t lost on him.
“Gimme a stogie and some bad food,” he jokes. And while you’re at it, give the man a guitar.
Dave Riccioni is one of Rochester’s blazing blues guitar heroes. And the cat can sing, too. His rich baritone croons in tandem with his hard-hitting guitar, as he throttles the blonde ES-335 mercilessly from the nut to the stratosphere.
“I started messing around with my grandfather’s guitar when I was about 16-17,” he says. “My father was a drummer and my brother Steve was, too. His band used to rehearse at the house.”
Riccioni’s first band was the Basement Burners. He currently waxes incendiary with Dave Riccioni and the Blue Cats doing tore-up renditions of stuff from Eddie Cochran to the Soul Brother Six.
But he is best known for his work in the 1990s with Marshall James and the Nightstalkers, a rough ’n’ tumble, straight-up blues band that worked out its salaciously soulful blues with a dangerous swagger nightly in every dive and gin joint imaginable in town. But now Riccioni has got a new moniker: Dave Riccone, guitar slinger … and cancer survivor.
“Once I got the news, I got the mindset—I’m religious, I believe in Jesus Christ—I just turned it over to him to get me through this, whatever his will is.” Besides Jesus, he credits his wife, Beverly, who has been there for him, aiding with his recovery, rallying the troops, and getting the word out. As well as the music community, which has shown its love and support in spades.
Fingers crossed, though. Radiation for spots that have popped up in his brain have to be addressed. A CT scan in July will show if there’s any progress. In the meantime, he takes a daily pill in lieu of chemo. And he’s still playing out live. He lives the life he loves and loves the life he lives.
“Yeah,” he says. “I feel great.”
You can catch Dave Riccioni and the Blue Cats Friday, May 28, at M’s 4300 Bar and Grill, 4300 Culver Road, 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Call ahead for reservations, 467-2750. A GoFundMe campaign for Dave’s medical expenses is located here.
Frank De Blase is Rochester Beacon music writer.