After meeting for the first time on Bob Stewart’s front porch, Stewart found himself playing the guitar with his newfound friend, Elliot Abrams, in the same place later that night. The pair continued playing on numerous occasions, and from there, Elliot and Bob formed The Bob Stewart Band.
Bob Stewart discovered his love for music through his connection with his mother while living in Thailand. As he grew older, Stewart started playing the guitar, and learned through his friend’s older brothers.
“As I got a little bit older, I kind of noticed that the guys with guitars were the really popular ones,” Stewart said. “So, I needed to learn how to play guitar.”
Stewart said he grew up in a religious family, going to a church that provided him with opportunities to sing in front of people.
“So, I started playing guitar when I was nine and then just growing up in a church setting, kids have a lot of opportunities to get up and sing in front of people,” Stewart said. “So, we've had a lot of chances to kind of get that public performance part of it which is really pretty addicting when you get that kind of feedback from people.”
When entering college, Stewart decided to pursue a degree in music, with the hopes to write music for movies. However, Stewart quickly learned he was not happy with that path.
“I studied for two years to try to learn how to do that [music], and honestly, it was so technical and it wasn't the way I had music in my life growing up,” Stewart said. “So, I decided to take a break from college. And when I went back to college the next year, I thought I was going to have to finish as a music major. But I took a course just as an elective in communication and I really liked it.”
Following the change from music to journalism, Stewart began grad school at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he received his master's and doctorate. Stewart also began teaching at the University of Washington as a broadcast writing and production instructor.
Stewart came to Athens in 1987 and started teaching broadcast and other media courses at Ohio University. As Stewart progressed through his journalism career, he eventually became the director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in 2010.
After moving to Athens, Stewart began attending open mic nights at Donkey Coffee, an event every Thursday night at a coffee shop on Washington street.
In 2002, Stewart met his now lead guitarist Elliot Abrams, through their children that would play together and attend school together.
“I met Bob about 20 years ago. Our kids were gonna get together and play so I walked my boy over to his house … and we just started talking and he's a musician,” Abrams said. “We realized quickly we shared a passion for guitars … We started playing.
“He said 'you want to form a band?' I said, 'of course,’”
- Elliot Abrams
Abrams began his interest in music when he was a child and started playing the drums. When Abrams was 14, he learned how to play the guitar, and has now been playing for 55 years.
“I remember listening to music like everybody else as a child. I just had a good memory for songs and I wanted to play so I played drums when I was a boy,” Abrams said. “But I picked up guitar when I was about 14, it just resonated with me.”
Stewart and Abrams began looking for other members to add to the Bob Stewart Band. Abrams said Stewart did most of the recruiting.
“Bob knows a lot more people than I did,” Abrams said. “We played together for a while just the two of us and then he added Greg.”
Bikowski is the band’s bassist and was the third member added to the band.
“I had a friend that knew … Bob played music and … told Bob that I was a bass player and then before you know it, Bob got in touch with me and we started hanging out and playing some music and that was probably close to 20 years ago,” Bikowski said.
Bikowski was previously a music teacher in Athens before becoming a full-time musician. Outside of the band, he has released five singles.
Similar to Stewart and Abrams, Bikowski developed an interest in music at a young age, and even began performing around nine-years-old.
“I started playing music when I was probably eight or nine years old,” Bikowski said. “[I] started playing guitar and I always played ever since then, I never stopped. So I got started really young and it just always has been there.”
Currently, the band consists of two other members, Ned Ashbaugh and John Ortman.
In 2022, The Bob Stewart Band released their album “Mended Bones,” which consists of 13 original songs composed by various members of the band.
“Me, Bob and Greg each contributed four original songs and that was fun,” Abrams said. “We rehearsed ahead of time, of course quite a bit. So when we got in the studio, we knew what we were doing. It was very efficient.”
Stewart said the name “Mended Bones” comes from the band member and chiropractor, Ned Ashbaugh, whose nickname is Dr. Bones.
When writing his songs, Stewart said he focused on the theme of retirement from his position at Ohio University. However, he said a friend also helped him with the lyrics to his other songs.
“There was a guy in Athens that I met, he came up to my office to meet me, and he wasn't homeless at the time, but he had been homeless at various points in his life,” Stewart said. “But he was a really good writer, and an artist. And he just started emailing me lyrics.”
Following this album, the members of The Bob Stewart Band will be going their separate ways, and said they are not doing any shows or releases for the remainder of their time together.
“I really don't know what we're going to do other than practice, and just have fun, just like people who play golf together or do some activity together just as a social activity,” Stewart said. “That may be all we do from here until everybody goes their way.”