Bob Drozd, who grew up in New Jersey, "called himself a banjo heretic," friend Spike Jones said.
By Ernie Suggs
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Having grown up in Bayonne, N.J. -- a quick ferry ride away from New York City -- it seems unlikely that Bob Drozd would land the nickname “Banjo Bob.”
But perception never bothered Mr. Drozd, especially when it was good-natured.
“In New Jersey, he took a lot of abuse from being a banjo player,” his wife, Karen Mack Drozd, said. “But when we moved here, he found a willing audience. People liked the banjo. People wanted to hear the banjo. Bob always marched to a different drummer.”
Or strummed to the strings of a different banjo.
With his banjo nearby, Mr. Drozd died suddenly Monday of a heart attack at his Kennesaw home. He was 58.
A memorial service was held Wednesday at Winkenhofer Pine Ridge Funeral Home in Kennesaw. The funeral will be held Saturday in Bayonne.
Mr. Drozd was born Dec. 12, 1953, to Dora and Frank Drozd, who worked in a sewing machine factory. An only child, Mr. Drozd was a graduate of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School and Bayonne High School.
He followed his education across the New York Harbor to attend the Germain School of Photography in Manhattan and then made his way as a photographer, working at several shops and studios in Bayonne. He eventually opened a legal photography business and worked as a photographer for the Bayonne Review and Bayonne Times.
“When you are a photographer, you have to do it all,” Mrs. Drozd said. “He was very creative.”
On Oct. 13, 1990, he married Karen Ann Mack in Bayonne. They had known each other for seven years, meeting at Becker's Bar & Grill, a popular spot in Bayonne.
The couple briefly moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1998, and then back to New Jersey in 2001. They closed on their home on Sept. 11, 2001.
“People were asking us if we were sure we wanted to go back,” Mrs. Drozd said.
They later moved to Kennesaw in 2006, when Mr. Drozd retired and became more involved with his banjo.
His wife said Mr. Drozd purchased his first banjo in the early 1990s in Gainesville, Fla., and taught himself how to play. Mrs. Drozd said her husband had as many as five banjos around the house, including the first and an antique.
“There was something about it that released him,” she said. “He expressed himself through it. The banjo was his life and he played it every morning. He was also creating his own song book.”
Mrs. Drozd said her husband played all sorts of music, including country, bluegrass, blues, folk and, on occasion, rock. He occasionally played with a band called Angel Trip and would perform at local restaurants and pubs.
“He would even play the Grateful Dead,” Mrs. Drozd said. “And he loved old-timey music. He had a lot of books and collected every type of music. I would call him a musicologist.”
Neighbor John Amos "Spike" Jones, a former NFL punter, said he had been playing the banjo on and off for 30 years until Mr. Drozd moved in next door and encouraged him to pick it up again. The two played in their garages about twice a week.
"He was a great friend and he called himself a banjo heretic," said Mr. Jones, who also punted for the University of Georgia in the late 1960s. "He played a different style. It wasn't ‘frailing' or 3-finger picking. It was his own style, kind of in between the two. He could play it quite well and had a great voice."
Aside from his wife, Mr. Drozd is survived by two daughters, Colleen Vidal of Parsippany, N.J., and Courtney Drozd of Kennesaw. He is also survived by two granddaughters, Lilianna Vidal of Parsippany and Daviana Jones in Kennesaw.
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