Rainer was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 1996 and suffered a seizure several months later while Gelb was on tour in Europe.
Gelb flew home to Tucson and, alongside Rainer's wife, told his friend that the cancer was going to kill him — "the most difficult thing I ever had to do." His cluttered backyard displays bird cages of every variety, a basketball hoop and building materials from bricks to pipes from a delayed extension to his house that has been hung up by city bureaucracy.
It's with this slow, gruff, off-kilter enunciation that he plays philosopher and poet.
She enjoyed some commercial success in the '80s, when she was briefly a member of the Go-Go's. Their daughter, Patsy Gelb, now 20, sings on some of her father's records, and so does Gelb's current wife, Sofie Albertsen Gelb. "He definitely has an unusual approach," Sofie says.
She's a jewelry maker whose work can be found at The Jewel Smithery, 299 S. Gelb teaches his children to live in the moment and enjoys drawing and playing basketball with them. The German-born Ptacek moved to Tucson from Chicago, where he was exposed to the blues, a genre he would innovate and perform to great acclaim.
He was an hour and a half late to a recent recording session with local musician and engineer Nick Luca, another former member of Giant Sand.
Luca, who has been recording with Gelb since around 1995, promptly shrugged off the lateness: That's just Howe being Howe.
Gelb says for every "official release," he creates three side projects for OW OM.
He'll tour and do press for an official release, but not for the side projects, which sell up to 10,000 copies worldwide per year.Nearly 25 years after the first Giant Sand album was released, Gelb is constantly working.He'll release his third instrumental piano album next month."He's one of our treasures in town." Sitting in his '65 Barracuda in his dirt driveway after shopping for vintage vinyl, Gelb says he was inspired to pick up a guitar from watching a '60s TV program, "The King Family Show." As a child, he was mesmerized by the musical variety show featuring the King Sisters and their extended family of musicians.But his view on family life changed shortly after he met his first wife, a bassist named Paula Jean Brown.Happenstance is when a child appears when you weren't prepared.