Central Texas musicians, fans and family remembered veteran guitarist David Zychek as a talented musician whose love for music was matched only by a generous, open spirit toward others and his love for family.
Zychek, 64, died Thursday morning after a battle with cancer. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home, 6101 Bosque Blvd. with burial at 2 p.m. at Buckholts Cemetery in Buckholts. A memorial service will take place at 6 p.m. at Prospect Hall in Riesel. Both the funeral and memorial will be open to the public. Memorials may be made to Providence Hospice.
Zychek is survived by parents A.W. and Lamerle Zajicek of Buckholts, sons Nathan Zajicek of Temple and Zack Zajicek of McGregor; sister Jennifer Mascorro and her husband Sam of Waco; sister Jana Connolly and her husband Craig of Temple; brother, Scott Zajicek and wife, Lisa, of Lubbock; nieces and nephews.
Born David Bruce Zajicek in Biloxi, Mississippi, he grew up in Buckholts, graduating from Buckholts High School in 1969. Music, particularly rock music, had already become a passion by then, and Zajicek — a surname he would simplify as Zychek for playing purposes — fell under the sway of the Austin music scene that was exploding in the 1970s. He played lead guitar for the Austin band Helix, then Texas and Morpheus Fargo, the latter band moving to Los Angeles to help promote Altec Lansing Audio Products.
Zychek next moved to Denver, Colorado, playing guitar for the regional band Head First, then a new band called Airborne. After Airborne, Zychek then returned to Central Texas where, with longtime friend and guitarist San Davis and drummer Gary Pavlica, he formed the bluesy hard rock trio the Groove Kings, which earned a considerable reputation in the area in the early 1980s. The guitarist formed other bands in the decades that followed, such as the Kangs, Zychek, and in the 1990s, Dead Heart Beating. In between his own bands, he played studio dates with members of the Steve Miller Band and Uriah Heep and for a year toured with Night Ranger.
In 1998, Zychek and partner/drummer Ronny Griffin started Largemouth Recording Studio where many Central Texas bands would produce albums under his engineering guidance, benefiting from his ear for detail and easy friendliness.
Over the years, Zychek’s Christmas shows at Sefcik Hall near Temple became a tradition for rock fans and longtime friends who treated the holiday shows as semi-reunions.
“I can honestly say he was my best friend,” said his 27-year-old son Nathan on Thursday. “He had a knack for making friends. It was so easy for him to befriend people. They’d meet him and walk away feeling like they were best friends.”
His dad’s passion for music rubbed off as well and Nathan recalled he and his brother Zack sitting down to play guitar with their father. “Watching him play all those years, it was hard not to want to learn how to play . . . He was amazingly talented.”
Zychek’s standing and talent made him the first choice of the Waco music video podcast “In The Shedd,” recalled David Griffiths, who runs the podcast with Waco videographer Troy Shaw. Zychek’s playing and stories not only ran their first session to about an hour, but led to a second appearance as a follow-up, he said.
Shaw knew Zychek for more than 20 years, as a fellow musician, subject of music videos and a friend.
“His positivism, great attitude and kindness are what I will always remember . . . He was easy to direct, as he was always up for anything . . . I will miss him dearly.”
For the last five years, Zychek played in the blues/rock/funk band Mojo Assassins with drummer Ronny Griffin and bassist Tony Calhoun, whose growing popularity expanded the band from occasional gigs to regular bookings to a CD and a second recording project underway. Even as he began to have health problems over the last couple of years, Zychek played with the Assassins as long as he could.
In December, Zychek’s sizable circle of musician friends collaborated to hold a fundraising 15-band concert to help defray Zychek’s considerable medical bills, a show headlined by another hard-rocking guitarist, Ted Nugent, who also played a preconcert “campfire” to bring in more donations. True to form, Zychek managed to get onstage for the main event despite his physical weakness and shred guitar like old times with his friends.
Calhoun, who met and prayed with Zychek the day before he died, said he found in Zychek someone who matched him in musical knowledge and expertise, which translated into dynamic playing, risk taking and a great deal of fun.
“It was challenging to think of something new and play it fast enough where he couldn’t hear it,” he recalled. Most of the time, the guitarist caught it.
“We’d look across the stage at each other and give a certain look that meant ‘Someone’s about to go crazy,’ ” Calhoun said. “I’ll tell you, every time we played together, it was like being 18 again.”