Bob McPeek dies and founds Mirror Image, Heartwood, Hyde & Zeke

“I’ve been looking for the melody since I started to sing

He hides in the corner of a dream

And if I try to solve its mystery and find its secret source

He slips somewhere behind the scene”

– Bob McPeek’s “Perfect Match”

For Bob McPeek, it was always about plunging headfirst into this “secret source”.

His relentless pursuit of the “mystery” of music led McPeek to play clubs in Ohio, decamp to Gainesville and open a record store, Hyde & Zeke, which became a favorite haunt for musicians and audiophiles.

McPeek went on to found Mirror Image and then Heartwood recording studios. A central figure in the Gainesville music scene for over 40 years, he has worked with some of the area’s top talent: Sister Hazel, Bo Diddley, Less than Jake, River Phoenix and others.

Singer-songwriter and producer Bob McPeek founded Mirror Image Recording Studio and was one of the founding partners of Heartwood Soundstage.

A record store entrepreneur, psychologist, sound engineer, songwriter, poet, musician and – above all – a perfectionist, McPeek died on Saturday after a long illness. He is only four days away from his 71st birthday.

“I am very reassured by the chance to have the love and respect of more people than I could have ever dreamed of,” McPeek wrote in his penultimate Facebook post. “And that late in life I had the opportunity to make music that brought me and others satisfaction.”

To his followers, he added that “you can’t do anything more meaningful to me than taking the time to listen and connect with the songs I’ve written. I hope they survive me.

His work can be viewed online at

David Ottenberg and Bob McPeek perform at the Mirror Image 40th anniversary celebration in Gainesville in 2017.

McPeek helped audiences appreciate the music

McPeek played on the Columbus, Ohio club circuit in the 1970s before moving to Gainesville and starting Hyde & Zeke Records.

“The sign on our door said ‘No shirt, no shoes, no problem.’ Our motto was “Real People in a Plastic Company,” recalls his partner, Ric Kaestner, who played with McPeek in Columbus and then convinced him to move to “this cool college town” called Gainesville.

Even while running Hyde & Zeke, McPeek launched the Mirror Image recording studio, initially out of his garage. When it came time to take it to the next level, McPeek and his partners founded Heartwood Soundstage at his former Mirror Image studio on South Main Street.

McPeek insisted on designing an indoor concert space to exacting acoustical standards.

“People usually only hear live music in local bars or music venues that have terrible acoustics,” he said in a 2018 interview with The Sun. “We wanted to build a place where you can really appreciate the music.”

Bob McPeek was Gainesville’s music man – an accomplished guitarist, prolific songwriter, and friend and mentor to countless artists and performers. His death left a void in the city’s close-knit music community.

Bob McPeek sings an original comedy at

“His songs were our children”

On Sunday, friends and fellow musicians gathered at the Heartwood Soundstage for a celebration of McPeek’s life and music. Hoch Shitama, a longtime friend and business partner, announced that the interior room designed to such meticulous standards would henceforth be known as “Bob McPeek’s Listening Room”.

“I always tell people that the environment at Heartwood is like Austin City Limits, but in a more intimate, acoustically perfect environment,” said Richard Allen, a close friend of McPeek’s since 1977, when they both ran bands. record stores. “The woodwork is magnificent and the acoustics are perfect. Bob insisted on that.

In his final days, McPeek said goodbye to a steady stream of friends and loved ones. When he felt up to it, McPeek would pick up his guitar and play some of his favorite tunes.

“We chose not to have children, so his songs were our children,” said Nancye Henkel, his 38-year-old wife. “Bob had a whole list of unfinished songs, and for a month or two he was trying to figure out which friend each song would be best for. And then he would teach it to them and ask them to finish it.

One day Gainesville musicians Cathy DeWitt and Rob Rothschild, longtime friends of McPeek, came to call us. DeWitt played a song she and her ex-husband, Mike Boulware, had written in honor of McPeek…a song they intended to perform at Heartwood’s celebration of McPeek’s life.

“I started playing and got into a verse, when he said ‘Stop! Stop!'” DeWitt recalled. “I thought he didn’t like it and started telling him I was sorry. But then he said, ‘Press record! We need to tape this.

McPeek’s obsession with performing and recording music to his exact standards has long been a source of jokes with his friends.

“They were laughing at him about it,” his wife said. “He would spend five minutes in front of the audience tuning his guitar after he’d already tuned it backstage.”

Fagan Arouh, Bob McPeek and Dan Tampas perform at Heartwood Soundstage for

“Bob is truly a Renaissance man”

Boulware, who started recording at Mirror Image when it opened, said: “I realized that Bob had heard the song I was doing in a completely different way to mine. He heard the whole song. He often knew more than the artist about what we were really trying to accomplish. He allowed us to make good music.

Gary Gordon was managing Hyde and Zeke when he launched his successful bid for the Gainesville City Commission. Subsequently, after losing his bid for re-election, Gordon credits McPeek for pushing him to return to his musical roots.

“I lost both the election and my marriage. I don’t think I got that low and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next,” Gordon recalled. “Bob said, ‘You have all these songs, why don’t we record a tape?’ If we hadn’t done that, I don’t know if I would have continued to write songs.

Gordon would later leave for Los Angeles to pursue a music career before eventually returning to Gainesville.

Scott Camil is remembered by McPeek for his performances at the annual Veterans For Peace Winter Solstice concerts. And for the song “The Ways of War” which McPeek composed and sang “along with a stellar cast of local musicians”, for a documentary about the events of Camil’s Memorial Mile on Eighth Avenue.

“I visited Bob at the hospice and he thanked me for allowing (him) to play at the ‘Solstice concerts,’ Camil said. “I told him that without him and his fellow musicians, who all gave of their time, we wouldn’t have had the Solstice concerts and we wouldn’t have had the money to do our projects all these years.

“Bob is truly a Renaissance man.” Camilla said.

Bob McPeek wrote a song based on one of his father's World War II poems,

Although best known for his music, McPeek, who majored in psychology at Loyola and Ohio State universities, has had a varied career. Among other positions, he has served as Marketing Director at Mindsolve Technologies, Research Director at the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, and International Director for Sabine Professional Audio.

“He’s so creative that he can look at a dataset in his science world and tell you not just what happened, but what’s going to happen,” Rob Rothschild said. “And he’s also one of the most incredible musicians I know. Its catalog of original music is staggering. His poetry is moving and refined. And his command of the language is incredible.

Although in poor health, McPeek managed to record and release a final CD last March. “Mixing Metaphors” was recorded in collaboration with several performers McPeek had worked with over the years.

“He tried to organize our lives so he could finish his songs, which was manifested in the release of his CD last spring,” said his wife, Nancye. “He called it ‘Mixing Metaphors’ because he loved those double meanings, the ingenuity of cleverly putting words together.”

“Mixing Metaphors,” McPeek wrote, was “the culmination of my 50 years of professional work as a musician, recording studio engineer, producer, and songwriter.

“The experience of a lifetime, most recently two bouts of cancer, gave me a lot to write about,” he continued. “And the pandemic isolation has given me a luxurious time to hone and polish. More than anything, I wanted to create an immersive listening experience.

Dewitt, one of the musicians who collaborated on the CD, calls the album “a treasure chest of original songs.”

“It was his magnum opus,” she said, “He has a lot of great players with him. He honed the songs to polish them.

A cut on the CD, titled “On the Other Side,” “took on a different meaning,” DeWitt mused. “It was originally against the pandemic, but now it feels like his farewell” to all his friends.

Bob McPeek, songwriter and creator of the project

“Looking for a ray of hope in a desperate situation

But I’ll be waiting with both arms wide open

We’ll be stronger, grateful to have survived

When our courage was tested and our tolerances tested

I’ll see you on the other side.

– “The Other Side”, by Bob McPeek

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