Rob Derhak has spent more than half his life with the guys in moe. They met more than 30 years ago in college and have been a hard-working, heavy-touring band ever since, playing 200 shows most years.

So, when guitarist Chuck Garvey had a debilitating stroke in November of 2021, Derhak and his bandmates were devastated.

“I feel like we’re closer with each other than we are with our own brothers and sisters,” said Derhak, 54, who lives in Falmouth. “It was scary and a very real sense of loss. Chuck’s prognosis was not good. We thought he might be done.”

Motivated by his desire to play on stage again, Garvey worked tirelessly to regain enough motion to play guitar and to hum, though he still can’t sing. He was able to rejoin the nationally-known jam band on New Year’s Eve in Philadelphia and is now back permanently, playing on the band’s latest tour, which includes two shows in Portland this week, Friday and Saturday at the State Theatre.

Chuck Garvey, left and Rob Derhak, right, on stage during a moe. show. Derhak is a long-time Falmouth resident. Photo by Paul Citone

Garvey’s stroke, suffered at his home, severely hampered his ability to speak or move anything on the right side of his body. He can now speak, albeit slowly, and says he has to think about the words he uses. He can walk and even run a little.

And he can play guitar, though not with the ease he once did.


“I can almost play as well as I did before, but I still have to work at it,” said Garvey, 53, who lives in West Shokan, New York, in the Catskill Mountains. “I have to rehearse a lot. I did this for 30 plus years and it was easy, I didn’t have to think about it. Now I do.”

Garvey said his years as a musician probably helped him in his recovery, especially in speech therapy. He said his musician’s ear helped him to relearn sounds and words. And playing the guitar proved to be good daily therapy for his hands.

For members of moe., Garvey’s stroke was the second time in recent years they had to watch a band member struggle with illness. Derhak had to leave the band for about six months to get radiation for a rare cancer in his upper throat. After working with a vocal therapist and regaining his strength, he rejoined the band. He plays bass, sings and writes songs.

But Derhak said the situation was different then. His prognosis was better, and he was confident early on that he’d be able to rejoin the band. It was a question of when, not if, in his case. But after Garvey’s stroke, the idea of his return seemed much more of a long shot. Derhak came back and was able to play bass and sing lead songs again.

Derhak said the band tried to “play as little as possible” while Garvey was recuperating. They didn’t really want to play without him, but as working musicians who don’t have royalties from radio hits to rely on, they needed to keep working to support their families and keep their health insurance up to date. That was also part of Garvey’s motivation as he worked to recover from his stroke.

“I wanted to be whole again to play and contribute to this band, to help them pay their bills,” said Garvey. “We all need to support each other, and I didn’t want to let my friends down.”


Rob Derhak, left, is clearly happy to have moe. bandmate Chuck Garvey back with the group. Photo by Paul Citone

Derhak was born in Dover-Foxcroft, but his family moved to upstate New York, near Utica, when he was just 2. He met Garvey when they were both students at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo and they quickly became friends. While at SUNY, they also met future moe. guitarist and vocalist Al Schnier. They called themselves Five Guys Named Moe, after a song by rhythm-and-blues bandleader Louis Jordan. Later, they shortened it to just Moe., and then dropped the capital M.

The members of moe. quit their day jobs around 1994 and soon gained a national reputation and a following. They were part of a trend at the time when jam bands were gaining big followings, including Phish, Strangefolk and Blues Traveler. The band signed a recording deal with Sony, and its members have been making a living off of performing ever since. The band members live in various states. Derhak and his family have lived in Falmouth since around 2000.

Besides Derhak, Garvey and Schnier, current members include Vinnie Amico on drums, Jim Loughlin on percussion and Nate Wilson on keyboards.

For now, Garvey is still getting used to the physical endurance needed to play a rock show. And while he’s still working on his speech and his singing, the band is not playing the songs he’d normally sing lead on.

“Playing these shows night after night is a marathon. I’m not coming back from a stroke, but I’m 54 and I get tired,” said Derhak. “The amount of work he put in to be able to play with us again is amazing.”

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