Scott Phaler idolized the Rolling Stones most of his life and until the moment he died.
A longtime musician with popular Tampa Bay bands, Phaler settled into a gig playing Mick Taylor's riffs in A Stones Throw, a tribute act dedicated to the British rock 'n' roll legends.
On Dec. 10, Phaler and his band mates traveled to Orlando's Full Sail studios to record their act on DVD. The 46-year-old guitarist was even allowed to plug into equipment the Stones used during their Florida concerts. During a break, Phaler telephoned a friend, saying it was one of the best gigs of his life.
Phaler wrapped the session, lit a cigarette and suffered a massive heart attack, killing him almost instantly.
Sunday night, Phaler's friends and family will rock Largo's Gasoline Alley Cafe in his memory.
"We all miss him, and we didn't have a service since he was cremated," said his former wife, Bridget Burke. "A party is needed. It's the way he would want to go."
The idea of an ex-wife — now remarried — going to such lengths after divorce may seem strange. But that underestimates the bond forged among musicians on the club circuit. Phaler became close friends with Burke's second husband, George Harris, picking up guitar tips and playing together in Trickshot.
"With bands, it's more of a family than a business," Burke said. "We don't have much money, so we get together and take care of each other when we need to."
Then there was Phaler's devotion to his 14-year-old son, Evan, whom he continued to raise with Burke after their divorce.
"It was a love-hate thing with us at first," she said. "But even being divorced, seeing how he was as a father — you've got to respect that."
Evan is an eighth-grader at Safety Harbor Middle School. Sunday's concert is free but suggests a $5 donation, benefiting the school's music department.
The lineup features several local bands that Phaler performed with through the years: the Greg Billings Band, Trickshot, the Bottom Feeders Beach Band, Soupbone and Ricky Wilcox, formerly of Deloris Telescope.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.