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Music mainstay Charles 'Big Wheelie' Vicario lived to perform

Charles Vicario Jr. 'Big Wheelie,' photographed at the Erie Basin Marina in July 2014.  (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Charles “Big Wheelie” Vicario Jr. had rock ‘n’ roll in his soul.

The leather-clad frontman became a fixture on local stages for nearly 50 years, leading his band “the Hubcaps” through oldies medleys that brought audiences to their feet.

Music kept him young, said Vicario, who was 72 when he announced his retirement in 2019.

Vicario died April 18 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital after battling Covid-19, according to his wife, Candice M. Vicario.

Candice Vicario, who also contracted Covid-19, chronicled her husband’s struggle with the virus in a series of Facebook posts.

“My husband Chuck and I both have Covid-19. I am recovering at home. Chuck is in the hospital and struggling he may be headed for ICU soon,” Vicario’s wife said in post on April 5 that was shared 1,300 times.

In her final post on the day her husband died, Candice Vicario expressed gratitude to healthcare professionals “who took care of him and helped our daughters and I say goodbye via video chat.”

Vicario rallied more than once during his hospital stay, his wife said. He rallied in life also.

In 2012, he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident after the Harley-Davidson he was riding collided with a van. Unable to perform, Vicario spent two years in rehabilitation that he capped with a song he wrote about his comeback.

Prior to the Hubcaps, Vicario sang in local bands Caesar and the Romans and Friendship Train. He  shared the stage with recording stars including Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison and Little Richard.

In 1985, he was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. His '50s show, along the order of Sha Na Na, spurred a number of albums that led to a national tour.

Vicario and his band were a staple at M&T Bank's Plaza Event summer series and performed at many benefit concerts and entertainment venues throughout Western New York.

In his later years, he worked as a wellness advocate for a local health insurance provider.

Vicario spent his childhood in Riverside and Kenmore, and married the former Candice Martino. They lived in the Town of Tonawanda, have two children and many grandchildren.

Their son Charles Vicario III died at age 34 in August 2007.

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