Mayor of Bluesville

Doug Hart Band blueses Trolley Stop


Doug Hart controlling his stratocaster

By Tim Smith

I’m continually amazed at the wealth of musical talent in the Dayton area. Some bands have a solid local following, but many have found fame outside of their comfort zone. One such example is the Doug Hart Band. They’ll be appearing at The Trolley Stop on Feb. 23.

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter, Doug Hart, has been entertaining Dayton area audiences for nearly twenty years. He and his band mix original material with favorite blues and rock standards. Hart notes that it often takes time to get the right combination of musical talent.

“Over the last twenty years, there have been several members come and go,” he says. “Some for long periods and some for short. The current lineup is Marty Romie on bass and Rob Adamson on drums, along with me. We’ve been together since May of 2017. The blues community in our town is like a close-knit family. We all know each other and have shared the stage at some point. I’ve known Marty and Rob for many years.”

The Doug Hart Band has put together an impressive resume of award-winning performances. These include the 2014 International Blues Challenge (semifinalist), 2013 Dayton Blues Society Challenge (winners), 2014 Black Swamp Blues Society Challenge (winners), and several close second finishes in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton challenges. They were voted Dayton’s Best Blues Band three times and are currently working on a follow-up to their 2005 album “Reckless Life.”

“There have been some great memories and highlights,” Hart says. “Getting the opportunity to play at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago, B.B. King’s on Beale St. in Memphis, and some of the big festivals has been amazing. Most recently, getting to put together and play the final show at Gilly’s in Dayton was an honor.”

Although the band plays at a variety of venues and events outside of the area, Hart still regards Dayton as their home base.

“I would say that Dayton’s Oregon District would be considered ground zero, if any,” he says. “There are three venues that I’ve had relationships with for many years—The Trolley Stop, Tumbleweed Connection, and Oregon Express. I consider all three of them home. I think we just love to play, regardless of where. I will say, however, that I look forward to some clubs more than others, but always look forward to playing festivals.”

After working together as a group for so long, the band has their routine pretty well set when they take the stage. Through experience, they also have an idea of what their fans want to hear.

“I mix 8-12 original songs with covers,” Hart says. “We play 30-40 songs at a typical bar gig and 10-15 at a festival or multi-band event. There’s a song from the “Reckless Life” album called “Riverside” that is popular with our audience. We get a lot of requests for The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix. At a bar show, I always have a list of songs at my feet. I just call the songs based on how I feel at the time or what I think the audience will like. When we do festivals, I make a set list. We generally stick to it, but have to add or subtract a song or two based on time constraints.”

Hart seems to have found success and personal satisfaction in a business that’s known for leaving its share of casualties along the side of the road.

“There is a feeling I get from playing music that I don’t get from anything else,” he says. “I fully appreciate that it is a privilege to be able to not only play, but play for money in front of an audience. When I’m on a stage, pouring my heart out and I’m able to connect with an audience, that’s when something special happens. It validates that all the hard work I’ve put into creating something is being accepted by the ones that I’m sharing it with. That’s why we buy thousands of dollars’ worth of gear, drive several miles in a beat-up car to play a show for less than we deserve, get four hours of sleep, go to our day job, and then do it all over again.”

Hart cites several sources that influenced his style, and framed his approach to performing the music he loves.

“When I first started playing, I wanted to be like Eddie Van Halen,” he says. “As I got older, I started listening to different music. I got hooked on Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan changed everything. That’s when I dove into the blues. At the end of the day, I just want my music to reach out and touch people in whatever way they see fit. As long as I can do that on my terms and make a living, then I will consider myself a success.”

Hart and his group hope that their audiences leave with not only an appreciation of the music they’ve heard, but for local talent in general.

“I would just like to urge everyone to support live, local music,” he says. “There is some really good stuff in Dayton, Ohio. There are amazing people making it. Even if you’ve never heard of an act, give it a chance. You might be surprised. I think that experiencing something new is a good thing.”

The Doug Hart Band will perform at The Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St., Dayton on Feb. 23 at 9:30 p.m. For more info, call 937.461.1101 or visit TrolleyStopDayton.com. More information about the Doug Hart Band can be found at DougHartBand.com.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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