His gift is his mu­sic

Bob Hart’s 10-year gig brings joy to lo­cal se­niors

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - BY BAR­BARA DEAN-SIM­MONS

Bob Hart didn’t have the best of years in 2016.

He’s suf­fered two heart at­tacks, and this sum­mer he lost his wife, Dot, to cancer.

They would have cel­e­brated their 55th wed­ding an­niver­sary a week be­fore Christ­mas.

Three years be­fore that, he bat­tled cancer him­self.

So you’d for­give him if he’d cho­sen to crawl away some­where to hide and lick his wounds; to heal from the beat­ing life dished out to him this past year.

There­fore, you might be in­spired to know that the 74-yearold with the ready smile is de­ter­mine to plug away, a day at a time, and con­tinue his weekly rou­tine of giv­ing of his tal­ent to make life more en­joy­able for oth­ers.

Every Wed­nes­day night and Sun­day night you’ll find Bob do­ing what he’s been do­ing for the last 10 years, play­ing his gui­tar and en­ter­tain­ing the folks at Mi­raquinn Hill­top Manor in Hick­man’s Har­bour, the place that is home to a cou­ple dozen se­niors.

Play­ing the en­ter­tainer comes nat­u­rally to him.

In fact, he’s a bit of a lo­cal mu­sic leg­end.

For more than 20 years Heart head­lined the coun­try-mu­sic band The Coun­try Trio, play­ing the clubs and bars from Ran­dom Is­land to Clarenville and Bon­av­ista and pretty well every place in between.

If they were in the lineup on a Satur­day night, you could be sure the place would be jammed­packed with peo­ple look­ing for a week­end break with some coun­try mu­sic and a few beers.

Bob Hart and the Coun­try Trio even made head­lines in 1977 when they went to Nashville to cut a record.

Copies of that vinyl LP are prob­a­bly still stashed away and played on vin­tage turnta­bles in the liv­ing rooms of their staunch­est fans.

Bob ditched the mu­sic scene in 1985, opt­ing for a job with the prov­ince’s pub­lic works depart­ment.

“When I got a job with the government I had to make a choice, I had to get give up the band,” he said in an in­ter­view af­ter a re­cent Wed­nes­day night show at Mi­raquinn.

Still he didn’t walk com­pletely away from mu­sic.

“I’d get calls from time to time to play at wed­dings, or fu­ner­als. And I never said no to one of them,” he said.

These days, though, his favourite gig is en­ter­tain­ing for the se­niors home at Hick­man’s Har­bour.

The weekly shows came about al­most by ac­ci­dent. His wife’s mother was liv­ing at the home a few years back and when he went to visit he would al­ways play for her a few tunes on the gui­tar.

When Kim and Chris Hans­ford bought the home they asked if he might be in­ter­ested in play­ing reg­u­larly for the res­i­dents.

Once again Bob found him­self be­hind the mi­cro­phone.

With a reper­toire of about 300 songs that he can re­mem­ber off the top of his head — from Ge­orge Jones bal­lads to Stompin’ Tom Connors po­etry — and a few new gospel tunes he’s added to his lineup since, Bob’s has enough mu­sic to pro­vide va­ri­ety for the twice-weekly two-hour shows.

Some­times he plays alone, some­times he has friends like Clarence and Jean Wil­liams join in.

No mat­ter who’s singing along with him, it’s ob­vi­ous that Bob is in his favourite place when he’s strum­ming a gui­tar and en­ter­tain­ing with a song.

And, it seems, there’s not much that will stand in Bob’s way when it comes to mu­sic.

Three years ago he bat­tled cancer, him­self.

It meant 39 chemo­ther­apy treat­ments, which meant a 39day stay at Daf­fodil House, near the Health Sci­ences Cen­tre in St. John’s.

“I stayed there for 39 nights and for 29 nights I played,” he said.

It started with him break­ing out his gui­tar, just for him­self.

Pretty soon he was draw­ing a crowd, with Daf­fodil Place guests sit­ting around to lis­ten to him strum and sing.

There were days he was pretty sick from the treat­ments.

“I had bad night­mares, hard pains in my stom­ach, it was hard stuff,” he says.

But he still man­aged to play the gui­tar.

It’s his own per­sonal medicine that helps him feel bet­ter.

As Bob puts it, when he’s play­ing a gui­tar and singing, “That’s my happy place.”

At the age of 74 his voice is as strong as the days when he played the bars in the 1970s and ‘80s.

And when he breaks into a ren­di­tion of his sig­na­ture song, “I Was 25 Min­utes Too Late,” those who re­call the days he played the bars can imag­ine them­selves back there again.

He picked up the gui­tar early; and taught him­self to strum the tunes just by lis­ten­ing to his fa­ther’s ra­dio, and pick­ing on his fa­ther’s gui­tar.

“The first tune I learned was Wild­wood Flower,” he says. “I only knew a cou­ple of lines at first, but I played it over and over un­til I knew all of it.

“And then I learned the rest of the songs that way, one at a time, just play­ing them over and over.”

He’s mod­est about his tal­ent, though.

“I only know about three chords,” he laughs.

It ap­pears that’s all you need, though, to bring joy to oth­ers.

It’s pretty clear, every Wed­nes­day and Satur­day night that the crowd at Mi­raquinn love to see Bob show up. And many lo­cal res­i­dents plan their vis­its to the home for the same nights.

On spe­cial oc­ca­sions, like Christ­mas and birthdays, the liv­ing room in the se­niors home is filled with peo­ple lis­ten­ing to Bob sing.

“I’m ad­dicted to it; it’s in my blood,” he says of his singing.

And know­ing that he’s mak­ing oth­ers happy just by do­ing that also makes him happy.

As he rounded out a Wed­nes­day night per­for­mance last week, Bob summed it up this way, “Thanks folks. I hope you en­joyed the show and I’ll be back here to play for you again as long as I still got fin­gers.

“Be­cause if I couldn’t play the gui­tar and sing, I don’t know what I’d do.”

To see a video of Bob Hart, visit www. thep­acket. ca and click on the link to this story.

BAR­BARA DEAN-SIM­MONS/TC ME­DIA

Bob Hart of Lady Cove, Ran­dom Is­land, has been en­ter­tain­ing folks with his gui­tar and voice for over 30 years.

BAR­BARA DEAN-SIM­MONS/TC ME­DIA

Bob Hart is a bit of a lo­cal mu­sic leg­end, hav­ing head­lined the Coun­try Trio band for over two decades. His voice re­mains strong and his reper­toire in­cludes ev­ery­thing from Ge­orge Jones bal­lads to Stompin’ Tom mu­sic.

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