His gift is his music
Bob Hart’s 10-year gig brings joy to local seniors
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.
Bob Hart of Lady Cove, Random Island, has been entertaining folks with his guitar and voice for over 30 years.
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.