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The Bob Harvey Band - A Song by Us

Written by  April 30, 2006

One of the questions we like to ask musicians is, “What CD is in your CD player right now?” The answer to that question, if answered honestly, can sometimes reveal where true passions lie. The CD in my car right now is “Gasoline & Perfume” by the Bob Harvey Band. I first heard Bob play solo four summers ago at a local bike shop anniversary party and have been a loyal fan and follower ever since.

This biker-friendly band, comprised of Bob Harvey (guitar and vocals), Chad Osborne (drums and vocals), and Eric Nettle (bass) has been described as a “Kansas City staple.” Well known throughout the biker community, they are billed as a classic rock band, but their music spans several genres including not only classic rock, but also blues, new rock, and even occasionally a little bit of bluegrass when Bob picks up his mandolin or harmonica. But perhaps the most impressive feature of a Bob Harvey performance, in my opinion, is when Bob says, “Now we’re gonna play a song by us.”

“A song by us” is a song written by Bob. He is not only a talented singer, guitarist, and entertainer; he is also a gifted writer. Many of the tunes most often requested by his faithful audience are Bob’s originals. The band has recorded four CDs including “Enjoy the Ride,” “Gasoline & Perfume,” “Bridget’s Birthday” and “Some Cat.” The majority of songs on each CD are originals, and some of the songs on “Gasoline & Perfume” were even recorded at a local venue, the Liberty Landing in Liberty, Missouri. My favorite CD, the one that will soon need to be replaced because I’ve worn it out, is “Gasoline & Perfume.” It contains a song recognized by any Bob Harvey fan and requested at every performance (many times by me), “Cowboy Dreams.” It also contains my personal favorite, “Carry Me Across,” a song I find moving and inspirational. “Bridget’s Birthday” contains a song by the same name which, according to the CD jacket, Bob wrote for his wife Bridget on her birthday. He describes this collection as “an unworthy attempt at honoring her sacrifice.” “Some Cat” also contains several audience favorites including “Prettiest Girl in the Bar.” The fourth CD, “Enjoy the Ride,” is no longer in distribution, so if you have a copy, hang on tight. His songs reflect a grassroots musical upbringing, the influences of his youth, and they range from raw, melodic ballads, to hard-driving classic rock; a few are a testimony to his blues and bluegrass background (see interview below).

His voice and the band’s sound replicate a wide range of artists such Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Bob Seger, and their play list includes “anything the audience wants to hear.” They can be found playing at locations throughout the greater Kansas City area and are scheduled to play at events this summer and fall including the End of the Trail Rally in Platte City, the Platte County Fair and the Smithville Chamber of Commerce Octoberfest. Bob plays solo every Wednesday night at the River Market Brewing Company’s Bike Night from 6-9 p.m. To see the band’s monthly schedule or to be added to the mailing list, go to www.bobharvey.com . CDs are also available online.

We took advantage of one of the first hot, summer-like April Friday evenings recently and rode down to the River Market Brewing Company to listen to the band, shoot some photos, and ask a few questions.

CC: Tell us about your musical background, i.e., how long have you been playing, have you had formal training, how did you get started in performing, when did you start writing music?
Bob: I’ve been playing for a million years, it seems. I started out just as a teenager wanting to play local gigs, and from there, everybody wanted you to be in a band. As far as formal training goes, I’m second generation. My dad plays.

CC: Are you self-taught?
Bob: For all intents and purposes. I took guitar lessons for about six months from a guy that wanted to teach me jazz and I wanted to learn bluegrass. This was when I was like 11 years old. Actually, I wanted to go ride my mini bike.

CC: What was the instrument you learned on?
Bob: Guitar. We always had instruments laying around the house. We either had a guitar or a harmonica or a piano. My mom played piano. Pretty much whatever was laying around, I picked up and made noise with it.

CC: Who are your musical influences?
Bob: The very earliest was Elvis, just like everybody else. Surprisingly, not the Beatles. At the time where everybody was listening to the psychedelic stuff, I was listening to a lot of roots rock because Dad was also a DJ and he also had a lot of old 78s when he was a disk jockey in the South before there was such a thing called rock-n-roll.

CC: Where in the South?
Bob: Magnolia, Arkansas. Actually he is from Helena, Arkansas. Helena of course, for anybody that knows anything about anything, is right across the river from the birthplace of the blues. He grew up listening to King Biscuit Flower Hour, and he actually went to radio school in Memphis is 1952, so he pretty much had his finger on the pulse of what was going on. In the late 60s he was a college student, and we were still listening to Hank Snow, Sam Cook, where everybody else was trying to put flowers in their hair. I grew up on a lot of roots stuff. I’ve listened to a lot of country.

CC: Like Johnny Cash?
Bob: Absolutely. I shook his hand once.

CC: Some of the lyrics of your original songs, especially those on Bridget’s Birthday, are sad, even poignant. Is writing songs your way of working through tough times?
Bob: I don’t know the real answer to that. The best songs are songs that write themselves and you don’t know where they’re coming from, so maybe there is some mystical pain deep inside, I don’t know. I don’t claim to know. I really don’t. If you wake up in the morning and a song is there and it rolls off the tongue easy and it has a good feel to the music and it writes itself, then you’re home.

CC: Tell us about your motorcycle background. Didn’t you take a long trip last summer?
Bob: Motorcycles? They’re dangerous!! I’m scared of motorcycles!

CC: OK, now tell the truth.
Bob: We do a couple of long trips a year. I believe in running the wheels off of them.

CC: Aren’t you a motorcycle wrench?
Bob: Well, you know, I don’t sell dreams…I fix motorcycles.

CC: Describe your fans.
Bob: Our fans are demographically I would say anywhere from 20-50 and they’re no nonsense, not a lot of bullshit about them.

CC: Your sons are also talented up-and-coming musicians. Tell us about them. Do you have any plans to add their talents to the band in the future?
Bob: Actually, I have plans to have them mow the yard tomorrow so they better get on it. Actually, they surprise me quite a bit. I’m trying to approach them from kind of an arm’s length because I don’t want them to turn out to be mini-me. If they want to do it, it’s their deal. It will mean more to them. They both have really good voices for kids and so far, they’ve got some pretty mean chops, so I kind of like to keep my eyeball on them from afar.

CC: Have they had formal training, or are you their teacher?
Bob: I just showed them chords and how to get a good tone and that’s about it, and let them run with it. It’s their deal, their baby. If they want to make music, it’s up to them.

CC: Do you have a “favorite” place or event to play in Kansas City? If so, why is it your favorite?
Bob: There’s two or three dozen of those. You were there at the Platte City Rally last year. That just blew me away. And the Platte County Fair is one of those…. And every time we play up at the lake (Outlaw Marina in Smithville). It’s like you flip a coin in there. There’s a good destination gig that we play up in Smithville every fall at the Chamber of Commerce thing.

CC: Do you have plans to record another CD anytime soon?
Bob: Definitely yes but unfortunately, when that will be is rather cloudy.

CC: What are your future hopes, goals and plans for the Bob Harvey Band?
Bob: That’s a very interesting question, because a lot of people seem to think there’s a timeline… like next year I’m going to go to Hollywood, and a week after that I’m going to go to New York and then we’re going to play in….. No, I’m just going to probably play around here and have a good time.

CC: Would you like to expand outside of the Kansas City area or do a tour outside of Kansas City?
Bob: I would do it, but those things are really expensive and somebody else is going to have to cough up the dough. A lot of those road gigs are pretty much, you go on the road, and you don’t make any money, and I’m rather unapologetic about this. I do this for a living. I’m not doing this to stroke my ego. I’ve got a big enough one of those, thank you. It’s unnecessary to go on the road. There are enough fine people right around here. But as a matter of fact, in three weeks we are playing in Ohio, but that’s a solo deal where I used to live, but if somebody coughs up enough bucks I’ll go and play anywhere.

CC: At what events will we find you playing this summer?
Bob: The best way to find out is www.bobharvey.com .

Review and photos by Loney and
Stephanie Wilcoxson