Dr. Bob Band turns a ruby shade of 40
Milestone celebrated with two Park City concerts
Dr. Bob Band 40th anniversary concerts
- When: 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6
- Where: Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater
- When: 2:15 p.m., on Sunday, July 24
- Where: Park Silly Sunday Market
- Cost: Free
- Web: drbobjdh.com
If the traditional 40th-anniversary jewel is a ruby, then 2022 will be a gem of a year for the Dr. Bob Band.
The group, founded in 1982 by Jeffrey Howrey and Bets Conner Pott, will celebrate its four decades of rock ‘n’ roll with upcoming concerts — Mountain Town Music’s Grand Valley Bank Community concert on July 6 at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater and July 24 at the Park Silly Sunday Market.
Howrey’s road to forming the Dr. Bob Band started when he was 9 and saw the Beatles on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964.
“I started playing the guitar (while) living with my family in Mt. Vernon, Illinois,” he said. “Shortly thereafter, I started taking lessons from a guy named Brad Flota, who went on to play in the internationally famous prog rock band Head East.
Howrey’s family moved to Springfield, Illinois, in 1969, and that’s the year he played his first paying gig.
“I have played 2,500 shows since,” he said.
Howrey moved to Salt Lake City in 1975 to attend the University of Utah after completing two years at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
During his time at the U., Howrey became editor-in-chief of the Daily Utah Chronicle, the college newspaper, and formed the Barney Fife Band.
Barney Fife was the first time Dr. Bob founding bassist Betsy Conner Pott saw Howrey play.
Pott was in a rival folk group called the Dry Creek Trio with a singer named Kevin Murphy, who went on to write for and star in “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
“Everyone went to see Jeff’s band because it was a spectacle,” she said. “The band really knew how to throw a fun party, and that’s how Jeff and I met.”
Thanks to his experience as the Chronicle’s editor-in-chief, Howrey won a contest in 1979 and landed an editing gig for Rolling Stone magazine in New York City.
“Jeff called me and said he was going to move his band to New York to make a record,” Pott said. “He asked if I wanted to come sing some backups. And if I did, I should be at his house at 1 p.m. on Aug. 10.”
At that time, Howrey had renamed the band the Utah Zoomers, and Pott was working at a Girl Scout camp called Camp Cloud Rim while living in a tent near the top of Guardsman Pass.
“There was nothing I liked more than singing harmonies, and I had two months to think about it,” she said. “I remember thinking that I didn’t want to regret anything, so I threw all caution to the wind, dropped out of college, and went to New York.”
The plan was to play at bars and private parties in New York and on the Jersey Shore while Howrey worked at Rolling Stone, but things didn’t go as planned.
“In 1982 Bets and I moved to Park City and started Dr. Bob,” Howrey said. “That was 40 years ago, (and) Dr. Bob has been headquartered in Park City ever since.”
Since then, the band, which has gone through different lineups, has performed around the greater Park City, the Park City Kimball Arts Festival and the Utah Arts Festival.
Howrey and his band have also opened up for such acts as the Doobie Brothers, the Ramones, the Romantics and Huey Lewis and the News.
Pott remembers the 1991 Doobie Brothers gig at ParkWest, now known as Canyons Village, as if it were yesterday.
The Dr. Bob Band had booked a gig at a local restaurant called Cisero’s the same night and took a call from J.C. McNeil, the founder of United Concerts, the Utah-based concert promoter that booked the Doobies, Pott said.
“He asked if we wanted to open the show, and my response was, ‘Who the hell is this?’ because I didn’t believe it was him,” she said with a laugh.
But it was McNeil, and he was referred to the Dr. Bob Band because it played original music.
Two days later, Pott and the band took the long stroll from the back of the stage to the microphone and played to a standing ovation.
“It was surreal walking onto the stage,” she said. “There were probably 12,000 people in the audience all wondering who we were and why we were there.”
True to form, Howrey led the band through a high-energy set and won the crowd over.
“Jeff did crazy solo during our song ‘Mojo Mama’ and he got a standing ovation,” Pott said. “In fact, we all got a standing ovation that night and then played a sold-out show at Cisero’s.”
Howrey and Pott were Dr. Bob Band’s basic core members until 1998, when Pott moved to Portland, Oregon. The two were able to recruit a list of Park City’s who’s who of musicians, including Tony Korologos, Todd Mather, Brian Nakagawa, Jen Campbell, Glenn Campbell, Richard Lesh, Tracy Nielsen, Carl Roehmann, Klay Gustin, Marsha Bloom, Rich Wyman, and Kasey Coyle, Elizabeth Hareza, Mark Sullivan and Greg Friedman.
Friedman, one of the band’s 20 drummers, remembers the first time he played with Howrey and Pott.
“It was in 1986, and I had recently quit playing in another group called the Swede Alley Band,” said Friedman, who will play with the band on July 24. “Jeffrey approached me to play a wedding with him and Bets, and I said yes.”
The lineup then included Howrey, Pott, Friedman and saxophonist Todd Mather, according to Friedman.
“Dr. Bob has had a lot of drummers like Spinal Tap, but none of them have gone up in flames,” he said with a laugh. “My stints with Dr. Bob have been periodic, and not continuous. Jeff and Bets were the core and they would recruit musicians. They would ask me to play shows, and if I was available I would play, like a freelancer.”
Both Friedman and Pott are honored to be part of the Dr. Bob Band legacy.
“It reflects on the tenacity of the Dr. Bob musical organization to keep on going through the thick and the thin,” Friedman said. “I’m proud of Jeffrey Howrey for keeping his vision alive, and I’ve been glad to be involved with the Dr. Bob Band over the years. I love rock ‘n’ roll and Dr. Bob plays rock ‘n’ roll.”
While Howrey is enjoying the band’s 40th anniversary, he is already looking toward the future.
“It means there’s only 40 more years to go until I’m 110 years old, and I guarantee everyone that Dr. Bob will definitely retire at our 80th anniversary in 2062, count on it,” he said.
Pott, who unfortunately isn’t able to make the Dr. Bob Band’s July 6 or July 24 gigs, still can’t believe the band has been around in one incarnation or another for 40 years.
“It’s so hard to believe it’s been that long,” she said. “To quote Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead — ‘What a long strange trip it’s been.’”
BalletNext opens the curtain on “Nutcracker’s Greatest Hits,” which features a Park City twist, on Wednesday.
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