Jeffrey D. Howrey’s Dr. Bob Band has rocked Park City for 35 years
Album features first new songs in 10 years
January 6, 2017
The Dr. Bob Band has been a staple in the Park City music scene.
Led by the sometimes-cantankerous singer and songwriter Jeffrey D. Howrey, the band has entertained its fans with its original blues-based hard rock.
This year, Dr. Bob turns 35 and that is something Howrey never saw coming.
"If you would have told me 35 years ago that we'd be here talking about this band that is still going on, I'd have thought you were crazy," Howrey told The Park Record during an interview with his longtime drummer Greg Friedman at Atticus Coffee and Teahouse. "In fact, I'm sure there are a lot of people from way back who would never had chosen this band to have been around for all of these years."
To celebrate the anniversary, Dr. Bob will perform a string of shows starting with one at 2 pm. on Saturday, Jan. 7, at Canyons Village.
Additional gigs will be held at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, and 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Access Film Music Showcase at The Spur Bar & Grill.
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Surviving more than three decades, let alone one decade is a feat for any band, Howrey said.
"It's been incredible to us because there was never a plan," he said.
Howrey, who had just moved to Park City after spending time as a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, found a ragtag group of music lovers and started rehearsing at an old miners house at 923 Park Ave.
"We were the loudest thing in town, but the old Mayor William 'Bill' P. Sullivan lived a few feet away and put up with it," Howrey said. "Nobody will be ever to do that again, because they'd be shut down after a few hours. In fact, his son played drums with Dr. Bob for a while."
Why did Howrey name the band Dr. Bob? Who knows.
"That's been lost over the years, " Howrey said. "All stories from 35 years are suspect because they are seen through beer goggles. But the bad memories tend to go away and the good memories stay around."
Friedman remembered his first gig with the Dr. Bob Band.
"It was actually a one-off, a wedding at the Elks Lodge in 1986, I believe," he said. "I was in another group called the Swede Alley Band, but had just resigned from the band because I was moving away to start my college career."
Just before Friedman packed to leave, Howrey called and asked him to play the show.
"It's funny because the Swede Alley Band used to have a friendly rivalry with the Dr. Bob Band as we competed for gigs and advertising space," Friedman said.
By advertising, the drummer meant stapling band flyers up all over town.
"I was accused by the Dr. Bob Band for covering up one of their posters with a Swede Alley Band poster," he said with a smile. "As a retaliation, Swede Alley itself got plastered with Dr. Bob posters one year."
Still, Friedman played the wedding show and left town for a while.
"Every time I came back, I would play with the Dr. Bob Band with bassist and vocalist Bets Conner-Pott," Friedman said. "We were a power trio and we played hard rock 'n' roll at places like the Alamo, Mojo's and Cisero's."
The Park City music scene has changed over the years and that, Friedman said, is due to the changing demographics of the town.
"The type of audience has shifted from ski bums living paycheck to paycheck to well-to-do ski bums who have other means," he said. "I've noticed the change of the type of music local venues want to offer. And, over the years, I have seen a change of the venues that even want to showcase live music."
In the 1990s, DJs came on the scene.
"A lot of venues stopped booking bands," Friedman said. "It seemed more financially sound to pay one person, rather than pay a group of three to six people.
"Live musicians have found that disconcerting and worrisome because we like to perform and enjoy getting paid to perform, which offset the costs of moving and setting up equipment and rehearsal time," he said.
Park City is in the middle of another musical shift.
"There are more live music venues that seem to be popping up and that's a nice cycle to be in," Friedman said. "With the advent of more venues, thanks in the beginning to Randy Barton and Mountain Town Stages, which is now Mountain Town Music, live musicians have outlets to play."
Although Friedman and Howrey have had their spats throughout the years, the drummer admires Howrey's songwriting.
"Another music colleague of ours, 'Chicago' Mike Beck, who used to live here in Park City, called Jeff the Woody Guthrie of Park City," Friedman said. "Jeff always was a prolific songwriter. That was something I learned while working on some collaborations with him as well."
Friedman also likes Howrey's keen sense of gathering the right musicians to play his songs.
"As a drummer, although I have played with other musicians, I've enjoyed being involved with Dr. Bob's projects and promoting his songwriting," he said. "There have been a lot of musicians involved in the band throughout the years."
Some local notables include Tony Korologos, Todd Mather, Brian Nakagawa, Jen Campbell, Glenn Campbell, Richard Lesh, Tracy Nielsen, Carl Roehmann, Klay Gustin, Marsha Bloom, Rich Wyman and more recently Kasey Coyle and Elizabeth Hareza.
All who appear on the new Dr. Bob album "Men Are Pigs" that was released in November.
There is a good reason why this marks the first album of original material in 10 years, Howrey said.
"Back in 2005, I was feeling burned out as a songwriter and feared I was going to start repeating myself if I kept cranking out the tunes," he said. "So I put my pen down."
Things changed in January 2015, when Howrey felt the muse hit again.
By August, he had eight songs, and after 14 months and 30 recording sessions, the first few done with producer and engineer Wes Johnson at Archive Studios in Salt Lake City, "Men Are Pigs" was released.
Friedman was part of that process.
"My personal contribution of that album is mainly playing some drums," he said. "I didn't co-write any songs this time, but I did help with a few creative decisions in the studio with the mixing."
While Howrey doesn't know how long Dr. Bob will continue, he is amazed and happy he can still write, record and perform his music.
"I sure appreciate Park City for providing musicians places to play after all of these years," he said.
Dr. Bob Band will kick off its 35th anniversary with a performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7, at Canyons Village. The performances will continue at the Access Film Music Showcase at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, and 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, at The Spur Bar & Grill, 352 Main St. For more information, visit http://www.drbobjdh.com.