Charlie's Beat

Gary Hewitt

Gary Hewitt is a man of many interests and talents. He’s a huge IU basketball fan, and was a standout player himself back when Dupont had a high school. He’s an accomplished musician, starting as a teen when he taught himself guitar, until today some 60 years later, still leading bands and making people dance.

And he’s a true community treasure, the kind of selfless and tireless person every organization needs to keep the wheels turning and the doors open.

I caught up with Gary at the downtown Senior Center, where he’d just opened the doors for anybody who wanted to come in and maybe play some euchre. “I work here three days a week,” Gary told me. “Plus I play a lot of the Senior Dances they have over at the Brown Gym on Fridays.”

But before we got into the music, I couldn’t resist talking basketball with Gary. “I grew up in Dupont, and I could walk to the gym. The janitor would let me in and I would practice shooting, pretty much every spare hour that I wasn’t mowing grass or working on a farm.

“I got where I could hit the basket pretty good. We played all the small high schools back then, most of which are gone now. Lexington, Paris Crossing, Vernon, New Marion and Deputy. Some were so small you could barely maneuver.

“My senior year we drew Madison in the first game of the sectional, playing in their brand new Salm Gym, it would have been 1962. Now the thing you need to know about Madison at that time, they were ranked third in the state, they were undefeated for the season, and they had Mr. Basketball Larry Humes on the team.”

So how’d you do, I asked, expecting some kind of Cinderella “Hoosiers” ending to the tale? “Oh, we got creamed,” Gary said, smiling. “I think we scored first, but not much after that!”

Moving on to Gary’s life in music, he outlined a rich and full career playing bars and social clubs all over the region. “My first band was called the Good Times Band, and we played the old country tunes, Hank and Johnny and Waylon and Merle and the boys.

“Next was Gary Smitha’s band Ramblin’ Fever, then came Rebel and the Hoosier Beats. And then I was in a band with Gary Guarino called Main Street.

“About that time in the late ’80s the Senior Center here in Madison started having dances every Friday. I played there in a band with Charlie Humphrey, Mike Dean, Tommy Day and the McKays from over in Milton. Nerdell Adler and Ann Leland ran the Senior Dance bands in those days.

“Later on I had a band called the Alliance Band with Danny Lang, Fred Scroggins, and Marvin Maxwell. Lee Bartrum, who died just last year, was also in the band, and he was the best steel player I’ve ever seen. It’s really just me and Mike Dean still around from the old days.

“Starting about 2009 the dances moved over to the Brown Gym, and Narci Burress took over managing. We have a bunch of bands coming up in December, so watch the music calendar for updates.

“Mayor Bob Courtney came to one of our dances a few weeks ago, and he couldn’t believe it. He’d never been to one and didn’t know what to expect. What he saw was about 50 people out on the floor, dancing to every single song. Fast dances, slow dances, waltz’s, line dances, you name it.

“We still play a lot of the old country songs, but the clientele these days also want a good mix of classic rock and roll. We play it all and keep it lively. Nothing too heavy, just great dance music that everybody knows and loves.”

HOT TIP OF THE WEEK

The social highlight of this weekend will be the Many Voices concert to benefit the Ohio Theater. It’s all your favorite local artists getting outside their comfort zones! And If you like high quality, original music, you need to keep your eye on Red Bicycle Hall in the coming weeks. There are one or two shows every weekend from now until early December. These concerts could be the perfect fun outing for visiting family and friends during the upcoming holiday season. Info and tickets for all these shows are available right now at RedBicyclHall.com. For those of you who enjoy classical music, the Madison Performing Arts Foundation is sponsoring a free chamber music show this Saturday at Trinity Methodist. Get out and support your favorite style of live music!

Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.

This Week in Music

Friday, November 12

Red Bicycle Hall — Clint Park with Robby Cox

Central Hotel — Memphis Reign

Mad Paddle — Lindsey Flannery

Off-Broadway Taproom — Jordan Wilson Coalition

American Legion — Paradigm (open to public)

Riverboat Inn — Joe & Deano

Saturday, November 13

Fairfield Inn — Many Voices Concert to benefit Ohio Theater

Red Bicycle Hall — Cody Lee Meese & Nolan Taylor

Central Hotel — Crossfire

Mad Paddle — Sandy Pickett

Moose — Rock & Rich Music Show (open to public)

VFW — Keith Swinney Band (open to public)

Trinity Methodist — Classical Chamber Music

Tuesday, November 16

Off-Broadway Taproom — Open Mic Night