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Regional music veterans come together as The Hired Hands Band

The Hired Hands Band of Kalamazoo plays what they describe as “honestly Americana” music. They have three public performances coming up between now and the end of the year.

The first is Friday night at Old Dog Tavern, the second is on December 22 at Bilbo’son Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo, and third is their New Year’s Eve show at Salt of the Earth in Fennville.

The local members of the Hired Hands Band get together to practice about once a week. All are veterans of the regional music scene. Bill Hughes plays bass, Dale Hein is on harmonica and vocals, Tim Cooper is the drummer and Bob Alison sings and plays guitar. Willy T. Rose plays keyboard, but he lives out of the Kalamazoo area, so isn’t always able to attend rehearsal.

Friday night the Hired Hands Band will perform at the Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo. At their last gig there, a few weeks ago, the crowd responded positively to their sound. Dale Hein says there’s nothing as satisfying to him as playing music in front of an audience. All his cares seem to melt away.

“I find performing music, when you’re playing with a band, there’s nothing else on your mind," says Hein. "Everything else is superfluous to what’s happening in the moment. You lose touch with all the stressful things and it’s just the teamwork of the band working together. And, when a song works great and everybody does everything right and it ends perfectly and begins right, it’s the greatest feeling. My gosh, what an accomplishment. It’s the ultimate teamwork.”

Bass player Bill Hughes has been performing for local audiences with numerous bands since the 1970’s. He says music has been a driving force in his life.

“It’s an addiction," Hughes says. "I mean once you really get into the music and feel the music, it’s in your blood, it’s in your head. I’ve joked with my wife, there’s always a tune going on in my head, no matter what else is happening. And, it’s just like breathing. Just like you need oxygen to breathe, you need music to live because it’s such a part of your consciousness.”

For drummer Tim Cooper, playing in the Hired Hands Band is the realization of a dream: 

I’ve got something to prove actually. This is pretty emotional for me, actually. I quit middle school band because of a dispute with my band teacher. I walked out of that band room and it was like I was never going to look back. Cut to my high school years, early adult years, I watched a lot of my friends play in bands and I thought, wow, I never should have quit playing drums. And, so I had a lot of regret. Then, my two kids became wonderful musicians and I watched my oldest son became an fantastic drummer, and again I wondered, why did I give this up? And so I ended up picking up congas and hand percussion and joined a classic rock band and that was great but it wasn’t the whole drum set. So, I’ve had the opportunity to play drums with his band and I’ve been at it for a couple of years. And, at least I can say now that I’ve accomplished that goal.

Bob Alison agrees that making music is addictive and immensely satisfying, but he says it can go even further than that.

“It’s a spiritual thing, it’s moving," says Alison. "Sometimes you have a moment with the guys, even here at practice and you say wow, that was special.”

The Hired Hands Band will play Friday night at the Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo.

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