Music From The Hart

Logan Ziegler, left, his brother, Aaron, stepfather Buddy Hart and mother Billie Hart practiced different songs from their set list for their band Eighty-Sixt in Dubois on August 17. The band’s name is based on the variety and types of songs they play. “We choose complex songs that most other bands don’t play,” Logan said. “If something is ‘eighty-sixed’ in a diner or restaurant, it means it’s taken off the menu.” Buddy and Billie’s son, Conor, is the band’s drummer.

Story by Candy Neal
Photos by Brittney Lohmiller

Not everybody has the musical ability to sing or play an instrument well.

So when that ability shows itself in everyone in a family, that’s something special.

One can point to talented families like the Jacksons, the Partridge Family and the Osmonds.

Locals who are hip to this region’s music scene know that there is such a family band here: Eighty-Sixt.

Elbert “Buddy” Hart Jr. and his wife Billie make up Eighty-Sixt along with their blended family of sons Logan Ziegler, Aaron Ziegler and Conor Hart. The band has such a huge following that any venue they perform at is usually packed with fans and supporters.

That was evident at the band’s Nov. 11 show at the Gaslight Bar & Grill in Huntingburg. The performance doubled as a Veterans Day fundraiser, something the band does every year.

People reserved tables beforehand. The dance floor stayed packed with people of all ages dancing and singing familiar songs. It was standing room only. And even those who chose to stand on the sides and in the aisles couldn’t help but sway to the familiar tunes like AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and “Jackson” by Johnny and June Carter Cash.

Buddy, left, and, Billie, rehearsed different songs from their set list with their sons at their Dubois home Aug. 17.

“If we’re going to learn the song, we’re going to learn the song,” said drummer Conor Hart. “We’re not going to change the key so somebody has an easier time singing it. We play the song as the song really sounds. We don’t cut corners on that.”

True dedication to the craft is what has kept the family band together for the last three years.

The name Eighty-Sixt is a testament to what the band does.

“It’s a slang term used in the restaurant industry that means taken off the menu,” Buddy explained. “We take pride in doing cover songs that aren’t on other bands’ menus. We really work hard at trying to do songs that other bands are almost afraid to tackle.”

The band performs mostly on weekends and during special events like festivals in the summer. They play mostly classic rock, but also blues and classic country and some metal and pop songs too to add variety.

Buddy has been in bands before since his high school years. The band Eighty-Sixt existed before, with Buddy, Billie and other band members, but the others eventually dropped out. “But we had some shows coming up,” Buddy said. So he and Billie asked their sons to fill in until they could find replacements.

The boys had been playing, though not professionally, since they were children. Each one started young and tried a different instrument before settling on their instrument of choice. Logan started at age 8 and was given the drums at first, but gravitated to the electric guitar by age 14. Aaron started with the electric guitar at age 6, but by age 12 moved to the bass guitar instead. And Conor, who started playing at age 7, tried out the electric guitar before moving to drums.

“We’d been playing since we were little, but it had been a little while since we played together before this,” Conor said.

“But it didn’t matter,” Aaron added. “It was like riding a bike. It all comes back to you when everyone is together.”

In front of family photographs, Aaron practiced Styx’s “Renegade” in the living room of Buddy and Billie’s home in Dubois on Nov. 8. Aaron started playing the guitar when he was 6 years old and now plays bass in the band.

The first gig for the band in its family form was a 2014 benefit to help a woman cover the expenses of her chemotherapy. The band was scheduled to play for only two hours, but when they arrived, “the club owner came up to me and said, ‘Well you guys are a real band,’” Buddy recalled. “He said, ‘You’re a whole band. I was expecting like two people with an acoustic guitar.’ And he offered to pay us to play for another two hours.”

Buddy had to talk to the others about the offer, “because we only had two hours worth of material and we’d only had like three practices.”

The band wanted to try to make it work. So they started listing other songs that they thought they could do.

“We were like, ‘I’ve heard that song. What key is it in? Ok, let’s try that,’” Logan said, “and ‘We used to play that one, I think.’ and ‘You remember how that goes? We’ll touch on it over our break.’”

“That is literally how we pieced together the second two hours of this show,” Buddy said.

Before starting band practice, the Hart family and Megan Dietsch of Newburgh sat down to have dinner together on Sept. 9. The band gathers at Buddy and Billie’s home in Dubois most Wednesday evenings after everyone has completed their workday and can spend anywhere from three to eight hours practicing.

It worked. They performed and had the crowd up and dancing. And the band was paid for the show.

Everyone got serious after that, and started rehearsing two nights a week. Their next show was January 2015 at Summers in Celestine, and that went extremely well. So Buddy and Billie asked the boys if they wanted to stay in Eighty-Sixt permanently. The boys enthusiastically said yes.

“And we’ve been really busy ever since,” Buddy said.

Each member has a day job and their own life activities. Buddy, 53, plays the electric guitar and sings; he works at Ackerman Oil. Billie, 50, does percussion, harmonica and sings; she works as a babysitter. Logan, 27, who plays the electric guitar and sings, lives in Dubois, is a chemistry and biology teacher and is dating his girlfriend, Megan Dietsch from Newburgh.

Aaron, 25, who plays bass guitar, lives at home with his parents and works at Patoka Marina. And Conor, 24, lives in Dubois with his wife Kathi, works at a Monte’s Pizza and is training to become an EMT. Conor is the only one of the sons who is married. Kathi is very supportive; just recently, she bought him a new snare drum for his set.

The boys get together with their parents at their rural Dubois home every Wednesday evening to have dinner and chat about their week so far. After that, each person grabs their instrument, speakers, electrical cords, microphones and other musical gear and head to the family living room.

Soon, the family living room is transformed into a performance studio, where the band will work on their catalog of music. They choose songs that they plan to play that Saturday and the following weekends, some of which are “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult, “Breakdown” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Renegade” by Styx, and “For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Metallica.

Aaron, left,  Buddy and Logan performed the Eagles’ “Hotel California” during the annual Birdseye Town Picnic on Aug. 25. “I beam with pride at what these guys do,” Buddy said of his three sons. “Their work ethic is unbelievably good.” After playing at the picnic for three hours, the band moved their equipment to Garr’s 2.0 to play for an additional three hours.

While Billie and Buddy harmonize on Sammy Hagar’s “Remember the Heroes,” Logan, plays familiar riffs. He comes to the end of his part, and Aaron also stops the bass, which causes everyone to stop playing.

“You stopped too soon,” Aaron says, staring at Logan, who realizes his mistake.

“I…”Logan starts in defense.

“You did that before,” Aaron continues, matter-of-factly.

The youngest brother has to chime in. “Way to go Loggin’,” Conor says, teasing him with a made-up play on Logan’s name.

But Logan doesn’t care. He is already working out in his head how to rectify the problem. He gets himself on track, and Aaron nods in approval and support of his brother.

Eighty-Sixt has performed all over the county and in neighboring counties. This past spring and summer found them at various festivals, bars and events in the county, at the Friday After 5 fest at Owensboro’s riverfront, and at the Lincoln Amphitheatre opening for the Led Zeppelin tribute band ZOSO. Last year, the band opened for the AC/DC tribute band Dirty Deeds and the Marshall Tucker Band at the amphitheater. They’ve also been featured on Louisville TV station WHAS 11 during it’s “Great Day Live!” morning show.

Dietsch, left, danced with Evan Dorsam of Jasper while Tammra Huff of Birdseye and Christina Kitterman of Jasper sang along to Eighty-Sixt’s cover of “Hotel California” at the Gaslight Pizza & Grill on Nov. 11 in Huntingburg. Huff and Kitterman grew up with Buddy and listened to him play in high school.

At the Gaslight, Eighty-Sixt is like a well-oiled machine. The band is feeding off the loud, excited crowd and feeling the vibes of each song, each performer in their own bubble of musical bliss. And yet they are in tune with the others on stage. During their set break, band members go into the audience to chat, get a refreshment and mingle.

“We try to be very social,” Aaron said. “It makes the night more fun.

“And it makes people want to come back and see us again,” Logan added.

The family dynamic helps with the draw, Billie admits. “We’re a family that plays together,” she said. “I mean, we have three 20-something-year-olds who play music with their parents. Who would want to play with their parents?”

The brothers do.

“I mean, we all work so well together” Aaron said. “We know each other.”

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