piano picture 1991 by Richard Kilgo / store photo 1990 by Chip Robinson
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Jeff Hart - biography

Short Version - For Press

Guitarist and songwriter for the Americana styled "Brown Mountain Lights", "The Nervous Grooms," the power pop "Frosted Sugar Bombs", "Meltzer-Hart" and his own rock combo "Jeff Hart & The Ruins". He's played bass, guitar and sang with other NC standouts such as the "Two Dollar Pistols", "Chris Stamey's Big Band" and "Robert Kirkland & The Hanks" (following the breakup of "Arrogance"). A 20-year veteran of the NC music scene, primarily in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill clubs. An NC original, he covers the gamut of styles from Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds, Ray Davies to Tom Petty and the Replacements.

Long Version

Jeff Hart has been playing the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina and all points east and west since 1987. Along the way, he has had the privilege to have either shared stages or been on bills with many of his heroes (Roger McGuinn, Dave Davies, Warren Zevon, Robert Earl Keene, Television, Syd Straw, Amy Rigby, Chris Stamey, Robert Kirkland, Phil Lee and Mitch Easter). His first band Kipcho and the Kenyans evolved into The Hanks in late 1987. Influenced by such NC pop-rocking and alt.country pioneers as Hege V (George Hamilton V) and The Woods and with only two opening gigs under their belt, The Hanks quickly emerged as one of the new favorite headliners of the NC music scene. They almost immediately became the touring band for NC indie rock pioneer/legend and Arrogance co-founder Robert Kirkland. The cowpunk Dylan/Band '66 analogy holds well as The Hanks made their mark in only one short year under Kirkland's wing, though they folded in early 1989 under the strain of what some have recalled as "too much too soon".

Jeff recovered enough by the spring of '89 to form the Big-Star and Badfinger-crazed Ragdads. And by the summer, Hanks co-founder Ron Bartholomew and Jeff had healed their wounds and found themselves sharing the stage in this combo as well. But this time, the strain came from other areas of the band and the Ragdads folded after one year. Enter Chip Robinson. A Greensboro area native, Chip had volunteered as sound engineer at some live Ragdad shows in late '89. Jeff had admired his gruff vocal style, stage presence and exhuberant guitar slinging in local combo Bounce the Rubble. By January 1990, Jeff had recruited Robinson and Bounce the Rubble drummer John Flowers into the trio which was soon dubbed "Jeff Hart and the Ruins". Flowers left in '91 and Robinson left in '92 to form the Backsliders, but Flowers reunited with Jeff in the Brown Mountain Lights and Panther Branch Boys in 2001. At this stage, Jeff pretty much resigned the Ruins to being a solo project and had many other combinations and fine rhythm sections contribute over the next 8 years (including Ron Bartholomew's then teenage brother Dave, Steve Webster, Danny Kurtz, John Howie, Gary Owen, Jerry Kee, Bob Ricker, Paul Samosky, Thomas Wilson, Chris Stephens, Don Bailey and Pat Buskill). A stable lineup of Bryan Sodemann (drums), Glenn Jones (bass), Brian Yamamoto (guitar) emerged in '94 and remained intact for the next four years. Yamamoto's childhood friend Steve Hisada took over from Glenn Jones in '97. Eric Midkiff also handled guitar briefly in '96 while Hart moved to bass, later sharing those duties with Hisada. Alas, the Ruins disbanded in July '98 after a fond farewell gig at favorite haunt, Chapel Hill's Cave (ed. The Ruins regrouped in '03 and are still active).

Through it all, Jeff did find time to record and release two cd's. The debut was the acclaimed "The Singles 1961 - 1990" (Spectator Magazine's Readers' Poll "Best Recording by a Local Band" in '91). An EP cassette only release "Love You Long Time" followed in '93. The 2nd cd was "Glances From a Nervous Groom" in '96. You may read the REVIEWS and ORDER either cd from these links.

Jeff also played supporting roles in some other bands during the Ruins tenure. dB's founder Chris Stamey recruited Jeff for guitar and vocals and part-time Ruins drummer John Howie for what became "Chris Stamey's Big Band" in '93 and '94. Jeff was also hired on as a bassist in Howie's Two Dollar Pistols in mid '97 and for their two week tour later that year. Also in Chris' Big Band were Joe Caparo, Mitch Easter, and Brent Lambert. Jeff later played acoustic duos and trios with Chris. By late '94, Jeff and Chris Stamey co-founded the NC Songwriters Alliance with studio owner Wes Lachot. Several well known regional, national and local songwriters graced the stages in Chapel Hill, Cary and Raleigh where these songwriter showcases were presented. Later, Holden Richards and Brad Newell became co-hosts of this long running successful series.

In recent years, Jeff took time off from music ('99 and '00) and only emerged with occasional shows with his Kinks tribute band "The Dedicated Followers" and with part time band The Panther Branch Boys and their good natured 50's and 60's country music classics. By 2001, Jeff felt the need to give his new original songs a spin when he and Janet Place teamed up and formed The Brown Mountain Lights. They recruited Panther Branch Boys guitarist Greg Bower and performed their first club show in May 2001 at a sold out Carrboro Artscenter stage in front of their heroes Buddy and Julie Miller. Former Two Dollar Pistols and Gladhands bassist Pat McGraw joined a couple of months later along with former Ruin drummer John Flowers to complete the band. By 2004, former Hanks bassist Steve Webster joined up and Ruins Bryan Sodemann took over on drums around the same time they added fiddle player Miner Gleason. They disbanded in early 2007.

Some side projects have grown into busier endeavors with Amps Do Furnish A Room (Television Marquee moon covers), Young Neil & The Damage Done (Neil Young tribute) and The KinKsmen (you guessed it, the Kinks) with Jeff handling the lead vocals and guitar for each.