Corbin/Hanner sign off with two farewell shows at Jergel's
August 28, 2014 12:00 AM
Bob Corbin and Dave Hanner in the early '80s.
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As it turns out, The Corbin-Hanner Band can't do one "Last Show Ever." There had to be an encore.
The country group, which dates back more than 40 years, will perform its "Last Show Ever" on Friday night at Jergel's, followed by a real last show ever on Sunday, and both are sold out.
The Corbin-Hanner Band
Where: Jergel’s, Marshall.
When: 9 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: Sold out.
The shows will celebrate a successful, hit-filled career that dates back to the late '60s and a friendship that goes back even longer.
Bob Corbin and Dave Hanner grew up in Ford City, Armstrong County, and, taking their inspiration from The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show," started making music together in seventh grade. By 10th grade, they formed a band, The Lost Lambs, that was good enough to be invited to New York by Jubilee Records, known for Chad and Jeremy, to record an album.
"It was just a group we had in high school," Mr. Corbin says. "We were trying to imitate the British Invasion. Anyone who is in a group now, of a certain age, if he says he wasn't [influenced by the Beatles] then he's probably lying."
It was not a big success but enough to inspire them to continue, so after a brief stint at different colleges, they quit and reunited to form the country-rock band Gravel.
"We never thought of us as a country kind of thing," he says. "We played Creedence and the Stones, Neil Young, which to everyone's mind had a country connotation," he says.
Gravel took off once they were booked at the Fox Cafe, a hip club in Shadyside.
"It was really our kicking-off point. All we knew is we had to play six nights a week with eight hours on Saturdays," the singer recalls. "I think on Saturdays we probably did 'Down by the River' by Neil Young like four or five times. We got into some pretty ridiculous jams."
Gravel became a popular draw for fans as well as other musicians.
"Gravel was the first great band I heard when I first moved to Pittsburgh in the early '70s, and I used to go see them a lot on my off nights," says Billy Price.
"They were one of the bands I looked up to in Pittsburgh when The Houserockers were starting out," says Joe Grushecky. "They played and sang great and were playing original songs when it was practically unheard of to do in the clubs here."
The group and its now steady following throughout the region caught the attention of Columbia Records, which released the single "America's Sweetheart" in 1979 as the Corbin-Hanner Band.
"We had what they called a singles deal. They were doing that a lot back then," Mr. Corbin says.
When the singles didn't take off, the pair headed to Nashville to pitch its songs to other artists, starting with Mel Tillis who went Top 10 in 1979 with Mr. Corbin's "Blind in Love."
"We were thrilled," Mr. Corbin says. "It was our first real sense of the big time. The first person we met down there was Mel Tillis, and he had just won Entertainer of the Year that year. When he recorded our songs, I can't even explain how wonderful it was, and it just rolled from there."
Having secured song-publishing contracts, they scored hits with The Oak Ridge Boys, Don Williams, Hank Williams Jr., Alabama and more.
In 1981, the Corbin-Hanner Band released its first of two albums on Alpha Records, "For the Sake of the Song" and "Son of America." Two songs -- "Livin' the Good Life" and "Time Has Treated You Well" -- hit top 20 country and the group toured the country opening for The Oak Ridge Boys, Mel Tillis, Don Williams and others.
But the two considered it a disappointment and decided to go their own ways for a while in 1984.
Mr. Corbin wrote two No. 1 hits for Alabama ("Fire in the Night'' and "Can't Keep a Good Man Down") in 1984 and Mr. Hanner had another Tillis success with "Time Has Treated You Well.''
In 1989, at the behest of Harold Shedd of Mercury Records, they reunited as Corbin/Hanner for "Black and White Photograph" in 1991 and "Just Another Hill" in 1992.
After another hiatus, Corbin/Hanner formed again around 1997 and released three albums on its own label, Lil Red Hen: "Every Stranger Has a Story" (1998), "By Request" (1999) and "Originals" (2000), an offering of 11 of their songs recorded by other artists. In 2008 Corbin/Hanner released "And the Road Went On."
The numbers in all: nine albums total; five Corbin-Hanner Band singles in the Top 30 country chart; eight Top 5 singles for other artists; approximately 150 songs by artists from around the world.
"We never had that real big hit as country artists," Mr. Corbin says. "I'm not sure if people knew quite how to take us. If we had come out now, as we were back then, we probably would have had a better shot at it, because things lean more towards rock 'n' roll now."
The Corbin/Hanner farewell is spawned in part by Mr. Corbin's planned move to either Ecuador or Panama with his wife.
"I've been down there a couple times and really like the atmosphere, the way the people are," he says. "And I can avoid cold winters again."
Bassist Kip Paxton, who started playing with Corbin-Hanner in the late '70s, is coming up from Nashville for the gig.
"I actually owe my Nashville music career to those guys," he says. "When we took a break back in the '80s and they focused more on their writing, they first hooked me up with Mel Tillis. I worked with Mel for almost four years and that spilled over into many other great gigs. But playing with Corbin-Hanner was the highlight, for sure. We had a chemistry that I've never felt with any other artist or band I've worked with."
"I've had the opportunity to become friends with Bob and Dave over the years and work with them in lots of different contexts," Mr. Price says. "They were always such soulful singers and great songwriters, and they deserve all of the success they've had in the music business. They are also both terrific guys, and I wish the best for them as they move on to other pursuits."
"I wish Bob and Dave all the luck in the world," Mr. Grushecky says. "They are both consummate pros and great guys."
Although they never rose to Tillis or Alabama level themselves, looking back on a career that spanned decades, Mr. Corbin says, "I wouldn't trade a minute of it. We've always been able to play around here for people who like us and we were all over the United States. I don't remember any bad things. It was all good."
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