Phil Dirt & the Dozers are no strangers to the Delaware County Fair.
“I think the first time we played the fair was the summer of 1983 or 1984,” said Mark Frye, one of the five men in the Dozers (no, none of them are named Phil Dirt). “That’s how long we’ve been there. We’ve played that fair on and off for 30 years. We had been there for quite a while in the last 10 years. We were there last year.”
The fair is like a hometown gig for the Columbus-based band, and Frye said people in Delaware “really like the old rock ‘n’ roll.”
Mark Frye joined Phil Dirt in 1983, just two years after the Dozers were formed. Only founding member Steve Cabot has been with the group longer. Frye plays keyboards (behind a cool hot rod front end), bass, flute and saxophone, and provides harmony vocals.
“I’m kind of the nuts-and-bolts guy that works out the harmonies, and show people their parts,” Frye said. “I just enjoy the charm of the old music, the innocence. I don’t have a favorite, but I do like (singers) Sam Cooke and Roy Orbison a lot.”
The hits the band plays are songs that all demographics like, plus the material is family-friendly and makes people of all feel good, Frye said. He said that although Phil Dirt does some 1950s doo-wop tunes and classic rock from the 1970s, the majority of their music is from the 1960s.
“Instead of an oldies thing, we make it more of a history of American rock ‘n’ roll. It takes them back. The music is non-threatening and it was about passion instead of anger, so people relate to it.”
Vocal harmonies are one of the things that make Phil Dirt appealing — don’t be surprised to hear Beach Boys, Eagles and Four Seasons songs at one of their concerts.
“Our lead singer Tony Alfano can do classic rock with the best of them,” Frye said. “He’s a really multi-faceted singer. It’s weird, because he walks out there looking like somebody’s uncle, but he rocks.”
While the group is a full-time concern, Frye does write some music on the side (such as the original 1-800-Safe Auto jingle and Jack Hanna’s wildlife documentaries), and other members have side projects — for example, accountant Alfano prepares tax returns during the band’s less-busy spring season.
“We’re still having fun,” Frye said of the Dozers’ longevity.
“It’s kind of like being in a family band. They’re an extremely talented bunch of guys, and nobody has that immature ego sort of thing or bad habits. Everyone is mellow, easy to deal with. It’s everything you would want in a band. It’s just been great.”
Immediately after playing in Delaware, Phil Dirt is off to a regular gig at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. They also share a private cruise ship concert trip in the spring with McGuffey Lane (another long-time central Ohio musical staple). See the band’s website, http://phildirt.com/home for more information.
The show takes place at 8 p.m. today at the Pavilion Hill Tent. For information, visit www.delawarecountyfair.com.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.