Eddie from Ohio

January 22, 1997

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

Nobody in the Northern Virginia-based group performing at Hagerstown Junior College's Kepler Theater Saturday night is from Ohio. The performance, which is being presented by Mountain Green Concerts, begins at 8.

Eddie from Ohio defies musical labels, according to spokesman Michael Clem. Its Web site - - places it in the new folk/acoustic rock genre.

Its sound has been influenced by pop icons Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Beatles. The group has been performing an increasing amount of original music, and has included songs by artists as diverse as Manhattan Transfer and Harry Belafonte.


Clem, 31, sings and plays bass, guitar and harmonica with the group. Robbie Schaefer, 30, is on guitar and vocals. The two have been playing together since fourth grade in McClean, Va. It was school talent shows and cafeteria gigs back then.

Julie Murphy, 30, sang in a high school choir with Schaefer. The trio, which began performing together in 1991, was joined by Eddie Hartness later that year.

Hartness, 29, provides percussion and vocals, and is the source of the band's moniker. The nickname Eddie from Ohio was given to him by a former college girlfriend. Hartness was performing at Joe Theismann's restaurant in Falls Church, Va. Murphy and Clem listened to him, occasionally added harmonies to his solo act and realized they had something going, according to Clem.

Group members gave up their day jobs in 1992 and are playing 200 to 250 performances a year. The group tours a mostly East Coast circuit from Atlanta to New York, lately including dates in Florida and Boston.

A long-standing Tuesday night gig at Bad Habits Grille in Arlington, Va., helps keep out-of-town trips to about three or four days. Family members, including Clem's wife and 2 1/2-year-old son, Schaefer's wife - who is expecting their second child - and Murphy's fiance, appreciate this.

The group recently acquired a new RV - not quite the Loretta Lynn luxury tour bus - but it is traveling in style, according to Clem.

The group has three self-released CDs and plans for a fourth. The next CD won't include any of the studio session players who have joined them in the past. They've been great, Clem said, but the group wants a recording that's true to its live sound.

That sound has garnered good reviews, a few regional awards and a growing following of fans. The band has a mailing list of more than 7,000 names.

Eddie from Ohio's music is as varied as its influences. Songs include Schaefer's fun "You and Me in a Rowboat to Rio," complete with Latin rhythms, and a hymn-like "Miss Fritchie," penned by Clem, with Murphy's strong and soulful voice singing about the local Civil War legend. Clem describes Hartness' unconventional hand percussion - originally performed on a box - as one of the band's more distinctive textures.

Although Clem says the group is not out to make its mark on Billboard's charts, it is open to broader opportunities.

Its approach is as easygoing as its music.

"It's been a great, successful ride," Clem says.

Tickets are $8 for Mountain Green Cultural Arts Association members, $10 for non-members, $5 for children younger than 12 and free for Hagerstown Junior College students and staff.

For information, call 790-2800, extention 309.

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