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Thu, Sept. 19

It's been a long country road for Prairie Rain guitarist

Hoover grew up on a farm in Ohio and didn't pick up his first guitar until he was 11 years old.

"It's been a long time since I've been picking on the old guitar," he said.

His family couldn't afford to give him lessons, so Hoover taught himself to play.

"I learned what I learned playing by ear," he added.

Hoover joined his first band when he was about 15, and in his early 20s, he joined "the best band in Mansfield, Ohio," and they went to Nashville to do some recording. They played mostly country music, which Hoover said he enjoyed most because "country is what I grew up listening to and what I've played all my life."

He said he also likes jazz and rock music, and "I listen to all kinds of music, but not rap."

Hoover received a phone call one day from a band who had heard about him, and they were looking for a guitar player. They were traveling to Thule, Greenland, so Hoover jumped on the bandwagon.

"Up until that point, I had never made any money playing music," he recalls. "I never wanted to be a star, I just wanted to be a really good side musician."

In 1968, Hoover decided he would have a better chance at making it in the music industry in Los Angeles than in Nashville because "Nashville is totally saturated with musicians."

During that time, he met country singer Lynn Anderson, and went on the road with her for about one and a half years. He said in one month, they performed in 20 one-night shows, and traveled "back and forth across the country 13 times in that month."

After performing a few times in front of enormous crowds of fans, Hoover said, "this ol' country boy was in hog heaven. I was raised on a farm, and I always thought there had to be an easier way to make a living."

When he was in his 40s, Hoover toured for about seven years with Johnny Western, spending about 300 days a year on the road.

In 1980, Hoover had enough of the traveling life and decided to head back to L.A. and continue playing in clubs. He and his wife moved to Prescott in 1999. Now, he is recording a CD so his family, down through the generations, will know he was a musician.

But he started to miss performing for people, and said, "I got the urge to play publicly again, but I didn't want it to run my life the way music had done before. I wanted to do just enough to get it out of my system."

Hoover met three other local musicians, Freddy Lee (rhythm guitar and vocals), Jim Johnson (bass and vocals) and Mike Loomis (drums and vocals), about two years ago and formed a band called the "Prairie Rain Band."

Hoover is the lead guitarist and does vocals, and said one of the most rewarding parts about performing is the instant gratification he gets.

"A cabinet maker, or say, a painter, does not get instant gratification," he said. "While entertaining, if you do something people like, it's instant. There's nothing better than communicating to total strangers through my guitar."

At this point in his life, Hoover wants to play only for fun.

"I want to play publicly and I want to just have a good time doing it because I've been through it (the stresses of performances)," he added. "I just play what's in my heart and there will be people out there to enjoy it, and that's what makes my day."

"Prairie Rain Band," which plays classic country, '50s rock and standards, plays every Friday and Saturday night at La Fiesta Restaurant in Dewey, located at 11811 E. Highway 69 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

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