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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

After 60 years, John Wood still playing all the old songs

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Entertaining at the Greencastle VFW Post, John Wood mans the keyboard, while Robin Hopkins (left) on banjo, Donnie Hopkins on drums, Kathleen Miller on vocals and Carol Hamm on bass comprise the latest configuration of the John Wood Combo.
On many, many a Friday or Saturday night in Greencastle over the past 60 years, one constant has endured through all those nights.

Whether the venue was the VFW, American Legion, Elks Club or Moose Lodge, on more Fridays or Saturdays than not, you could find The John Wood Combo providing musical entertainment for an appreciative local crowd.

"We even used to play between movies at the Old Voncastle Theatre and at the DePauw parties," offered the veteran musician whose name still fronts the local combo.

This past Friday at VFW Post 1550 on South Jackson Street was no different for John Wood, the soon-to-be 85-year-old sole surviving member of a group that became synonymous with his name over those six decades.

Familiarly perched in front of the piano, Wood was engrossed in the music, knocking out one old standard after another on the evening.

Only this time, instead of his longtime partners in crime -- Tom Hardwick, Tim Grimes and Fred Wilbur, all of whom have passed away in recent years -- Wood was accompanied by Carol Hamm on bass, Robin Hopkins on banjo and Donnie Hopkins on drums. Kathleen Miller was even on hand to provide vocals.

In total, that group represents more than 200 years in the music business, much of it locally.

"You're going to make us sound so-o-o-o old," Carol Hamm, who starting playing 50 years ago when she was 10, suggested from behind her trusty bass.

"I've got 60 years in this business myself," Wood said, "and Robin has been making his living playing the banjo for 40 years."

So between those two headliners Friday night, Wood and Robin Hopkins totaled a nice, round 100 years of local music lore.

Hopkins, who turned 60 years old in July, celebrated his 40th year in the business in September. He and fellow local entertainer Dick Hardwick took off for New Orleans 40 years ago last month, ultimately ending up as featured entertainers aboard the famed Delta Queen riverboat.

It was Wood's idea to get Hopkins and Miller on board Friday night at the VFW, collaborating for the third such time locally in recent years.

Drummer Donnie Hopkins, who is Robin's half-brother, has been involved in the local music scene "off and on since the 1960s."

And incredibly, he is the 23rd drummer in the long history of the John Wood Combo, proudly noting, "There's only two of us still alive!"

Wood says the group still plays the VFW dining room once a month and also entertains faithfully at the Elks Club, Asbury Towers and area nursing homes, among other local venues.

"We've played practically every big event in Putnam County over the last 60 years at one time or another," noted Wood, who paused long enough to put out a John Wood Combo CD about 10 years ago.

"Our music is old, and it's still old," he assured. "All we play is old music."

It may be old all right, but it was lively enough to get folks like Bob and Marilyn Jackson up and dancing -- at least for one tune -- in front of the band at the VFW Friday evening.

"We still play old music ... nothing new," Wood said. "That's what they want from us."

And that, most assuredly, is what they get. Even after 60 years.

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Great story. John is a great guy and big supporter of local music and musicians.

-- Posted by localman on Wed, Oct 10, 2012, at 8:02 AM

A very deserving article about a wonderful group of Greencastle history. I still have their CD with Tim and Tom on it. Great group

-- Posted by Nit on Wed, Oct 10, 2012, at 8:39 AM


-- Posted by lhmh on Wed, Oct 10, 2012, at 1:26 PM

I care! A great deal. You will never know how wonderful this is. Sorry for you!

-- Posted by chicken on Wed, Oct 10, 2012, at 10:36 PM

Great article! Congrats, John! Sherri Hartsaw McCutcheon

-- Posted by Sheridin on Thu, Oct 11, 2012, at 7:34 AM


-- Posted by lhmh on Thu, Oct 11, 2012, at 6:14 PM

Big Whoop, last time I checked there were no bars around the city of Greencastle. Perhaps it's time to pack your bag and move on to the "big city". Did you even read the article? What a great tribute to the local musicians of Greencaste. And to 85 year old John Wood playing for over 60+ years. Good for him! And good for the support that he has given to the community and all the local musicians.

-- Posted by terre@faeconsulting.com on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 4:28 PM

I am proud to have been one of the 23 drummers to have had the opportunity to play in the John Woods Combo. I was in the group while in high school(1960 freshman year). I remember well driving to jobs with Tommy Hardwick, myself and John driving with a bass violin in the car with us. Good music, Good times. A lot of great memories--(Bill Grimes singing "Up A Lazy River" with us--Man he sang that well!)--I Thank John for a wonderful time of my life. Bob Patterson

-- Posted by Bob P. on Sat, Jan 10, 2015, at 11:29 AM

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