By Michele DeVinney
For IN|Fort Wayne publications
Music has always been a central part of Hubie Ashcraft’s life, so it’s not surprising that he came to pursue it as a career. With a father who played the guitar and a mother and sister who sang, Ashcraft first went in a different direction, choosing to play the drums when he was very young. But the lure of the guitar and the opportunity to learn from Hubie Sr. was irresistible by the time he was 10.
“My dad was a wonderful teacher,” he said. “And we could play together every day.”
He also received early support in school. He sang in the choir at Woodside Middle School, and by the time he went to Homestead High School, he found a teacher who not only encouraged him but bent a few rules to help young Ashcraft to better develop his guitar skills.
“There was a rule that to play in the jazz band, you had to be in the school band,” Ashcraft said. “There aren’t any guitars in the marching band so I really wasn’t supposed to be able to be in jazz band, but my teacher Mr. (Tony) Stebig did me a big favor and let me be in jazz band anyway. And that really helped me become a better musician and in reading music.”
Ashcraft also studied classical guitar as a music student at IPFW which further expanded his guitar prowess. Family, teachers and school have helped him become a better musician, but it was an unusual concert experience that really sparked his passion for performing.
“I knew I wanted to make music my career in seventh grade after the first concert I went to. Matchbox 20 was in town playing at Columbia Street West. That was before they were really big. I think they just had one single on the radio at that time. Of course I was too young to go in, but my parents took me down there anyway. I stood outside on Harrison Street and was able to see the show through the window. Seeing Rob Thomas and the band, seeing that energy and hearing that sound — I just loved the way it made me feel. That’s the real power of music. I felt all of that, and I wasn’t even in the building.”
Since that momentous experience, Ashcraft has been in several bands and performed as a duo with his father. From there he steadily built a reputation and following, now fronting the Hubie Ashcraft Band which has not only become a fixture on Fort Wayne stages but also outside the city, making regular appearances in Nashville. Although inspired by a variety of musical artists and genres (he includes Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Tom Petty and John Fogerty among his influences), it has been country music that has become most central to his life and career.
“I love the honesty of country music. It was the music my parents and grandparents listened to, that classic country music like Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and George Jones. I would listen to those songs, and I didn’t even understand the meaning of what the songs were about then. I just loved the honesty and the sound. Then of course as I got older and did understand the lyrics, I loved that they were about real life.”
Ashcraft could little have imagined then, as a young boy listening to these idols with his family, that he’d one day meet a few of them. He ran into Haggard when both were appearing on a Nashville radio show and opened for Jones when the late singer appeared at the Embassy Theatre not long before his death. In addition to opportunities to open for Randy Travis and Travis Tritt over the years, just last spring he opened for both Joe Diffie and Mark Chestnutt at the Blue Gate Theatre in Shipshewana. Although he’s already booked to play in cities like Columbus, Ohio, and Nashville, Tennessee, later in the year, there are still plenty of chances for local fans to see the Hubie Ashcraft Band closer to home.
“We’re playing at Friday Night Lights at Jefferson Pointe on June 14 and at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg on Aug. 30. Those are both shows we do every year, and I always look forward to it. Not only is it close to home, but both of those are all-ages shows which are especially fun for me because now that my daughter is 5, it’s a lot of fun to have her there.”
Fans might have another generation of Ashcraft music to look forward to.
“When I was that age, I was nervous in front of crowd. But she loves it,” he said.
March 2 at 10 p.m. The Venue, Angola
March 3 at 3 p.m. The Double Eagle, Decatur
March 7 at 6 p.m. Auburn City Steakhouse, Auburn
March 8 at 5 p.m. Country Heritage Winery & Vineyard, Laotto
March 9 at 9 p.m. The Crazy Horse II, Kendallville
March 13 at 7 p.m. Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne
March 14 at 7 p.m. Trolley Bar, Fort Wayne
March 21 at 6:30 p.m. Draft Horse Saloon, Orland
March 22 at 7 p.m. Ted’s Beer Hall, Fort Wayne
March 23 at 7 p.m. Flashback Live, Fort Wayne
March 27 at 6 p.m. Mad Anthony Brewing Company, Fort Wayne
March 28 at 7 p.m. The Woods Too & Lighthouse Lounge, Hudson
March 29 at 9 p.m. Coody Brown’s, Wolcottville
For more upcoming shows, visit hubieashcraft.com.