by T.J. Masterson
He’s been a staple on the Akron music scene for as long as I can remember. He’s immediately noticeable, and with his almost cartoonish voice appears to have come out of a Tim Burton film. If you squint slightly, his looks are of one part Jack White and one part Marc Bolan of T-Rex. Add maybe a splash of Syd Barrett. You just get the feeling that he was born to be on stage, behind the mic, with guitar in hand, sweating and pouring it all out for the crowd. He’s kept it local for nearly thirty years now, never touring for more than a week. He’s Jeff Hardy, and he does it all for the love of entertaining and performing.
If you have been watching the Akron music scene for the last few decades, you have probably seen Hardy perform, heading such acts as C.D. Truth, Zero Defex, The Dutch Babies and his Christmas band, Missile Toe. In the late 80’s he started a band called The Creeps and was soon recognized by the up-and-coming goth-punk band, Germ Free Adolescence, who was about to embark on a tour and needed a bassist. They hired Hardy. In 1988, they were set to play a show at the legendary CBGB in New York when they ran into a little trouble.
“Our bass player apparently had a little drug problem and sold all our gear right before the show,” Hardy says. “He claimed that he accidentally left the van unlocked, but we knew better.” They never got to play the show. “Yeah,” Hardy says with a gasp and agonizing giggle, “The ride back home was terrible.” With no equipment, Hardy wasn’t able to play for a year after that.
Next stop: Hardy helped form the legendary Akron band C.D. Truth in 1990, which was influenced by bands like The Who, Black Flag, The Stooges, Hawkwind and T-Rex, not to mention local acts like Tin Huey, The Bizarros and The Rubber City Rebels (who were signed by the local label Clone Records).
“These bands made me believe I could make a record,” says Hardy.
With hometown favorites like “We Got The Blimp” and “I Hate Route 8,” C.D. Truth became a household name in the Akron music scene and played together for about 20 years.
In 1997, Hardy formed the Christmas punk band Missile Toe, playing Christmas favorites with a Johnny Rotten edge all while dressed as either an elf, Santa, an angel or a snowman. What could be better!? Hardy’s learned that everyone loves Santa Claus or an elf, but a snowman…not so much.
“I don’t know man,” Hardy says. “Something about that big round head. People want to punch it. I’ve been smacked or hit like a dozen times at various venues. I don’t think I’m gonna be the snowman anymore.”
Minus this tragic sub-story, the band has enjoyed great popularity playing gigs like the Warrior Dash with 18,000 in attendance, or the Akron art Museum, which he loves because he feels like he’s a part of and giving to the community. His love for the city and community are apparent in his lyrics and loyalty.
“I’m supposed to be here,” Hardy says. “You guys wouldn’t have the Route 8 song or The Blimp Song. What would you do at Christmas? I’m supposed to be here to serve you guys.” “ I mean I never wanted to be Michael Stanley, but I guess I am Michael Stanley. I sing about my town a lot. “
Hardy does have some regrets about the choices he’s made in his music career.
“When I was younger, I had some opportunities to tour with some other bands, and I wish I would have travelled more,” Hardy says.
He’s approaching the big 5-0 now and considers retiring. He knows his young groupie numbers are declining.
“A number of people have told me I’m supposed to Rock and Roll til I die, so I’m gonna stick it out,” Hardy says. Sounds like good advice to me.
Missile Toe will be playing at Buzzbin in Canton On July 7 and The Ellet Library on July 25. His current band, The Dutch Babies are headed to the studio in August and are scheduled to play The Happy Dog in Cleveland September 12.
(Featured photo by Jennifer Klingenberg)