Sweetwater Sound has played a pivotal role in making the Fort Wayne music scene one of the best in the country. Many local and regional musicians have been able to make a living in music while continuing to stay in the area and sharing their talents on the homefront. But many people from outside of Indiana have also found their way to the city, thanks to the opportunity to work for Sweetwater.One such musician is Tim Harrington who before moving to Fort Wayne and beginning a job with Sweetwater 13 years ago had been around the block a few times. Originally from the Virginia Beach area, Harrington had lived on the Gulf Coast, the East Coast and various places in Illinois and Indiana before landing in the Summit City. Quickly finding musicians with whom to play, Harrington eventually merged himself with a pre-existing band, added a couple of horns, and the latest incarnation of the Tim Harrington Band was born.
Harrington’s path to an eponymous band in Fort Wayne was long and winding. He began playing guitar in 1974 and had bands with friends over the years. A stint in the military took him to Germany during the 80s where he continued to live even after he was discharged. Those years opened up a lot of musical worlds for Harrington.
“I listened to the radio a lot in Germany, and Americans are more fickle about music than they are over there. In Europe you have one radio station, but it plays five kinds of music. You can hear country, rock, polka, traditional – it’s just a much wider variety of music. They’re much more accepting of different music.”
As his ear for music continued to develop, he found himself drawn to the bands with horns, something that had come to popularity many years earlier.
“I started listening to those bands, and there were a lot of them that came out around 1969, 1970, 1971. When I first heard it, I didn’t know it was rock, I thought it was jazz. For years I thought about doing a band like that, but being in bands with that many people can be tough. It’s like being married to four people.”
After his return from Germany, he attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. From there he moved west and was teaching before moving here. He even recorded a Tim Harrington Band album in 2005. But his hope for a bigger band was just around the corner.
His current band, which now also includes Alan Carter, Jeff Gastineau, Matt Baker, Patrick Dennis, Paul Rowan and Wayne Davis, has been together for eight years and features the strong horn section that Harrington had one day hoped to find. Working with seasoned pros (and fellow Sweetwater employees) has made the logistics of a larger group workable, and their collective professionalism makes the rehearsal process easier.
“These guys are great. If they can’t make a rehearsal, they always call. We just communicate really well with each other, and they’re all excellent guys to work with. We rehearse one day a week, but it’s like religion – every Wednesday we get together. Even if someone can’t make it, we still get together because sometimes when you’re playing and there’s something not quite right, it’s easier to hear when there are fewer people playing. So we get together every Wednesday no matter what.”
Harrington appreciates the quality of musicians he’s been able to work with since his arrival in Fort Wayne and credits his workplace for that.
“What’s remarkable about Sweetwater is that if you’re trying to find musicians, I used to have to take out an ad or something. But at Sweetwater you have more talent than you usually find in a large metropolitan area. It’s very concentrated in one place here.”
The Tim Harrington Band has gotten some attention in the last few years, and one example is their recent appearance in the 2017 Down the Line where they covered the music of one of those 1970s horn bands, Chicago. Like many other musicians who have found themselves on that Embassy stage playing music which has helped form their own musical vision, Harrington enjoyed the experience.
“Those folks are great to work with. The management team, the sound crew – it’s just a solid event. We were asked about two months beforehand if we wanted to play. Jared [Duymovic, the Embassy’s programming director] basically let us pick what we wanted to do. We chose the songs we wanted to play, and it was just great. People were singing along with every word, so I figured ‘They must be enjoying it.’ But I’ve never had an experience like that where the audience is singing right along with you.”
Their faithful weekly rehearsals allow them to be ready for gigs that come their way, whether it’s Down the Line or other venues around town. Harrington says they play a couple times a month now since band members have children and even grandchildren to consider so they play when all are available.
With upcoming events at Harley Davidson in Fort Wayne, those who may have missed them up until now can finally catch up with the Tim Harrington Band. His appreciation for his fellow players is no doubt part of what makes the band so special.
“It’s great to be around these guys and playing with them. No performance is ever perfect, but if someone makes a mistake, there’s someone there to cover. I always know, if I make a mistake someone will cover for me and vice-versa.”