Doobie Derby Band finding its groove in Southeast Missouri's music scene

Friday, December 3, 2010
The Doobie Derby Band, from left, Brian Davis, Jason Heeter, Matthew Caldwell and Wes Weber.
Fred Lynch

EDITOR'S NOTE: The name of the organizer of MainFest has been corrected.

The members of the Doobie Derby Band knew each others' musical style before they knew everyone's name.

The band consists of Jason Heeter on bass, Brian Davis on guitar, Wes Weber on drums and Matthew Caldwell on electric banjo.

"I came to a party in February, and when I came in, there was this awesome bass and drums going on downstairs," Davis said. "So I go down there, and there's a guitar and an amp, and we jammed for an hour and a half."

The trio played without knowing each others' names, but when they stopped, Davis, Heeter and Weber knew they had a common interest. Davis decided to move back to Southeast Missouri to be closer to home and play more music. He had been living in Maui, Hawaii, but returned to the area in June.

With a blend of funk, rock and blues, Cape Girardeau's Doobie Derby Band is quickly becoming a fixture in the Southeast Missouri music scene.

The group is passionate about its music, and the guys are working hard to build their foundation in Cape Girardeau and beyond.

The Doobie Derby Band started playing weekly at an open mic night at Roxy's Big Country Saloon in early 2010. When Davis moved back to Cape Girardeau in June, the band had the lineup pretty solidly set.

The hardest question for any band to answer is how to describe its own sound, but the Doobie Derby Band paints a clear picture.

"We like a lot of different roots music," Heeter said. "We like funk, we like blues, we like rock 'n' roll, we like soul and Motown, even reggae. Obviously, we like the Grateful Dead."

Heeter said the band's sound is a mashup of the best features of that playlist.

"We take the parts that we like out of jazz and the parts that we like out of rock and other styles, and then combine all of that to create our own hybrid sound," he said.

Heeter plays a lead-style bass while Davis plays over the top with more freedom to solo. Caldwell's electric banjo fills out the sound.

"Adding Matt gave us the chance to do a little something different from what a standard three-piece band can pull off," Weber said.

Some might brush the band off as overenthusiastic, but the members' clear-headedness has the Doobie Derby Band on the right path.

The Doobie Derby Band, from left, front: Matthew Caldwell and Jason Heeter; back: Brian Davis and Wes Weber. (Fred Lynch)

"As far as our plans for the next six months or so, we just started playing out in June, so we're still sort of getting our sound together," Heeter said. "We've gotten our first recording where we can hear ourselves and kind of critique ourselves."

The band played at MainFest, thrown by Tommy Main Sr., father of Tommy Main Jr. from the band The Big Idea. The event is a loose musical bash with acts from the area. Doobie Derby Band recorded their set from the festival.

Heeter said the band has been writing a business plan, to make sure the money it makes when playing gets reinvested into the band.

"We can put it into our PA and make it sound better. By February we want to have our merchandise, like CDs and T-shirts, available, too," Heeter said.

The guys are also hoping to get into a "band house" where they can live and practice on their own time without disturbing roommates.

"As it stands, we don't have a regular place to practice, so for now, we practice when we can, where we can," Heeter said.

The Doobie Derby Band has done its part to introduce out-of-town bands to the local crowd that might not normally make a stop in Cape Girardeau.

"We've been bringing in bands like Green Relief; basically bands we met at Bloom Heavy or other festivals," Davis said. "We want to bring them here, then also go play at their towns. After we get the PA and [merchandise] where we want it, we want to get a trailer and van and hit the road, maybe playing some shows between Tennessee and Kansas City."

The Doobie Derby Band is planning on eventually releasing an album, but the members said they think their sound is still in motion.

"The way we play, everything is different every time, so it's difficult to pin down songs for a studio album," Davis said.

The band members said a live album may be a good first choice.

The band's next gig will be with The Big Idea at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at Pitter's Cafe. Cost is $5 or $4 with a Southeast Missouri State University student ID.

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