It might be unusual for an artist, but Dennis Hurte didn’t care for the word “bomb”.
At least not when it was applied to him. It was known as BOMB, which stood for “Best One-Man Band,” said his daughter Crystal Young.
“Yeah, because he was playing all the instruments at the same time,” she said.
For at least the past decade Hurte has been performing on the streets of Kent town center but sadly that ended with his death on Monday from complications from COVID and heart disease. He was 61 years old. Hurte lived in Akron and also performed there, but Young said his father had a particular fondness for Kent.
“He liked the atmosphere with the students of [Kent State University]”, she said. “They’re always so receptive to his music and engaging with him. He’s also played in Akron at times and other places, but he’s mostly played in downtown Kent.”
Hurte played guitar, harmonica, and occasionally drums, as well as tambourine and maracas. He could also play other instruments and was self-taught, Young said, and could read music. Enough to “get by”, at least, but above all he was “playing by ear”. She said Hurte’s devotion to music was born out of childhood disappointment.
“As a kid in elementary school, he wanted to be in the band,” Young said. “But his family was very poor, so his instrument wasn’t good enough, so he wasn’t allowed to join the band. Since then, any instrument he picked up, he basically taught himself. He had a trumpet and a violin and I even gave him my trombone after I finished high school. He played the piano. I think he had a French horn for a while. I can’t think of a lot of things he didn’t play. If he got access to it, he figured out how to play it.”
He played blues, jazz and classic rock, like Eric Clapton, but also enjoyed playing “family music”, Young said. Favorite songs in this category may include “Over the Rainbow” or [Billy Joel’s]”The Man at the Piano”. He also wrote a few songs.
“He wrote a song for me and he wrote a song for my mom when they were married,” Young said.
Hurte worked at Cascade Auto Group with his brothers David and Phil and worked in construction on the side, installing new floors. He made money playing, which people wanted to give him, but Young said that wasn’t what he played for.
“I think he really felt like music made people happier and better people,” she said. “And I think he was feeding off of their happiness. I mean, it was a source of income to some extent, but it would never be enough to survive. He was definitely doing it because he liked to play. He was, you I know, hilarious too. He was a prankster. He told jokes and addressed people, in addition to playing music for them. So it was really his love of entertaining people that drove him. had there.
Young said his father loved being outdoors, which is why he enjoyed being a busker. When he wasn’t performing, he was biking, hiking or kayaking. She said her audience gets something out of her performances, too, and not just the music.
“I think he would mostly make them smile and laugh,” Young said. “It was really his performance that people appreciated. He was a great musician for sure, but it was a giant smile and goofy demeanor and just his joy of interacting with people.”
Journalist Jeff Saunders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.