Sawyer Brown's Gregg Hubbard and Mark Miller have known each other since grade school.
But their musical connection didn't happen until the two went off to college in Florida, and it's been going strong ever since.
The country rock band returns to the Tri-Cities on July 14 for an outdoor concert in the parking lot at the Clover Island Inn in Kennewick. Tickets cost $25 in advance at the hotel or $30 at the gate. Showtime is 7 p.m.
Mark Blotz, the hotel's general manager, said securing Sawyer Brown for another appearance, after last year's nearly sold-out concert is a coup for the hotel and himself.
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"I have absolutely loved Sawyer Brown's music for years," he said. "Many of their songs remind me of growing up on a farm, on a dirt road. The songs are so meaningful and down to earth."
Hubbard said the band is looking forward to another visit to the Tri-Cities and providing an evening of great music with the Columbia River as a background.
"It's been a busy year," he said. "But we like it that way. Most of us are in our 50s, but there's still a lot of high energy in our concerts."
Hubbard said the group tries to bring spontaneity and freshness to the stage. And the cool thing about Sawyer Brown is that you never know what will happen when these five guys hit the stage.
Hubbard began playing the piano in church. By the time he and lead singer Miller decided to make music their livelihood in 1981, they'd hooked up with bassist Jim Scholten, guitarist Bobby Randall and drummer Joe Smyth and joined the Don King road band.
When King retired later that year, the guys formed their own band calling themselves Sawyer Brown after the name of the road near the place they rehearsed. Randall was later replaced by Shayne Hill on lead guitar. In 1983, the world was introduced to Sawyer Brown after they won top honors on the Star Search TV show, emceed by Ed McMahon.
Since then, the band has earned numerous music awards, including the Academy of Country Music's vocal group of the year in 1997 and Country Music Association's Horizon Award in 1985.
Sawyer Brown has released 16 studio albums with seven No. 1 hits off those albums and produced 36 music videos. Their newest single is Shadow of the Heartland, and the guys are working on writing music for a new album that is expected to be released later this year, Hubbard said.
Touring about 250 days a year might have its ups and downs, but it's never boring, Hubbard said.
"Everything else connected with the road can get tiring, but the time we spend on stage never gets boring. That always stays fun," he said.
Hubbard also is the only one in the group to stay single -- for very good reason, he added.
"I've been too busy raising the band to think about marriage," he joked. "But another reason we've stayed together so long is that we are all genuine friends, more like a pack of brothers. We all believe in the music and, most importantly, we all have a sense of humor."
Opening for Sawyer Brown will be Tri-City rock band Colorblind. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Colorblind plays at 5:30 p.m. Food and alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase. The concert is open to the 21 and older crowd.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal