"It isn't often that someone makes it big in the music business, nor for the number of years that John Dittrich (second from left in picture) has."
So says Greg Luetticke, co-owner of Frost Ridge Campground in Le Roy, which will host the Grammy-nominated country music band "Restless Heart" at a concert on Friday, Aug. 17.
Dittrich, a native of Batavia and a 1970 Batavia High School graduate, has been with "Restless Heart" for more than 20 years as a drummer and vocalist. The other band members are, from left, Paul Gregg, Larry Stewart, Greg Jennings and Dave Innis.
"It's amazing to still be able to do what I do," Dittrich said.
He embarked on a profession in music in 1975, and has enjoyed a long and successful career that owes itself, in large part, to a Batavia City School District teacher.
"My most important influence and probably the guy I would credit with helping me in this direction was Neil Hartwick," Dittrich said.
Hartwick was the Batavia Middle School band director and the director of the jazz workshop at the high school.
"He brought in Ed Shaughnessy (of "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson") to do a concert," Dittrich said. "And when I found out that Mr. Hartwick had invited him specifically for me, that blew me away."
As a college student, Dittrich went to New York City once a month for two years to study under Shaughnessy.
"And he remembered me," he said.
As an original member of "Restless Heart," Dittrich was part of what he calls a "crossover" period in the history of country music.
"Our producer (Tim Dubois) had written some songs that were kind of in a gray area as far as the market was concerned," he said. "They were too pop for country, but not pop enough for pop."
Part of the band's success, Dittrich said, was due to the willingness of RCA Records to take a chance on them.
"There was a strong push in traditional country music at the time," he said. "But some groups did have more edgy music and enjoyed some success. RCA liked the direction of our music and they were willing to make the investment."
In addition to four Grammy nominations, "Restless Heart" has had six #1 hits and seven Country Music Association nominations. They have also been lucky to see 26 of their singles make the Billboard Country Charts. Their numerous crossover hits include the 1992 song "When She Cries."
A good 15-20 years have passed since Dittrich last returned to Genesee County. He said it will be "pretty nice" to be back for the concert, especially since some old friends and 10 family members will be in attendance.
"I hope somebody gives me a beef on weck!" he added.
The concert is part of the three-day "Jam at the Ridge." Gates will open at 4 p.m. Friday, with the concert itself starting at 4:30.
"Restless Heart" will go on at 8:30 p.m. for a performance of about 75-90 minutes. Singers Worthy Duncan and Johnny Bauer will open the show.
Here are the ticket prices:
Regular seating: $15 in advance, $20 at the gate.
Preferred seating: $22 in advance, $29 at the gate.
Preferred Plus seating: $42 in advance, $55 at the gate.
VIP seating: $79 in advance, $99 at the gate.
VIP seating includes front row seats, a private meet-and-greet dinner with "Restless Heart," a poster for autographing and a picture with the band.
Frost Ridge Campground is located at 8101 Conlon Road in Le Roy. For more information, call 768-4883 or go to www.frostridge.com.
Photo submitted by Greg Luetticke