Through the years, Dennis Hagerty has played huge roles for the Rotary Club of Novato, the Novato Festival of Art, Wine & Music, the Novato Fourth of July Parade, the Boy Scouts and many other local groups and events. Those are some of the reasons why he was selected as the 2011 Novato Citizen of the Year.
Although he will be unseated in January when the Citizen of the Year crown gets placed on a new king or queen at the Paint the Town Red gala, Hagerty will continue to play a part in Novato's history in his volunteer leadership roles. Now, one of his personal history projects has come to fruition with an album of Americana and country rock tunes called Blind Date.
The CD's name was inspired by the uncertainties of being a local musician bouncing from band to band and collaborating with all sorts of people. Lineups changed so often that he decided to call the release Blind Date and tap the talents of 20 musically inclined friends.
"It feels great (to have it completed), particularly when I’ve received phone calls or e-mails from friends telling me what songs they liked," said Hagerty, a State Farm insurance agent by day. "Now it’s time to reach out to people whom I don’t know."
He's doing that Wednesday night at Finnegan's Marin during his CD release party. The invitation is rolled out to the whole community to show up and play bit parts in a video shoot. The fun starts at 8 p.m.
Hagerty said he's a little bit worried that the ominous storm that's supposed to slam the North Bay will keep people away. What a coincidence: It was 30 years ago when, on his first day in business in Novato, he was flooded out of his office on Front Street during the Storm of '82.
Raised in Hacienda Heights, Hagerty started playing drums in fourth grade and aspired to replace Ringo Starr as the Beatles' drummer some day. He played in garage bands throughout high school, then picked up the guitar in college and just played at casual get-togethers. Since he has settled in Novato — with wife Gilda and grown son Kyle — he's been writing songs for the past 15 years and recorded a few of them on his 12-track system at home, playing all the instruments himself.
"It’s always been a fun and creative hobby and I’ve never pursued it professionally," Hagerty said. "Family and a real career came first. The band thing, and now the recording of original songs, is still just a hobby."
In early 2010, after years of playing in the band Stage Fright, Hagerty was asked by ZAN Media's Don and Christine Scioli to write a song for Novato's 50th anniversary as a city. He worked with guitarist Crystal Brunelle, tweaking an instrumental he'd written, and wrapped up a song called "That Kind of Place." Stage Fright recorded the song at Zone Recording in Cotati and ZAN Media produced a video in time for the city's golden anniversary bash. The band played the song in front of the Novato City Council and other special occasions, and Hagerty was inspired to work on more original material.
"Recording the song with the band in a real professional studio changed everything for me," Hagerty said. "I started wondering, 'Wow, what would those other songs sound like recorded in a real studio with all my great musician friends?'"
That's what led to Blind Date, which features several tracks rewritten from a woman's perspective so female singers such as Susan McCabe, Lilian Kane and Cathy Slack could handle the main vocal chores. Hagerty said he's extremely proud about how it all turned out, especially since folks who don't know him have taken notice.
"My goal for years has been to write a song that someone would like — not because they knew me but because it was a good song that got their attention," he said.