Local alt-country, honky tonk band The Heart Stompers are winning the hearts of fans

On a leisurely walk in my neighborhood a while back, I heard music playing at a neighbor’s house and I was captivated. Assuming it was a party—and with the speakers amplifying the melodies—I was delighted to find a group of musicians jamming to their hearts’ delight. It was very apropo since the group’s name turned out to be The Heart Stompers. 

The more I listened, the more I fell in love with their style of music and could not wait to hear more. Here is their story. 

Yiorgo: Tell us about The Heart Stompers and how did the group come together? 

Christopher May: When we first started playing together, it was just me and Gina. We added Gabe Baesen from RYLO on drums and began to call ourselves Gina and the Cow Tippin’ Playboys. We found Greg Wikle playing with Rodeo Clown and asked him to sit in with us on a few gigs—it was magical when he did. So we basically stole him from Rodeo Clown (though he still plays with them, so we really didn’t steal him). Late last year we were asked to play with guitarist Gordon Bradley for a Neil Young tribute show and we thought the idea was great. Gordon played with me and Gabe in RYLO so we knew him and his talent well. We had such a good time with the tribute show that we began looking for other opportunities where we could fit him into the lineup. Eventually he became a regular feature at our shows and it made sense to officially bring him into the fold. That’s when we decided it was time for a name change. Our style had shifted a bit with the addition of Gordon and the new lineup needed a fresh face. To our surprise, The Heart Stompers was a band name that fit our sensibilities AND hadn’t been taken by anyone else (finding original band names is tough—ask any musician). 

We all love roots music: blues, honky tonk, country, old R&B. And our style definitely fits that mold. We used to be more on the honky-tonk side of things, but now we have evolved into more of an Americana genre. So now we say alt-country, honky-tonk, Americana, and that captures it completely. 

Y: Who are the current members of The Heart Stompers? 

Gina Dalmas: The Heart Stompers are (and have always been): Gina Dalmas (vocals and acoustic guitar), Gordon Bradley (vocals and acoustic guitar), Christopher May (vocals and bass guitar), Greg Wike (electric guitar), Gordon Bradley (vocals and guitar) and Gabriel Baesen (drums). 

Y: Who were some of the musicians/singers that you both listened to growing up? 

GD: When I was very young, I listened to my dad’s records. Johnny Horton, Marty Robbins, Buck Owens, Faron Young, Merle Haggard. Later as a teenager, I emulated my brother and listened to Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and the like. Starting college it was The Band and Jellyfish and Dag. Plus a lot of jazz and classical music, as I was majoring in music (for the French horn; later on I switched majors).

CM: I listened to everything my father listened to in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s: Steely Dan, the Eagles, Dan Rafferty, Pink Floyd, the Doobie Brothers, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers…. The first album I ever purchased was Blondie, the one with “The Tide is High” on it, and then by the mid-’80’s was into U2 and REM. I didn’t really get into country music until I was older when Clint Black and Garth Brooks were putting out top hits. 

Y: How about a “wow” moment, one of those ‘pinch me, I can’t believe this just happened to me’ type of moments for both of you? 

GD: James Brown once gave me a bottle of Dom Perignon and a dozen red roses after a show in Richmond. I was the monitor audio engineer for him and his band that evening, and after the show James Brown told me I had done a great job. A few minutes later he sent his assistant with the champagne and roses as a thank you. After load out that night, I opened the bottle and shared it with the techs on the audio crew. That was a memorable evening. 

CM: For me, it was opening up for Southern Culture on the Skids at the old Jewish Mother in Virginia Beach. They were so amazing to us and the crowd was absolutely incredible! I’ll never forget that night. 

Y: Where can our readers get more information about the Heart Stompers and upcoming dates? 

GD: They can go to www.theheartstompers.com for all of our upcoming dates. 

What will the audience expect to see and hear at your shows and why should they come?

CM: We like to have fun on stage. I think the audience really picks up on that and in turn gives that energy right back to us. We love to throw in the unexpected, and we love trying out new songs. 

Yiorgo is a Hampton Roads arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also an educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.

Photos: Eye of the Storm Photography