Trio plays B-sides from Tom Petty, Elvis Costello

In 2002, Don Hemmerling, former keyboardist for such area bands as The Phantoms, lost the use of his right arm following a stroke. Needless to say, the lifelong musician was devastated.

“I was going to sell everything and commit suicide because music was my life,” he says.

Fortunately, instead of giving up he reinvented himself, spending three years learning how to use one arm to do the work of two, including playing keys and programming synthesized sounds.

“That was really hard,” he says, but he nonetheless managed to become a proficient player again.

“I’m all over that keyboard,” he says.

Hemmerling will join Bill Hjelseth, a guitarist and singer, as well as Mike Cremer, a bassist and singer, for a performance as Dogs in Traffic from 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at Park Place Coffee, 1288 S.E. 182nd Ave. The free show is open to music-lovers of all ages.

Hjelseth says the trio specializes in B-sides, a reference to the days of yore when folks listened to vinyl 45s. The potential hit song a record company pushed was always on the “A” side of the 45, with the B-side usually featuring a more adventurous, less poppy number. Dogs in Traffic like to pluck such songs from the catalogs of Tom Petty, The Beatles, and Elvis Costello, he says.

“No. 1 songs are played to the death, and we figured we’d play songs that we really like,” Hjelseth says, citing “Love is a Long Road” by Petty or “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” by Costello as examples.

As a guitar player, Hjelseth lists Jimi Hendrix, Dave Mason and Mike Bloomfield among his heroes.

“I love playing live,” he adds. “I like the energy between the audience and what we’re doing. It feels great.”

The three men in Dogs in Traffic are great friends, Hjelseth says.

“We’ve all been playing with one another in some form or another since 1980.”

“Everybody works together so well,” Hammerling adds. “You can be as good as you wanna be, but if you don’t work well with others it ain’t gonna work for very long.”

The trio plays “geriatric rock,” Hjelseth says with a chuckle, and likes to play coffee houses now that they are all in their late 50s and don’t want to just jam for people getting drunk in nightclubs.

“It’s nice for us old folks to get done early and go to bed,” he says with a laugh.

For more information, call Park Place Coffee at 503-808-1244 or visit

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