story by Kelly Harley photos by Tonya Perry
When God gives you a gift, what do you do with it? For Dino Oliver, he’s using his gift to give back to the Lord. Dino’s gift involves music and when he gets behind his drum set, you’re in for a show. You can hear him play on Sundays at First Baptist Church Rincon. Not only does he play in the church’s band, he sits on the music committee and was ordained as a deacon 12 years ago.
Dino’s love of music dates back to when he was five years old. He lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and started playing drums. When Dino was 11, his older brother’s band needed a drummer. “I asked my father if I could play in the band even though I was only 11 years old,” says Dino. “After getting my father’s blessing, I started playing in nightclubs around Boston.” Dino’s love for music continued through school and he played drums in his high school band and with another band.
After graduating, he moved to Florida and continued working in the nightclub scene as a bouncer. It wasn’t long before he found himself traveling with the production company, Clair Brothers, running monitors for big bands such as Kiss, Marshall Tucker Band, Ricky Nelson, The Guess Who, Three Dog Night and Pure Prairie League. Sometimes he even got to sit in for a song or two and play drums. During his years on the road, one of his most memorable moments was when he was running sound for Randy Meisner, the original bass guitar player for the Eagles. “He started playing Desperado and the hair stood up on my arms,” says Dino. “It was a surreal feeling.”
During his time on the road, he also traveled with smaller club bands. He says he enjoyed the smaller bands better because he could see more of the city he was in due to being there longer.
In addition to all of the memories he made, he also made a special friend. That friend is Gregg Allman. Dino worked with Gregg on and off since 1982. He ran monitors for Gregg and spent a lot of time on the road with him. “The best thing about being friends with Gregg was riding around Richmond Hill and hearing Gregg’s stories about how certain songs were written,” says Dino.
Dino will admit that through his traveling days, he didn’t always make the best decisions. He saw what those decisions were doing to his friends and he actually turned to music to help him through some of the harder times. He also credits his wife to leading him to where he is today. In 1986, a week before his wedding, was when he came off the road. “I fell in love and decided to give up the touring life,” says Dino.
While he gave up the touring life, he didn’t give up his passion for music. In 1996, his wife and children moved to Rincon. That’s when he started attending First Baptist Rincon. He later started playing drums for Courtenay, a Savannah-raised country artist. While he was playing a gig with Chuck Courtenay at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament, he got a call to do a one-off gig for Gregg Allman, which gave him the opportunity to tour with his high school buddy from Massachusetts. “My friend was playing keys for Gregg,” says Dino. “It was great that two high school guys could get together again.”
While playing for Chuck Courtenay, Dino says he had a hard time being in the bar scenes, so he talked to his preacher. The preacher told him to look at it differently and that those bars could be his mission field. Dino did, but eventually left and now focuses his time on his church band.
Dino says when he first joined the church they didn’t have a band at the old sanctuary; however, he played drums at the church’s Christmas programs. When they moved to the new building, that’s when the church decided to add what is called a praise band. Currently, the band has a drummer, three guitar players, two keyboard players, a piano player and two to five singers. It’s more contemporary and appeals to the younger generation. Dino says the church also appeals to the elders and they still have a choir, a choir in which his wife sings in. “To us, we want everyone to enjoy every service,” says Dino. “To me, the music at church is a ministry. It prepares your heart for listening to God’s word.”
Before Dino started playing full time in the band, he used to run the sound system. He also ran sound at Savannah Christian for two years.
Another unique quality Dino has is fixing sound systems for smaller churches. He says big companies will come in and tell the church they have to spend a lot of money to fix the problems. That’s where Dino uses his skills. He can come in and upgrade a few things and rewire at a minimal price. “I can save the churches so much money,” says Dino.
While Dino continues to make an impression with his musical abilities, he is also making an impression in the lives of his four boys. All are following in the footsteps of their father. They each play a variety of instruments and are involved in their school bands. His youngest son, Dylon, was the first freshman in 14 years to make the symphonic band at South Effingham High School.
If you’ve ever heard the song by Florida Georgia Line called “Music is Healing” you’ll get a better understanding of what music means to Dino. It’s his passion and has lived in him his whole life. He says the song by Third Day called “Revelation” is what got him through the death of his mother. “Music is why God put me here. It’s my gift,” says Dino. His favorite quote is by Ray Charles and it’s one he holds close to his heart, “Music to me is like breathing. I don’t get tired of breathing and I don’t get tired of music.”