A three-member band that has been together for more than a decade will perform their last two gigs at Bert's Bar & Grill on Sept. 12.
Kip Lawrence, who has always been a songwriter, became a musician at 38 years old. He said he used to run an open mic on Tuesdays at Bert's where he met a lot of great musicians, two of which stuck and became his band members - Charlie Kuchler and Brian Travis.
Lawrence said he was trying to make a living, so he could be a good songwriter.
Yard Dogs band members Charlie Kuchler, Kip Lawrence and Brian Travis will perform their last gig at Bert's Bar & Grill this week.
"I don't like playing in front of crowds all the time," he said.
Being a songwriter, Lawrence said, has always been a part of who he is because it is a good release when something is bothering him.
"It's a good way to get it out," he said.
Travis said although he started his musical career late in life when he attended an open mic night at Island Days Grill, he played and sang at home. He brought his Jamaican rumba box to the open mic night and was told he had to show the audience what he built and play it before the crowd.
"I played with a beer in my hand," Travis said, which to this day he still does.
The Island Days Duo formed, which included Travis at the age of 50. He said Lawrence booked them for Mango Mania and they played four or five songs at Bert's to get the crowd going during open mic night.
That night on the stage grew into more.
"I enjoyed music and listening to it and kind of liked being on stage," Travis said. "I enjoy seeing people have a good time."
Kuchler, on the other hand, began playing the accordion when he was 7, which eventually turned into playing the keyboard. He followed that love and went to college to pursue a degree in music.
"I made a living and sometimes sort of made a living," Kuchler said of his musical career.
Although the money was not always good, he said he continued to pursue the career because he decided to be a musician when he was a child.
One night, while open mic was taking place at Bert's, Kuchler walked in and asked if he could play his accordion.
"Open mic night was really cool," Lawrence said.
The three hit it off and decided to form a band.
The name Yard Dogs came from a five-piece band that Kuchler played with in Louisiana, the Louisiana Yard Dogs. He said since the name was already his, they decided to drop Louisiana and keep the rest of the name, which is slang for gator.
The Yard Dogs' career began at Bert's due to the generosity of Bernard Johnson, the owner.
"I talked Bernard into hiring us as a band for Wednesdays, so I wouldn't have to move the sound equipment on Tuesday night," Lawrence said. "Bernard had faith, we started performing every Wednesday night, quit our real jobs, released 11 CDs of original songs in 10 years featuring Pine Island/Matlacha, built a huge following all over the world and had a whole lot of fun with our "swamp music."
Travis said every Wednesday morning before they performed at Bert's, everyone would bring in a song, either a cover song or an original song they wrote, and they would rehearse it for that night's show.
When they first started playing at Bert's, they performed at the front of the bar and after Hurricane Charley they moved to the back room where they performed.
Living in Florida, Kuchler said has helped the band because music is a part of the fabric of the location - people expect to hear live music when they go out.
In a year to a year in a half, he said the band built a following and he began making a great living.
The trio worked well together because they all had assigned jobs of how to keep the band going from the beginning. Lawrence was put in charge of promoting the Yard Dogs, Kuchler was in charge of booking the band at venues and Travis was in charge of the merchandise.
"It was a team effort from the beginning," Kuchler said.
Over the years, the band members all wrote music for the Yard Dogs, as well as toured throughout the Midwest introducing Pine Island and Matlacha to the crowd through their lyrics.
Lawrence said a lot of people have vacationed in the area and visit Bert's because of their music.
The final gig of the Yard Dogs will take place on Sept. 12 at Bert's with two seatings, which includes recommended reservations, from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. and from 8:15 p.m.-10:15 p.m.
Lawrence said that Johnson was the first person and last person to book their band for a performance.
"It was a great run," Johnson said. "Few groups last as long. And they kept coming up with new material. We will miss them."
Travis said it was fitting that the last show be where they started 10 years ago.
The band reminisced and laughed about some of their tours and performances over the years while sitting outside of Bert's.
Kuchler remembered four or five years into the band's career that he noticed people were singing along to their songs, which was really cool.
Although the band will not be performing anymore, the trio will continue their passion of music, as well as spending more time with their hobbies.
Lawrence said he will begin holding open mic night at Bert's in October again, along with hosting Creative Coast weekend the second Saturday of every month.
Kuchler, Yard Dog Charlie, and Travis, Swamp Bug Brian, will perform at Three Fishermen Seafood Restaurant in North Fort Myers every Sunday from 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m.