February 4th, 2013 | 9 Comments
A BANTER MOMENT WITH CHARLOTTE R&B and JAZZ GUITARIST JAMES ‘TOOTIE’ HOGAN
Step aside Jimi Hendrix, you weren’t the only guitar aficionado in music history that could strum your musical axe with your teeth. We mean, really strum and pick those strings with your lower incisors. Charlotte area has its own version: A humble, low key, near master of a musician by the name of James Hogan. This Mt. Holly native prefers to go by ‘Tootie’, as he has been known since he was a young boy.
Tootie Hogan is a professional and R&B guitarist hailing from Mt. Holly, NC that has shared both the recording studio and live stage across the world with such renowned acts as The Drifters, Roberta Flack, Miles Davis, The Spinners, Lou Rawls, Little Richard, Mary Wells, Junior Walker & The All-Stars, The Tams, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, and countless others. Humble in everyday nature, yes, but the true music lover is blessed with a true showoff during live performances. Acts such as playing with his teeth and strumming behind the back are second nature to Tootie. ‘That’s what it takes to make it in the business’, Tootie exclaims.
In 1995 he released his first solo album, ‘Dreamin’at Midday“ on Depriest Records. It received excellent reviews and exposure on one of the nationally known jazz radio stations throughout the USA. His current band is known as the James Tootie Hogan Project, or The JTH Project.
Charlotte Banter spent an afternoon with Tootie Hogan where he discussed the highlights of his past, his present, and what the future may have in store for this musical prodigy.
How did you get started in music? ‘Well my family told me that before my actual walking days, I was known to crawl to my father’s guitar and strum the strings. Later on, my father, James Hogan Sr, a gospel singer and guitarist, further nurtured my musical gifts in our local church. From that point on, I just kept playing.
One fond memory I have is when I was really young me and my cousin Leon Rozzelle, who played drums, and another friend Willie Ford, on the bass guitar, would set up and play on the front porch of Willie Ford’s Momma’s house. We’d play Honky Tonk Blues and thought we were Earth, Wind and Fire. I guess we got too loud, or annoying, eventually the neighbors or Willie’s Momma would make us quit.
My first live band that I performed with was The Heat. While performing live with them on one night at a club called Soul 21 off Statesville Ave in Charlotte, members of the famed do-wop and R&B/soul group, The Drifters made their way in. Coincidentally, they were looking for a new guitar player. I guess they like what they saw in me. I was asked to join.’
At the tender age of 16, Tootie found himself quitting school and heading out on the road. My parents were concerned, but at the same time they knew I was no doctor or lawyer. For the next four years, in addition to The Drifters, Tootie found himself on the road and recording with Junior Walker and The All-Stars, Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs, and The Tams. Then in 1982, around 26 years old, he found himself on a flight to New York to audition for Motown Great Roberta Flack. He was hired on the spot and contributed to this musical entourage on an international scale.
How did you learn to play with your teeth? ‘When I was about 11 I went to McAdenville, NC and saw a country western blue grass band performing. A woman was there playing the banjo with her teeth. This was my first inspiration and introduction of playing the guitar with teeth. I later learned that other artist were famous for this and I prayed to God for the talent to do so myself. Since then he has perfected his ability to do so and can play a full solo with his teeth. There are few artists that can actually perform this feat today or in recent years, at least without simulating it. This makes Tootie the real deal. He performed for Charlotte Banter both how to fake it, and how to do it.’
What is your most memorable moment on stage? ‘A female audience member at an Asheville gig pointed out to me that my zipper was down. I could see where her mind was. Another time I slipped on a candy wrapper and fell. However most memorably, there was a live event in which Roberta Flack was introducing the members in her band and when she got around to me, I sneezed in the mic. …Bless you Tootie.’
So tell us, who is Tootie? ‘I’m humble. I pride myself on being humble. While fellow band members hopped in limos, I hailed a taxi cab. While they were eating in five star fancy restaurants, I found a Waffle House. I never drank nor used drugs, and every day I thank God for my musical talents and blessings. I also use prayer to help me avoid the dark side of show business. Some parts of show business you would like, other parts you would not want to be a part of. But overall I consider myself blessed because I can get paid to do what I truly love.’
What is the best part of playing live? ‘Knowing that you will get paid after the show (laughter).’
Who were your biggest musical influences? ‘My biggest music influence is my Father James Hogan while his musical style in his early career was similar to George Benson and Wes Montgomery. Tootie is also a great admirer of Jimi Hendrix.’
What do you think of today’s trends in music? ‘Not my thing. I prefer older style 70’s style sound, Motown, contemporary jazz, etc. Anything where people still know how to play an instrument. I’m old fashioned that way.’
How do you feel about the Charlotte music scene today? ‘Charlotte needs to do more to promote the local music scene and local artists. They focus too much on outside musicians, in my opinion. Although I don’t totally rule them out, night clubs are not my favorite. I love playing festivals. Places where you can bring kids.’
Where may your fans find you in Charlotte? ‘For all of my musical instrument needs I prefer The Music Center on Franklin Blvd in Gastonia. Owner Bil Jones is the only person that I trust to work on my guitars when they need repair or service. Bil liked my Heritage so much he got one himself. They also have a guitar repair site called Fretgarage.com. As for eating out, I like the Sonny’s Barbecue Pit chain or Chili’s on Tyvola.’
Where do you like to go outside of Charlotte? ‘One of my favorite places to visit is Clearwater, Florida. Always loved that place. In North Carolina, I enjoy Blowing Rock, NC. But you won’t find me climbing rocks, that’s for the billy goats! I also enjoyed, believe it or not, Dollywood.’
What’s next for Tootie Hogan? ‘In December 2012 The JTH Project performed at the Ultra Lounge in Charlotte. I have two recorded albums, ‘Final Destination’ and ‘Last Flight Out’ which I am currently seeking nationwide distribution. I also enjoy endorsements from the following well known guitar companies: Heritage Guitars, Epiphone Guitars, and Gagnon Guitars.’
But other than that, like any other musician, I am always looking for that next gig!
For additional information, including live music videos on Tootie, a simple search on the web will yield many results or check out his web page at JamesTootieHogan.com
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Written by Tamela
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