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John Hogg Interview

John Hogg
John Hogg
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  • John Hogg and Harvey Interview 00:00
Interviewees: John Hogg and Harvey
Interviewers: Chris Strachwitz and Unknown
Date: 4/14/60
Location: California
Language: English

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission. info@arhoolie.org

See below photo gallery for a transcript of the interview.

John Hogg Interview Transcript:

Speaker 1:

How do you remember that stuff so well, you haven’t played it in a long time and everything?

John Hogg:

What’s that?

Speaker 1:

This style.

John Hogg:

I don’t know. It’s just in me. It’s in me. They say- Actually, the guys, since I’ve been on the west coast have changed me over kind of on the modern kick, but I still can’t away from this.

Chris Strachwitz:

I thought so, yeah, I was wondering-

Speaker 1:

You miss it, don’t you?

John Hogg:

Yeah.

Chris Strachwitz:

Because Tiny Webb was pretty much of a modern player, also.

John Hogg:

Yeah, that’s right.

Chris Strachwitz:

I guess Crayton also.

John Hogg:

Yeah, he was too. Mm-hmm (affirmative) [crosstalk 00:00:29] Kind of modern blues.

Speaker 1:

Yes. Did you dig Wheatstraw the most? Was Peetie Wheatstraw your favorite, or … ?

John Hogg:

Yeah, Mm-hmm (affirmative). Peetie Wheatstraw and Blind Lemon.

Speaker 1:

Blind Lemon.

John Hogg:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 1:

You never saw Blind Lemon in person, did you?

John Hogg:

No, I never did see him in person.

Speaker 1:

But you saw Miles.

John Hogg:

Yeah. Miles, his cousin. He was terrific.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did Miles usually play around Dallas? Or where ….?

John Hogg:

I saw him in Greenville], Texas. He lived in Greenville.

Speaker 1:

What, did he play picnics around there or what?

John Hogg:

Oh, yeah, he played picnics. Dances, country dances.

Chris Strachwitz:

He wasn’t blind, was he?

John Hogg:

No, he wasn’t blind. No. He had kind of big blood-shot eyes, so you know, it looked like it.

Speaker 2:

You said that yesterday…

Chris Strachwitz:

[crosstalk 00:01:16] Well, that’s all right, we plan to get this on tape.

John Hogg:

He was a real nice guitar player, too. Sing nice. I think he could beat Blind Lemon playing.

Speaker 1:

Is that right? I was thinking about it- [crosstalk 00:01:28]

Chris Strachwitz:

Was he younger than Blind Lemon, do you think? Or was he about the same age?

John Hogg:

Yes, because he was Blind Lemon’s nephew, see? So he had to be.

Speaker 1:

He was younger, then?

John Hogg:

Yeah, younger.

Chris Strachwitz:

So he may still be around.

John Hogg:

He might be. Uh-huh.

Chris Strachwitz:

I’m going to have to look for him…

John Hogg:

I’m going home on a vacation this summer.

Speaker 1:

Are you?

Chris Strachwitz:

Are you?

John Hogg:

Yeah. And I’ll try and look him up, if he’s still around.

Chris Strachwitz:

I might meet you there, because me and this fellow from England were going to take a big tour this summer.

John Hogg:

Is that right?

Chris Strachwitz:

We’re going to Houston, Dallas, all around there.

John Hogg:

Yeah, uh-huh. Well you might run up on Smokey around Dallas, there some place, yeah.

Chris Strachwitz:

Smokey’s back there, huh?

John Hogg:

Yeah. Uh-huh.

Speaker 1:

You dug some of the others, too? Scrapper Blackwell, didn’t you? And Blind Blake and those guys?

John Hogg:

No, I’d never meet any one of the guys.

Speaker 1:

But you heard of them?

John Hogg:

Oh, sure. My favorite guys, you know. Blind Blake, Blind Lemon. Peetie Wheatstraw, he was terrific. And I won’t forget Leroy Carr, either.

Speaker 1:

Leroy Carr.

John Hogg:

He was good, uh-huh.

Speaker 1:

Alabama blues.

John Hogg:

Uh-huh.

Chris Strachwitz:

What sort of harmonicaists do we hear down there? I mean, when you were-

Speaker 1:

Did you know any harmonicaists in Louisiana?

Harvey:

No.

Speaker 1:

None at all, huh? Did that influence stop when you came on here?

Harvey:

Yeah, because, well Sonny Boy was about the only thing was going about the time I come around here.

Speaker 1:

You bought his records, I suppose, and that sort of stuff, huh?

Harvey:

Ah, actually, I didn’t. I mean, I bought a few of his records, but not many. Because, see, I haven’t been playing the harmonica too long.

Speaker 1:

When did you start picking it up?

Harvey:

I started about ’54.

Speaker 1:

No kidding. Gee.

Chris Strachwitz:

You’re doing great.

Harvey:

I started about ’54.

Speaker 1:

How did you meet him, John?

John Hogg:

I met him at the club on Pico, I think they call it Amherst Club. He’s blowing harmonica, he was kind of having a jam session. [crosstalk 00:03:27] Yeah, having a jam session. And I met him there, I don’t guess he remember me, but I met him there.

Harvey:

I was-

John Hogg:

I was playing guitar that night, too.

Harvey:

Yeah.

John Hogg:

Uh-huh.

Chris Strachwitz:

Do you ever remember any of the fellows who played down-home blues around here? Maybe like Harmonica Slim? I don’t know- [crosstalk 00:03:49]

John Hogg:

We got a guy around here play, let’s see, down-home blues? Call him Slim Green.

Chris Strachwitz:

Slim Green.

Speaker 1:

He’s living in Fresno.

Chris Strachwitz:

He’s up near Fresno.

John Hogg:

Yeah. I was with him last night.

Speaker 1:

Sidney Maiden and that crew up there.

John Hogg:

We’re playing there.

Speaker 1:

Used to play across the street for a while, now he’s up in …

John Hogg:

He’s playing with us Friday and Saturday, Sunday on this job.

Speaker 1:

Did Smokey ever get on you for changing?

John Hogg:

Ah, you mean … ?

Speaker 1:

I mean for changing your style over to electric, did Smokey ever … ?

John Hogg:

No. Actually.

Speaker 1:

Smokey played electric, but he preferred the other, didn’t he?

John Hogg:

No, I tried to get Smokey to teach me that style, but Smokey never would, so I just had to go along, try and learn it the hard way. And, after, I learned it, I guess, pretty good, then along come this guy Tiny Webb, see? He told me.

Speaker 1:

These guys out here had different requirements.

John Hogg:

Yeah. They had different feelings. Naturally tried to played different. After I got started with him, well, what he was teaching me didn’t sound right to me, because I’d been used to my down-home style.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. What was it? Black Ace was your first?

John Hogg:

Black Ace was my, was the first guy that I, I used to run around with him back home. I actually …

Speaker 2:

[crosstalk 00:05:05], you want some?

Speaker 1:

Is he still around? [crosstalk 00:05:11]

John Hogg:

I left Dallas in ’42 and went to Denver, Colorado.

Speaker 1:

How long were you in Denver?

John Hogg:

Ten months.

Speaker 1:

Ten months.

John Hogg:

Yeah, I caught up with Black Ace on my way to Denver.

Chris Strachwitz:

You mean Black Ace went to Denver, too?

John Hogg:

No, he was going out in west Texas to play dances.

Speaker 1:

Oh, is that right?

John Hogg:

Uh-huh.

Speaker 1:

What did he play? He played …

John Hogg:

He played guitar.

Speaker 1:

Guitar. About your age, was he or a little older?

John Hogg:

No, he was older than I was. I figure Black Ace was then about 30, 35, something like that.

Chris Strachwitz:

I guess he never made any records, Black Ace?

Speaker 1:

You didn’t dig Denver at all, huh?

John Hogg:

Huh?

Speaker 1:

Did you dig Denver at all?

John Hogg:

Too cold. [crosstalk 00:05:44]

Speaker 1:

Were you guys thinking about that, were you, when you wrote that blues?

John Hogg:

Yeah, that’s actually when I got the tune. And Black Ace I met him, I caught up with him, and I recognized him, see? And so I stopped, and we had a big long talk.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

John Hogg:

He was going out in west Texas and play some …

Speaker 1:

But when you made your first record, you hadn’t changed yet, had you?

John Hogg:

No, no.

Speaker 1:

No. [crosstalk 00:06:12] Because that was still country.

John Hogg:

Yeah, that was real down-home.

Chris Strachwitz:

Real down-home stuff, yeah.

Chris Strachwitz:

West Texas is a pretty, what is it… What are the big cities, Abilene out there?

John Hogg:

Abilene and Lubbock.

Speaker 1:

Did you play those cities when you were there, or were you developing out there?

John Hogg:

No, I wasn’t playing any when I was back home. I always wanted to, but …

Speaker 1:

Never had the chance.

John Hogg:

I actually didn’t get myself time, I guess.

Speaker 1:

How old were you when you left Dallas?

John Hogg:

Oh, let’s see.

Speaker 2:

28 I think.

John Hogg:

28.

Speaker 2:

I can remember that.

Speaker 1:

How were you approached for that record you made on Octive? How’d that come about?

John Hogg:

Let’s see, this fellow I met him, and he said he was getting him a label and he asked me would I do him some tunes. And I told him here, he wanted some down-home tunes. And I told him all right. He said just you and the guitar, and so he made the studio date, and we went over, and I sat there and cut them, recorded them for him. Uh-huh. I don’t know where he’s at now.

Chris Strachwitz:

I guess he just-

Speaker 1:

You’re pretty young Harvey, but did you dig any of those guys at that time?

Harvey:

I remember Peetie Wheatstraw. I like his singing. That’s one guy … but I only remember one record.

Speaker 1:

He had about eight fists on the piano. (Laughing)

Harvey:

And I remember a little of Blind Lemon. But just a little.

Speaker 1:

You were awfully young then.

Harvey:

Yeah.

John Hogg:

I bet he was wearing knee pants then.

Chris Strachwitz:

That Blind Lemon really had tremendous influence on everybody. [crosstalk 00:08:03].

John Hogg:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 1:

Some of your stuff sounds like his. Like Jack of Diamonds.

John Hogg:

Yeah, uh-huh. That Blind Lemon, he was my favorite for a long time.

Speaker 1:

Did you ever see Texas Alexander?

John Hogg:

I think I met him once. I think I met him in Dallas.

Speaker 1:

That was his cousin, wasn’t it?

John Hogg:

I think so. My cousin Smokey knows them all. Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Speaker 1:

What’s Smokey think of you?

John Hogg:

I don’t know. He should think pretty well of me, I’ve done a lot of good things for Smokey. Yes.

Speaker 1:

You guys haven’t had any trouble getting work, have you? I mean, you’ve been getting some of these recording gigs and stuff.

John Hogg:

Oh, no. No trouble at all.

John Hogg:

That Smokey, though, he’s been playing a guitar since he was about 5 years old.

Speaker 1:

Is that right?

Chris Strachwitz:

Is that right?

Harvey:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Did you ever hear his “Highway 51?”

John Hogg:

Yeah, oh yeah.

Speaker 1:

Isn’t that nice?

John Hogg:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Strachwitz:

The prison blues he did, that must have been an old traditional number, wasn’t it?

John Hogg:

Yeah. I showed Smokey this. [Playing guitar]. I showed him this part. [crosstalk 00:09:02] I was sitting down playing it, you know, and he says show me that. Says I want to add that to one of my numbers.

Chris Strachwitz:

He sure did. [Crosstalk 00:09:11]

Speaker 1:

He sure used that one, I’ll tell you. [crosstalk 00:09:17].

Chris Strachwitz:

He recorded that a number of times.

John Hogg:

And it works good in that number. Penitentiary Blues, I believe.

Speaker 1:

He’s one of the real fine singers.

John Hogg:

Yeah. His dad was a guitar player in the south. Uncle Frank, they called him.

Speaker 1:

Chris was bring up that you sounded, you phrased like Sonny Boy Williamson.

Chris Strachwitz:

You put the words like he did, you know? He’d rush them a tenth, but then you’d draw them out eleventh. How come I guess, tell me that mixture of harmonica playing, probably, it brings it out.

Harvey:

And another thing, then like I say, I caught it in a high voice. I used to sing in a low tone of voice.

John Hogg:

Oh, yeah. [crosstalk 00:09:53] …night I was on that jam session.

Harvey:

I sing in a low tone. But you see I caught it up high. When I caught it up high, well, to keep from messing up sometime I had to rush, in order to bring it out.

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah that’s-

Speaker 1:

That’s kind of a surprise to you, is it? The old stuff’s coming back, that real old time.

John Hogg:

Yeah, but I always want it to come back, because I always liked it. I always did like it. I don’t know, you know this cha-cha, and stuff like that? I had to learn to play that because that’s what the kiddies liked. You know, they’d come and say play a cha-cha. Cha-cha. Well, I come home with my guitar-

Chris Strachwitz:

[crosstalk 00:10:26]

Speaker 1:

Maybe some day on the club dates they’ll ask-

John Hogg:

They liked all that cha-cha. The youngsters. You know, I had to learn how to play the cha-cha.

Speaker 1:

You had to learn how, or else. [crosstalk 00:10:37]

Chris Strachwitz:

How about the cha-cha boogie? The cha-cha blues. Why don’t you do a little- [crosstalk 00:10:38]

John Hogg:

I’ll show you something here. I’ll make three changes out of it.

Harvey:

I get you.

John Hogg:

Uh-huh (affirmative). Alright?

Harvey:

All right. [Tape stops].

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you ever hear of a fellow named Baby Face Turner or a Big Bill [inaudible 00:10:51]?

John Hogg:

Yeah, I’ve heard of him. I sure have.

Chris Strachwitz:

Because I think they recorded here in Los Angeles for Modern some time ago. [crosstalk 00:10:59] … low down piano…

John Hogg:

Yeah.

Chris Strachwitz:

I was just wondering whether he’s still around or anything.

Speaker 1:

You’re kind of a younger generation, but you dig that country blues.

Harvey:

Oh, yeah. I play that all the time. [crosstalk 00:11:14]

John Hogg:

That’s part of it.

Harvey:

That’s me. That’s part of it.

Speaker 1:

That’s part of you.

John Hogg:

Yeah. Actually, I don’t know. It’s just something that you, that’s something that is ..[crosstalk 00:11:30]

Chris Strachwitz:

I was born in Germany, and the people there like those marches, and things. [crosstalk 00:11:34] I was born to th kind of music it seems like… [Crosstalk 00:11:38]

John Hogg:

Well, that’s just our kind of music. The blues, and you know that stuff. This gut bucket as they can get. And then of them, you know, they want to …

Speaker 1:

Sort of makes you feel good, huh.

John Hogg:

Yeah, then the ones that go to school. You know the colored guys that go to school and learn music. Well, they play progressive, you know, stuff like that. Because that’s the only way they know to play. They’re book-learned musicians.

Speaker 1:

They never heard that music you heard.

John Hogg:

Well, they heard it, but they can’t play it after they go to school and learn how [crosstalk 00:12:08]

Speaker 1:

… because they can’t play it, they knock it, not because it isn’t good.

John Hogg:

There you are. There you are.

Chris Strachwitz:

That’s very true, yeah.

John Hogg:

My cousin Smokey was booked at the Five Four, twice. And the band couldn’t play behind him. No. That’s the truth. And Tiny, the guy that taught me after I got off the down-home kick, well, Tiny set up there and played with him. It was just two guitars going. Pretty soon there was a short colored guy, walked up to the bass player, said something to him, he said, here, so he handed them the bass. And so he played right with Smokey. Piano player was standing up, there was a guy went up there, said something to him, so he gets in on the piano, played right with Smokey. Comes another guy up to the drummer, spoke to him, he gets down there and plays right with Smokey. Another guy come up and asked the horn player for his horn. Right with Smokey. Texas boys.

Speaker 1:

Texas boys.

John Hogg:

Boy he sounds different.

Chris Strachwitz:

Very true.

Speaker 1:

Makes all the difference in the world.

John Hogg:

Then those guys stands up there, I thought I was a great musician, you know, to himself.

Chris Strachwitz:

He was good in his own place, you know. [Crosstalk 00:13:14].

John Hogg:

Yeah.

Chris Strachwitz:

But there’s a different Texas style, you know? It’s like in Mississippi you have that Tommy McLain-

John Hogg:

Sure. Those boys played right along with him. Changed when he changed.

Speaker 1:

It’s like Texas [inaudible 00:13:24] gotta go together. You got to have that regional sort of thing.

John Hogg:

Smokey had a special group that he done all his recording with. These guys would just play right along with him. You know, listen. When he changed, they changed. You know what I mean? They just forget about how the music, their music, is supposed to be. When Smokey said duke this, they’re right on it.

Speaker 1:

What kind of jazz do you take, John? [crosstalk 00:13:56] stuff, or?

John Hogg:

Well, I like, I’ll tell you what I like. I like cowboy music a lot.

Speaker 1:

Do you?

John Hogg:

Yeah

Speaker 1:

In Texas you hear a lot of that.

John Hogg:

Yeah. I like cowboy music a lot. My wife, she’s crazy about it.

Chris Strachwitz:

I like it too. It swings. A swing to it.

John Hogg:

Yeah, I like-

Speaker 2:

Listening all night.

John Hogg:

I like these, actually I don’t … I like …

Speaker 1:

Anybody who knocks cowboy music doesn’t know what it’s about.

John Hogg:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

That’s it.

John Hogg:

Uh-huh. I like the cowboy music, and I like this music that this guy, champagne guy on TV.

Speaker 1:

Lawrence Welk.

John Hogg:

Yeah, I like his style.

Speaker 1:

It’s sincere. Whatever it is, it’s sincere.

John Hogg:

Yeah. I like his music. He’s got something there. But he’s got to, see his people, for that type of stuff, you know listening. You know what I mean? I couldn’t make no money with that stuff if I could play it, because I probably couldn’t get placed in the right place with it.

Chris Strachwitz:

That stuff doesn’t come from the heart.

John Hogg:

No, it’s book-learning.

Speaker 1:

I think Welk is sincere, it’s just we don’t dig some of his stuff. What were some of those things that you used to dig in Texas and picnics, they were pretty rough, weren’t they?

John Hogg:

You mean the music?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, were they a lot of fun?

John Hogg:

Yeah. Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Chris Strachwitz:

How’d you make yourself heard when you just had regular, without amplifying?

John Hogg:

Oh, yeah. Actually, Smokey would, if he’d ever get a hold of rattlesnake rattles, he’d put it in the guitar. And it brings it out. [crosstalk 00:15:42]

Chris Strachwitz:

He put them in the guitars?

John Hogg:

Just drops them over in there, drops the rattlesnake rattles.

Speaker 1:

That’s pretty clever. Genius.

John Hogg:

Drop them over in there. And it gives it more of a ring.

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah.

John Hogg:

You wouldn’t think it … and Smokey, then …

Speaker 1:

That’s news to me, I never heard that.

John Hogg:

Guitar like this, he’d drop his rattlesnake rattle right over in there, and boy, when you hit down on it, it sounds about as loud again.

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