« It was unique…there was nothing that sounded like them. » (Merrill Moore)
Hogsed is most associated with his original trio and best remembered for the 1947 hit cover of the notorious Cocaine blues ; arguably, though, it was the slightly larger band of the early 50’s, when Hogsed was augmented by his versatile brother Don on guitar, steel guitar and fiddle, and the accordionist Danny Drazkowski or pianist Miton Sautter, that produced Roy Hogsed’s most interesting and memorable recordings.
Whatever the case, despite the fact that he remained based in San Diego and his records thus had no touring support or wider name recognition of any kind, Hogsed enjoyed a relatively long and productive career on Capitol. He remained with the label after signing in 1948 through 1954, by which time country sales really began to sag, a fade exacerbated by the imminent arrival of rockabilly and rock’n’roll a year or so later. Ironically, Hogsed’s music often anticipated rock’n’roll with it’s streamlined sound, hot guitar work and driving forceful rhythm.
Hogsed’s popularity peaked in the early to mid. 50s, and faded thereafter, but he remained musically active through the 1960s, though he didn’t record again after his Capitol contract expired.
Roy Hogsed was born in Filippin, Arkansas, on December 24, 1919, the second of six children. He was taught the guitar by his uncle Clem, and with his brother on fiddle and sisters on guitars acted as family « hillbilly string band and vaudeville act » in neighborhood : schoolhouses, tent shows and fairs. But the family band began to desintegrate when Roy left home in the late 30s, and her sister married. He worked at various jobs over the next few years in Oklahoma and Texas, then went to Navy for a year during the WWII before being mustered on a medical discharge. After the war, he worked for a few months with a group (Dixieland Trouprs) in Jackson Mississipi, before heading to the West Coast, which was bustling from north to south, full of transplanted hillbillies – Okies, Arkies, Texans, among others – who had brought their music with them and bolstered an already large native audience for honky-tonk, western swing and hillbilly. Hogsed settled in the San Diego area in 1946, where he briefly drove a bus before to form his own trio, with bassist ‘Rusty’ Nitz and accordionist Jean Dewez. The trio quickly developed a tight, propulsive dance sound. Dewez was born in Netherlands in 1917, had come to the U.S. as a youth ; he excelled as accompanist. Nitz (born Los Angeles 1922) was a swinging propulsive player. Merrill Moore recalls « Rusty slapped that bass all night long. I don’t know how he did it. Six hours a night, six days a week. »
Calling the trio Roy Hogsed & the Rainbow Riders, Hogsed cut a four songs session in May 1947 for Coast records, hence emerged the quick rising Cocaine blues, written and sung by Red Arnall. Hogsed’s version did well, but it would do even betteron its reissue almost a year later, on Capitol, though the best side from this session may have been the looser original Daisy Mae. The sparseness of the trio was both an asset and a hindrance : it gave the band an unusual readily indentifiable sound, but didn’t allow much variety ; the band at times sounded like a midwestern polka group, especially on Dewez’s accordian features.
With the recording ban in full force in the early months of 1948, major labels kept an especially keen ear to the ground for small labels issues that were making noise and could be leased and issued on the larger label as a new release, since most independents lack the coverage and such recordings would be new to most record buyers and jukebox customers. Hogsed signed to Capitol in April 1948 and brought at least sixteen Coast masters. Capitol immediately reissued Cocaine Blues, coupling with Fishtail Boogie, an unissued Coast master. In the meantime, due as much as Hogsed’s engaging personality and abilities as a frontman as to the band’s undebiable musical abilities, they continued to build a following in the San Diego area’s clubs.The group also had a regular radio show.
Hogsed’s first Capitol session was held in July 1949 and provided Let’s Go Dancin’. The side boasted some nice guitar work from Hogsed, apparently inspired by Charlie Christian and Spade Cooley guitar player Johnny Weis. A follow-up session in January 1950 gave the thumping, driving Shuffleboard Shuffle, and Poco Tempo, with Dewez sounding looser than usual and Nitz in particular shining.
After two patriotic Korean war sides, Hogsed returned to the studio ; he abandoned the tight trio for a looser, jazzier sound. Incidentally Jewez departed and was replaced by Danny Drazkowsky, whose far more fluid and inventive playing doubled Hogsed’s brother Don’s arrival on fiddle, lead and steel guitar. Hogsed also added a drummer. Cut were tough blues Free Samples and the engaging I Wish I Wuz. October 1951 saw another hot session. Best tracks were the novelty It’s More Fun That Way, and the rolling Put Some Sugar In Your Shoes, with insistent rhythm (Nitz continued to thump away as if there were no drummer) and hot solos from Hogsed, accordionist and Don Hogsed’s fiddle. Even better were Snake Dance Boogie, somewhat anticipating the jumping, streamlined feel of rockabilly, and the tough She’s A Mean Mean Woman. Fine guitar solos by Don Hogsed were reminiscent of Jimmy Bryant’s legendary agile playing.
The new momentum came in January 1952 with an identical lineup, except for the added percussionist who plays tympani on Stretchin’ A Point Or Two. Also cut were Roll ‘Em Dice and Let Your Pendulum Swing, which was arguably the highlight of the session. The latter was another relentlessly driving side tbat straddled a fence between swinging and rocking.In November there was no more accordion ; a country jump classic, Ain’t A Bump In The Road saw the light, also Red Wing with nice twin guitar playing and laid-back vocal from Hogsed. By this time he had bought the Hacienda Club where he performed.
More sessions during 1953 and 1954 during which were cut more tracks : Babies and Bacon, You’re Just My Style, Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians. By this time Dewez had returned and Hogsed got again the Rainbow Riders sound. More sides followed : He did (written by Lee Ross, the writer of My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You), Gonna Build A Fence Around You and Do You Call That A Sweetheart. But lack of exposure (outside San Diego area) and sales drove Capitol to not resign Hogsed late 1954. Hogsed altho’ had his TV show on KFSD, covering San Diego up to Bakersfield. He worked as late as 1956-1957 with Smokey Rogers, up to the 60s. He retired in 1969 and died in 1978. Dewez in 1993, Nitz in 1990, Donald Hogsed in 1988.
(from the notes of Kevin Coffey – largely abridged – for the 1999 Bear Family CD « Cocaine Blues » BCD 16191)