By Barbara King
A quick coffee with one of the most charming, charismatic storytellers, and music legends of East Texas was two hours worth of wit, banter, and amazing music reminiscences.
Hoss Huggins is a name that is very well known in Texas music circles. Well, of course, he’s been around the music scene since his early days in Paris singing and swinging with his brothers Gary and Mickey. The Huggins Brothers, born and bred in Paris, practiced a lot at home and had their very own radio show on station KTFV in that town. They played rock and roll as well as country and pop, playing proms, parties and tons of local dances. They also played at the Paris Red River Jamboree every Saturday night, eventually landing on the Louisiana Hayride. Through all the adventures, their parents supported their dreams – buying them better instruments, all along while their mom making all of their stage clothes.
“It’s been a long, beautiful ride from my boyhood in Paris,” admits Huggins. Inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2011, he has “retired” from a long career in TV and radio, but he’s very much a “tried and true” musician who still plays gigs with his band “Hoss Huggins and the Ponderosa Band.” Huggins brothers also still perform as “The Quintet of Paris.”
The self-taught Huggins will readily admit, “I almost got kicked out of Paris Junior College where I attended on a full music scholarship because I couldn’t read music. When the Dean realized I performed in about four different bands and musical groups on campus, I guess he realized they couldn’t afford to let me go.” Huggins became a valued alumni and was inducted into the college’s prestigious Hall of Fame.
A stellar career with over 28 years in radio and 30 years in TV, Huggins made his on-air debut in 1967 on KZAK, the first country music station in Tyler. “I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he recalls with an infectious grin. “The real on-air disc jockey would go down the hall to call his girlfriend and not come back when the record ended, so I found myself talking and carrying on and introducing songs, and I really liked it.”
Huggins connections and friends in the industry are a “who’s who” of music. He introduced Johnny Cash at Caldwell Auditorium on his 25th-anniversary tour. He also remembers performing one night in Lynden, Texas when a young kid asked to sit in and play the drums. “We were all very reluctant to have someone take the stage with us that we didn’t know, but he was really good, and years later he was performing as Don Henley.” He met many other top stars as they made their way through Tyler, including Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, and the Oakridge Boys.
Jonna Fitzgerald, another well-known Texas personality, musician, and fiddler extraordinaire says, “Hoss has been my cherished friend since the mid-1980’s, although I’ve been a fan of his for much longer. He was providing entertainment and inspiration to my family since my childhood when he was a television personality on KLTV. Hoss has always exhibited the most positive outlook on life, and has a never-ending stream of Hoss-isms that always makes me smile. He is one of those rare talents who can play any style of music and has an endless playlist. In the event that he may not know a requested song, although I don’t believe it’s possible, he can pick and grin until you’re convinced he must have written the original, or toss out one of his own that is so powerful that you’ll forget what you requested in the first place.” Huggins has a soft spot in his heart for Jonna, and he says, “I call her often to sit in with us and sometimes she will just drop in. She’s like family and is welcome anytime we play. She’s a great lady and musician.”
Huggins plays the guitar, harmonica, and bass, and says that the Ponderosa Band on any given night plays anything from Elvis, George Strait, to ZZ Top, with sometimes even a little disco beat thrown in. “Tom Perryman of ‘The Ranch’ 104.1 KKUS in Tyler has said that we know over 4,000 songs,” he grins. “I’m not sure if that’s so, but we will give it our best shot and make it a fun evening for everyone.”
Huggins is a family man, and says, “that is the reason I didn’t really chase that fame or star.” He chose to stay in East Texas and with his wife, raise his two sons who also have music in their veins. “You’ll see on our CD, ‘I Just Don’t Look Nekked Anymore,’ my son Bret plays telecaster guitar,” he mentions proudly. “All my kids and grandkids are into music in one way or another either playing or in the entertainment business.” He toured with his two boys “Hoss and Sons” from 1977-1987.
Huggins still performs at TASCA (Tyler Area Senior Citizens Association) and has been doing it for 25 years, every third Saturday of the month. The day we met, he was doing his regular spot at the Garden Valley Senior Center.
Talk to Hoss about retirement and he will tell you that it hasn’t slowed him down much. “I have people tell me I should write a book,” he says. “I just know that I learned to perform so I wouldn’t embarrass my parents. Do what you love and love what you do is something I learned straightaway and my love happened to be music.”
Interested in booking Hoss and The Ponderosa Band, contact Hoss at (903)561-4797 or HossHuggins@aol.com.
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Jason Herrin, Shooter Jennings, Dirty River Boys in Concert this Weekend
March 9th (8pm) Jason Herrin will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door. Cover is $7.
March 10th (8pm) – Shooter Jennings – Shooter Jennings is an American singer-songwriter, active mainly in the outlaw country music and Southern rock genres. He is the son of country music legend Waylon Jennings. Tickets range from $35 -$45. Liberty Hall is located at 103 E. Erwin St., Tyler. Tickets are available at libertytyler.com.
March 10th (8pm) – Dirty River Boys with Pushwater will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $15 for general admission.
March 16th (8pm) – Parker McCollum will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are available at wildtexastickets.com. Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Parker McCollum treats each song he writes with a painstaking level of dedication, reverence, respect and as he will readily admit, even a bit of obsession. His new album “Probably Wrong” follows the Austin-based performer’s ultimate goal is to reinvent himself with each record he makes. Tickets are $13-$20.
March 17th (8pm-1am) – St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre will take place at Click’s Live, 1946 ESE Loop 323, Tyler. The St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre features Edge of Misery, No Due Respect, and LowLife. Cover at the door. Doors open at 8pm.
March 22nd (7-10pm) – Zach Winters and Jason Barrows will perform at The Foundry Coffee House, 202 S. Broadway, Downtown Tyler. They will be performing songs from their new albums and changing every city they visit to the city of brotherly love. Early bird tickets are $10. Pre-sale ticket are $12. At the door tickets are $15. Doors at 7pm and music starts at 7:30pm. All ages are welcome. For more info go to zachwinters.com or jasonbarrows.com.
March 24th (8pm) – Bibeau Record Release Party & Concert – will be held at Click’s Live. Tickets are available at the door with proper ID.
March 25th (8pm) – Texas Sunday Returns with Brandon Rhyder at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $15 for general admission.
April 7th (9pm-1am) – Post Profit with Travis Christian will be at Garage Bar, 418 E. Erwin St., Downtown Tyler. There is a $5 cover.
April 7th (7pm) – Sam Riggs will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are $15-$20 and available at wildtexastickets.com.
April 8th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Jason Boland & The Stragglers will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $20 for general admission.
April 12th (8pm) Wesley Pruitt will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door.
April 12th (7pm) – The Legendary Johnny Rodriguez in Concert – Texas Country Music Hall of Famer, Johnny Rodriguez, has had fifteen top-ten singles and 6 number-one hits since 1973. Some of Johnny’s classic hits include: “Pass Me By,” “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me),” “Riding My Thumb To Mexico,” “That’s The Way Love Goes,” and “Just Get Up and Close The Door.” For tickets call (866)710-8942. Tickets start at $35.
April 15th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Chris Knight will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $20 for general admission.
April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.
April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advanced online for $15 at etix.com.
The Blacksmiths: Still Like That Old Time Rock & Roll
By Johnny Griffith
Bob Seger has a well known hit from the early 80’s called “Old Time Rock And Roll.” This song laments the lack of soul in the contemporary music of that time period and declares his intent to keep playing classic rock as a solution. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet Mr. Seger, but the closest thing we have here in East Texas is Chris Austin of the local classic rock band, The Blacksmiths. A native of Chapel Hill, Chris played drums on the drumline at Chapel Hill High School and went on to graduate from the Dallas Sound Lab with a degree in Audio Engineering and Sound Techniques. Blessed with parents that loved music and supported him in his endeavors early and often, Austin developed a love for classic rock through the sounds he heard coming from his parents’ collections and eventually started a band and is still playing to this day.
We managed to get a word in with Chris recently to find out more about The Blacksmiths
Johnny: What is the current lineup of the band? Any changes over the lifespan of the band?
Chris: The current lineup consists of myself on lead guitar and vocals, Joshua Stewart on drums, Angelo Lopez on bass/rhythm guitar/vocals, and Ben Carter on bass and vocals. Angelo and Ben have both been filling the shoes of bass player when available, but recently we decided to shake it up a bit and go with a 4 piece instead of 3 with Angelo on guitar as well…as our busy schedules finally allowed. The lineup has changed immensely over the years. I haphazardly started this project about 6 years ago with a couple of friends just messing around in my kitchen,,,which was the only place we had to set up all the equipment at the time…typical broke musicians haha. We eventually gained a keyboard and rhythm player and were a 5 piece band by the time we started playing shows. We decided to go back to a 3 piece after about a year for convenience and scheduling issues. Our drummer at the time had to move for work but introduced me to Joshua before doing so. Joshua had played with Angelo before with “Something Blue” and I met Ben after watching him play for “King Richard and the Bayou Boys” …and as they say, the rest was history.
Johnny: Who were some of your early musical influences?
Chris: My parents were very into music and had a plethora of vinyl records to dig through. I was turned on to The Doors, The Who, The Allman Bros, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, CCR, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, SRV, David Bowie…but most importantly Led Zeppelin. When I was 12 I received a cheap electric guitar and Led Zeppelin IV on cassette tape for Christmas and that changed everything..
Johnny: At what point was the decision made to be a primarily classic rock band? Have to say you guys are a bit younger than most of the other ones in the area.
Chris: That’s really the stuff I always enjoyed playing the most and felt most comfortable with, because those tunes were ingrained in me from a young age. When we first started, we tried a lot of 90’s stuff and some 80’s Metallica and Misfits which we were pretty decent at but learned pretty quickly what we had more fun with. Even though we’re a bit younger, I feel we were all entranced by that era of music growing up. We were very lucky to have Miss Robin Griffith from XLN on 5th street give us the chance to really explore our potential. We played every Sunday there for quite a while as the house band which gave us a lot of quick feedback from the crowd…and from the venue owner haha.
Johnny: Is there any specific period of classic rock you guys gravitate towards over others?
Chris: Not really, I’ve just personally loved the 70’s era most, but we cover the 60’s and 80’s as well. We do seem to cover a lot of Creedence Clearwater and The Doors though, if that says anything.
Johnny: Where did the band name come from?
Chris: The guys from the original lineup and I were hanging out after practice having a beer or two and trying to come up with something, After a length of time and much pondering, we looked around the room and noticed the main theme of what we were looking at…which was old, broken down, second hand, very junky equipment that I had been hoarding and frankensteining together with duct tape and zip ties for years. I’m really not sure how we didn’t shock or hurt ourselves but I remember us saying…”well, we sure know how to make something out of nothing…like a dang ole’ blacksmith” (speaking of the ramshackle but playable equipment). And just like that, it stuck.
Johnny: do you guys do any originals at this point or is it primarily covers?
Chris: I’ve had a couple of blues tunes in the works for a while but we’ve honestly been so busy playing shows and working full time day jobs or careers it’s been tough to find time, but I think this is our year to shine.
Johnny: You’ve been playing music in this area for a while now, do you have a favorite memory so far?
Chris: I’ve had a lot of really cool experiences along the way getting to play with some amazing musicians. I was the guitar player in a band with Jonathan Scott from Resident Hero for a while and grew up with the singer Ryan White. I also toured a bit as guitar player for Stewart Mann and the Statesboro Revue out of Austin. I’d have to say though, my favorite memory thus far is a recent one. Joshua and I were both taught drums by Nardo and I learned guitar from Larry Stanley. We had the opportunity to open for Mouse and the Traps for the New Years Eve party at Love and War in Lindale and man was it an experience! We got to open for the guys who taught us everything in a packed room. Too cool
Johnny: Where can people get their Blacksmiths fix over the next couple of months?
Chris: Our next scheduled gig is March 31st at Club 155 on Frankston highway…at least for the public. We do a lot of private parties, bike rallies, and events as well. But always keep an eye out for us at XLN on 5th street…that’s our main stomping ground
Johnny: What do The Blacksmiths have on the radar through the rest of the year?
Chris: We have a lot of new stuff planned for this year. A whole new set of songs, some killer merchandise and a new demo ep. Also, I’m told that you might see us opening for Mouse and the Traps again in the near future…so keep your eyes peeled
Johnny: What can a new listener expect to see at a Blacksmiths show?
Chris: A good ole’ Rock show with lots of classic favorite tunes played by guys that do the best they can to respect and represent the music for what it is….life and love
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Date Night: From Fancy to Simple, Tyler Offers a Lot of Romance
March 24th – Tyler Azalea 10k, 5k, and Kids Run plus MORE!
Theatre Guide: March 15-18th, “The Lucky O’Learys” on Stage
The Apple Didn’t Fall Far From The Tree
March 24th: Save the Mayfair Fundraiser, Dinner & Live Music
“Playhouses on the Plaza” Downtown Tyler Through March 22nd
UT Tyler Graduate Student Exhibits Feature Steel, Wood Creations
DATE CHANGES!! April 2nd: Glass Rec. Center, Summer Camp Registration Open
The Skinny on Cooking at Home: The Cookbook Junkie
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