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Hoss Huggins: An East Texas Music Icon

Hoss Huggins tyler tx eguide 1By 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.”

Hoss Huggins tyler tx eguide 4The 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.

Hoss Huggins tyler tx eguide 3Jonna 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.”

Hoss Huggins tyler tx eguideHuggins 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.

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October 13th, Award-Winning Band MercyMe in Concert

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October 13th, Award-Winning Band MercyMe in Concert

MercyMe will be in concert at The Oil Palace is October and is guaranteed to sell-out!

Since their debut in 2001, Grammy®-nominated, multiple American Music Award and Dove Award winners, MercyMe has sold more than 8.5 million units in CD, single and DVD sales, garnered 27 No. 1 multi-format Christian radio singles and four consecutive mainstream radio hits with ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ (No. 4 AC/Top 25 on Top 40/Hot AC), ‘Here With Me’ (No. 4 AC), ‘Homesick’ (Top 10 AC), and ‘So Long Self.’

Their radio success has continued with recent singles ‘Flawless’ (No. 1 for 15 weeks) and ‘Greater’ (No. 1 for 16 weeks)​, landing them the Top Christian Airplay Artist spot on Billboard’s 2015 Year End charts.

MercyMe made history in 2014 as ‘I Can Only Imagine’ surpassed 2 million digital downloads, making it the first song in Christian music to go platinum and double-platinum in the digital domain. In 2009, Billboard named MercyMe’s ‘Word Of God Speak’ the No. 1 Song of The Decade and the group the No. 1 Artist of the Decade in both the Christian Songs and Christian AC Songs categories, recognizing them as one of the industry’s most notable talents.

They have sold out venues throughout the US and Canada, including Radio City Music Hall, and have appeared on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Fox New Channel’s Fox & Friends, CNN, ABC News, and in the pages of Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, USA Today and more.

Their most recent project “MercyMe, It’s Christmas!” debuted atop the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart and became an instant classic. Their eighth studio release, “Welcome To The New,” garnered Billboard Music Award nominations in all three Christian categories and two Grammy® nods; the album is available in stores now.

Tickets start at $19 and are available at oilpalace.com. The Oil Palace is located at 10408 State Highway 64 East, Tyler, (903)566-2122.

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Blacktop Mojo: Burning Up The Roads To Success

stretford tyler tx

By Johnny Griffith

About a year and a half ago I sat down to interview Blacktop Mojo, a Jacksonville based hard rock band riding a wave of momentum after several successful years together and an upcoming album release. The end of that interview finished with this:

“Blacktop Mojo can still be heard around East Texas on a regular basis, but I would definitely suggest checking out their website for more information and a sample of their music if you haven’t heard them. If it’s in your wheelhouse, get out and support a great local band that won’t be local for much longer at the rate their Mojo is working.”

As it turns out, I was a little more prescient that I anticipated as Blacktop Mojo’s stock has only risen in the ensuing months. With a successful album release, ever increasingly distant tour stops, and mounting accolades from industry critics and magazines, local BTM shows are becoming harder to come by.

In case you might not have heard of Blacktop Mojo, their sound can be described as “modern rock that got dragged through a puddle of southern rock and then dipped in a little bit of grunge”. The band was originally formed in 2012 and the current lineup includes Matt James on vocals, Nathan Gillis on drums, Chuck Wepfer on rhythm guitar, Ryan Keifer on lead guitar, and Matt Curtis on bass.  

With a huge sound and chest shaking vocals, Blacktop Mojo brings a high energy rock show that leaves fans wanting more everywhere they go. While in the midst of rehearsals last month for their most recent tour that kicked off in San Antonio on April 20th, we caught up with them to see what had been going on for the past year and a half and what was on the radar for the rest of the year.

Johnny: So it’s been about a year and a half since our last interview with you guys and the last time we talked there was an album in the works. When did “Burn The Ships” release and how was the process different from the first time around when you recorded “I am”?

BTM: “Burn The Ships” released in March of 2017. The biggest difference between this record and our first record, “I Am”, was the amount of time we took for pre-production. On “I Am”, we spent about two weeks getting ready and arranging the songs before we went in to record it, where on “Burn The Ships”, we spent about eight months demoing and playing around with different ideas.

Johnny: How has the reception been to the album so far and do you guys have your own personal favorite song from it?

BTM: The reception to the album has been incredible this far. We’ve had countless positive reviews and feedback from publications all over the world. Also, our first single off of the album entitled “Where The Wind Blows” reached number 27 on the Billboard Active Rock chart last summer.

Johnny: You guys got to open for Bon Jovi last year in a sold-out stadium. Tell us about that about how you guys got that honor and a little about the experience?

BTM: We actually won that honor in a contest the band was putting on. We submitted some of our original music and were picked by Live Nation and the band’s management to open up the show. The experience was beyond amazing and the crowd was very receptive to us. We cannot thank the Bon Jovi camp enough for the opportunity and for treating us so incredibly.

Johnny: Obviously that put you in front of a lot of potential new fans but what would you say the biggest takeaway from that event was?

BTM: Our biggest takeaway from that night was that whether you’re playing in front of 20 or 20,000 people, you should treat it the same way. Make everyone feel like you’re playing in a stadium even if it’s an empty room.

Johnny: Blacktop Mojo has been trending steadily upward the past couple of years with several accolades from industry publications, over 40 thousand likes on Facebook, a new album, and you guys seem to play everywhere and anywhere. What kind of effect has the increased exposure and success had on the daily routine and what kind of new challenges have came along?

BTM: Our daily routine hasn’t changed much when we’re home. We still write and rehearse on a regular basis and go about business as usual. The increased exposure has made touring opportunities more readily available for us and has increased the number of people we can reach with our music, which is super exciting for us.

Johnny: You have a pretty extensive tour coming up that you’ll already be on the road for when this goes to print. Is this the biggest tour BTM has embarked on and what goes into planning a 2-month long road trip that covers, as best I could count, 32 states, both sides of the country, Canada, and 43 shows?

BTM: This is our most extensive tour to date. A lot of planning, routing, and generally putting the puzzle pieces together has gone on over the past few months by us and our team to make this happen. We couldn’t be more excited to get back out on the road and see our friends across the country.

Johnny: I’d say it would be time for a break after that sort of trip, but you guys are right back at it, playing Rock Fest 2018 up in Wisconsin with some huge names, do you guys ever have to step back, take a breath, and say to yourself “this is our reality”?

BTM: We are very blessed to be able to wake up and do what we love every single day. They say “you never work a day in your life if you do what you love”, so I don’t think we’ve ever really thought about taking a break.

Johnny: Were you able to see yourself at this point back when you played your first show at the Neches Fall Festival or the first “official” show as BTM at the Shelton Gin back in 2012?

BTM: It would have been hard to imagine getting to do what we do now back then. We’ve always just been happy to be able to play music for people.

Johnny: With what’s on your plate for the first half of this year, I almost hate to ask, but what’s on the radar for the second half of 2018 that you can share with us?

BTM: We have plans to keep touring throughout the rest of the year and are currently writing music for our third record.

Johnny: What has been the best memory from the ride so far?

BTM: It’s hard to pick just one from all of it. One of my favorites so far was riding back into town off of our first tour last Summer/Fall. We’d been out on the road for over 60 days straight with 7 of us basically living out of our van. We were tired, beat up, and hungry, but everyone was smiling and joking with each other. It really felt like we had accomplished something.

For more information on Blacktop Mojo and when they’ll be back at a location near you, check them out on the web:

www.blacktopmojo.com 

www.facebook.com/BlacktopMojo.

 

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