The South Carolina Music Guide

Blue Dogs Homecoming – 25 Years in the Making

The Charleston Music Hall will host the 25th Anniversary celebration for the Blue Dogs on Sunday, December 29th.  This has been a long and adventurous journey for the effervescent crew.  Over the course of their career, the Blue Dogs have seen changes in goals, bandmates, career direction, and even faced disappointment during tough times.  Nonetheless, the band has brought forth 9 successful albums melding bluegrass, alternative country, southern rock and roll, and just plain fun.  Lyrics typical of many of their songs make you grin, such as “Your shining lips remind me of a mountain stream, Your cool blue eyes straight from a dream, Your breath smells like cornbread” from the song Cornbread from their Soul Dogfood album.  When they are on stage, you want to grab a partner, kick up your boots, and dance a jig.

The Blue Dogs brand has been carefully designed by founders Bobby Houck and Hank Futch to exhibit their spirit and attitudes about music.  Having been influenced by family members in the business throughout their early years, the boys designed their sound to also reflect the culture in which they grew up.  Bands such as the Grateful Dead, REM, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, made an impact on their early efforts in writing style and genre.  Their earliest performances for friends, frat parties, and other local events eventually expanded to larger venues as the band garnered more attention and attendance to their concerts.

The original Blue Dogs tracks were acoustic sets, with additional electric pieces being incorporated throughout the 90’s.  They finally morphed into what is collectively known now as an evolving, breathing machine that includes drums, electric guitar, the occasional fiddle, and of course, Hank’s electric bass.  Band members fluctuate to include Phillip Lammonds, fraternity brother of Hank’s, who inspires and writes much of the Dogs’ music.  Greg Walker joins on drums, David Stewart on electric guitar, and a host of other musicians, like Mark Bryan from Hootie and the Blowfish with his mad mandolin skills, bound onstage to entice and excite the crowds with their funky rhythm.  The song, Homegrown Tomatoes, is a local favorite, and you’ll often seen Papa Futch, Hank’s dad, singing lead.

In the 90’s, the Dogs heated up their act and started courting record deals.  In doing so, they pushed the envelope and explored new music and sounds, writing and creating more rock and roll vibes and hard core bluegrass.  Their efforts were received well locally, and they got some airplay on 96 WAVE.  The self-titled album, Blue Dogs, portrays much of their influences’, Wilco and Son Volt, rock and roll style.  During this era, they performed at their largest venue ever and opened for Hootie and the Blowfish at Finley Park.  Approximately 60-70,000 fans were camped out on the lawns jamming with the Festival.

Even with the support of David Lowery, co-founder of Cracker and producer at Sound of Music Studios, as well as Don Gehman, who produced Hootie’s Cracked Rear View album, the Blue Dogs were unable to acquire a contract with a label.  Not to be deterred, they eagerly headed to NYC to participate in a contest that could potentially give the band recording time and/or another chance at a recording deal.  The Dogs rocked The Mercury, hit the bars to enjoy their stay in New York and crashed late in the evening.  The next morning, Bobby calls Hank at the hotel and says, “Do you know what happened?”  Hank replies, “No, what?”  Bobby then proceeds to inform him of the horrible news that just around the corner from the hotel, planes had hit the World Trade Center.  It was September 11, 2001.  Hank rushed outside to see what happened, and the sky was filled with black smoke.  The boys then proceeded their sad journey down a desolate and eerie I-95, and headed home to reunite and recuperate with their loved ones.

Over the next few years, they toured throughout the US, concentrating mostly on the East Coast, but also venturing out to Colorado, Texas, and back to New York.  One of their most notable concerts was at the White House.  The Dogs played a wedding for the niece of President George Bush.  One of their fondest memories is President Bush cutting the rug to Homegrown Tomatoes.  Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Boat Cruise, hosted by Simple Man Cruise, was another favorite for the boys.  California is yet unexplored and is now on the top of their bucket list, as they’ve always wanted to go but just haven’t made it yet.

The Dogs have performed with many renowned artists in their career, such as Bruce Hornsby at Chastain Park in Atlanta.  They’ve opened for Willie Nelson at the North Charleston Coliseum, played at Zak Brown’s Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, and hit the stage with Edwin McCain, Little Feat, and Widespread Panic.  Artists who later received accolades in country music also include Jennifer Nettles, Jason Michael Carroll, Kristian Bush of Sugarland, and Train.  Kristian Bush eventually wrote a song that was inspired by the group, titled All Of My Heroes, that was later recorded by the Blue Dogs.

In celebration of these illustrious successes and accomplishments, and after overcoming many difficulties on the road with finances, conflicting personalities of grown men with lives outside of their musical career, and being away from their families for extended amounts of time, the Blue Dogs are looking forward to the party at the Charleston Music Hall on the 29th.  Many of their friends and family will join them at this beautiful location, such as Danielle Howle, Mark Bryan, Papa Futch, Mac Leaphart, and John Satterfield.  Other surprise guests are expected to show up and blow away those in attendance.  As Charles Carmody, director of the Music Hall, states, “I am just happy to be there.  This is going to be a huge event.”  We can’t wait either and hope to hear many more years of Blue Dogs.

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