Hail, Hail Eddie Hogan
I’ll be completely honest, this piece is about six months late. While it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve procrastinated on writing a story, the reason for doing so this time is far more personal than ever before.
Just after Christmas last year, the Charleston art's community lost one of its biggest and most vocal supporters—Eddie Hogan.
Eddie was always a music guy. He played in a few bands early on, and managed the Record Bar in Northwoods Mall from 1984 to 1990. I was in high school during that time, and despite growing up in Mt. Pleasant, I bought more than a few of my beloved cassettes and 45rpm records at his store without ever really getting to know the guy. It wasn’t until I got back from my stint in the army in 1992 and attended the College of Charleston that I actually met the guy.
I had become an avid reader of Charleston’s Free Time newspaper, which Eddie started in 1990 while I was still stationed over in Europe. I was writing for the CofC student newspaper, then called The Cougar Pause, and I had discovered that, amazingly, if you agreed to write about a concert at a local venue, they usually let you in free. It’s a glorious little bit of quid pro quo that I still occasionally utilize.
It was early on in my music writing career that I attended a local music showcase held at the old Café 99 (now the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company) on Market Street. The event was being put on by Charleston’s Free Times, and it not only gave me a chance to see some of the more interesting local bands of the time (I distinctly remember a very young Eddie Bush playing slide guitar with a bar stool), but I also got a chance to meet the guy who was the force behind this free newspaper I’d been picking up whenever I left a bar or club, which in my 20’s was usually 4-5 evenings a week. Eddie could not have been more supportive once he learned I had the writing bug. He even threw out the offer for me to write something for him sometime. My 22-year-old mind was blown. Me? You want me to write for you? Back then it was like Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner offering me a gig like Cameron Crowe in the film “Almost Famous.” I took him up on his offer not long after, and to Eddie’s credit, he let me spout off about whatever I wanted. The subject was usually music, but there were few times that I went off on certain people or entities, kind of like Peter Griffin’s “What Really Grinds My Gears“ gag on “Family Guy.” Eddie never censored me. Later on, my father also wrote for Charleston’s Free Time.
The thing about Charleston’s Free Time was that it predated both the widespread use of the Internet, as well as any of the other entertainment papers you can pick up around town these days. The Post and Courier’s Preview (which eventually became Charleston Scene), the free weekly Upwith Herald (now the Charleston City Paper), West Of, and even Charleston Grit owe something to Eddie and his publication, which he published from his home from for the better part of two decades before health problems forced him to stop. Charleston’s Free Time was never as glossy or colorful as the subsequent newspapers it inspired, but it was all about the local scene. Sure, there was the occasional review or interview with national or international acts, but Eddie liked to spotlight the working class bands that played the bars and clubs of the Lowcountry. He also gave more than a few local writers their start, including Kevin Oliver (who now writes for the Free Times in Columbia, SC), Kevin Young (who knows more about rap music than any other human being I’ve ever met), and Paul Bowers of the Charleston City Paper. There was even a section in the classified ads in the back of the paper where musicians could advertise equipment for sale and gigs free of charge. I never got the feeling that Eddie was in it for the money. The paper was his full time job and paid his bills, but it was a labor of love.
Say Eddie Hogan’s name among a group of old-school Lowcountry musicians from the '80s and '90s, and you’d best have a seat as the stories start to flow. At the memorial service for Eddie this past February in Summerville, there wasn’t a free seat in the funeral chapel, as various local musicians, writers, and media personalities all gathered to celebrate the life of the man who had been so generous to all of them. As various folks began to come forward and recount their favorite Eddie Hogan story, the somber occasion was given some much needed levity. WEZL deejay TJ Phillips talked about doing a radio promotion in the '80s in the mall, right in front of the Record Bar that Eddie managed. Eddie was initially concerned that the event was blocking foot traffic to the store, but in the end he and TJ became good friends. Paul Bowers, who helped host the memorial, talked about growing up across the street from Eddie and his wife, Laura, and how Eddie mentored him as he became interested in writing and music. Local musician Jeff Castle told a particularly funny story about how Eddie had once called him up, asking desperately if he could get him some money Castle owed for some advertising he’d done with the paper. As Castle explained, Eddie was the sort of guy who said “just pay me when you can,” which was why it was weird that he was so eager to get this particular collection out of the way. As it turns out, Eddie needed the money to buy a ring for Laura for a special occasion. Despite my huge fear of speaking in front of crowds, I too got up and said a few words. The memory of it was a blur, because to be honest I was trying to hold it toegther, but I do remember saying that I, like so many other people in the room, had been given a chance to express myself by this incredibly generous man. If it were up to me, the North Charleston Coliseum would bear Eddie Hogan’s name. As it stands, I’m all for getting some sort of music venue, or at least a lobby of some sort, named in honor of the man who did more for local music than just about anyone else in Charleston I can name.
This past Saturday offered a chance for folks who knew Eddie to once again gather and celebrate his memory. The Windjammer on Isle of Palms hosted “A Celebration of Life Filled With Music.” The event, hosted by TJ Phillips, featured 11 bands, including Eddie Bush, Graham Whorley, Chris Holly, Jamisun, In Flew Engines, Struck By 9, Live Bait, Wretched Excess, Chump, Michael Davis, and Frank Royster. After the last band played, there was an open jam, bringing together so many musicians who had not played together in years. All proceeds benefitted the Frances R. Willis SPCA.
So like I said before, this entry comes about six months late. I fully intended to write a big memorial piece on Eddie back after the funeral at the beginning of the year. Several things happened that caused me to procrastinate, including health issues within my own family that I’m still dealing with today. I really do think though that a big part of my hesitation on writing about Eddie’s death has to do with the fact that I’m not ready to admit to myself that I’m not going to see the guy again. Our encounters over the last few years of his life had become few and far between. We mostly kept up on Facebook, but despite the lack of face to face interaction, I always considered Eddie a dear friend. He gave me my first shot at communicating to a large audience. From there I went on to work in radio, and write for several local and national publications. Eddie and Charleston’s Free Time was the genesis of all of that. I’m the sort of person who has trouble letting go. My mother passed away in 1988 while I was in army basic training, and I still sometimes think she’s going to walk through the front door when I’m visiting my dad. Part of me wants to think that Eddie is going to message me on Facebook, saying “Hey! We’re starting Charleston’s Free Time back up! You want to write me something?” I know that’s not going to happen, but Eddie, wherever you are out there in the cosmos, I have my laptop at the ready. Thanks again for everything, my friend.