Henry Pazaryna, local musician and blogger, interviewed Rick Hogue of GPG for an article he posted on SurfRhythm.com.
Local Waves, Episode Six: Rick Hogue
On Friday, August 7th, after a quick break to let my stomach settle before rushing back out to the water and catching the local waves, I was able to get back up on the horse and visit a friend who I have known for many years.
As one the most influential guitar sellers in the Annapolis area–and I would dare to go as far as all of Maryland as well–Rick Hogue, the owner of Garrett Park Guitars, was willing to sit down for an interview that detailed his life through the golden age of rock music and beyond.
As the premiere guitar salesman in the area, Rick has experienced a seriously sizable share of connections between some of the most famous guitar players of all time. Even getting into the playing circuit in his later years, Rick has been a staple of the instrument sales industry for decades, and has a very interesting story to tell that moves away from the viewpoint of the performer and to the life of someone heavily involved in the behind the scenes of the industry itself.
Henry Pazaryna: So what I have basically been doing is interviewing local people, but trying to expand on that, not just artists, but people who are a part of the industry. I am interested in learning about whatever you want to share about yourself; from growing up to what your experiences have been playing music, as well as talking about your move to Garrett Park, or whichever one came first.
Rick Hogue: Well, I was born at an early age (smiles), but prior to that, I was in my mother’s womb and as my dad was a southern baptist minister for small churches in the deep south I was surrounded by music even before I was born. In the 1950’s, you had a little organ on one side and a piano on the other, and you had a choir, and that’s where I cut my teeth – listening to gospel music in the south. That all happened in the late 1950’s, but I was always around church music and the voices and harmonies stuck with me. Both my parents played and sang very well, both of them are accomplished piano, and organ players. Both had studied music at the seminary in Louisville KY where they had met. My sister and I were absorbed with music in my early life, and then like everybody else, we caught the rock and roll bug. First it was surf music, and I remember going into a summer home and finding a record player. We would listen to “Blue Velvet”, and another song called “Sleepwalk” by Santo and Johnny on these little 45’s that were left in the beach rental that my family stayed at. My sister and I would play those records over and over and it was so simple yet so all encompassing. So, I’ve been around music my entire life.
I really got hip to guitar just by seeing bands down south that were playing at these dance clubs. When my family went to a family reunion, held at a state park in Gasden, Alabama, there were dance halls there that hosted country music. I vividly remember these guys in white suits with beautiful Fender guitars amps, and this really got me tuned me into guitars. Like almost every other kid in America, my sister I wanted a guitar as soon as we saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. So my parents gave us a really crummy Sears Silvertone for Christmas in 1964, which is right over here, hanging on the wall. The action was terrible – you couldn’t play it. It was just a cheap guitar. We strummed a few notes on it, and then it got parked in a closet. I was eight years old then and all I wanted to do was be outside fishing. Later in my teens, I really wanted to play again, and my dad bought me a guitar from one of the guys he worked with. It was a 1968 Gibson B 25, a twelve string acoustic guitar, which is a pretty awful guitar as far as Gibson guitars go. It being a twelve string meant that I had to pull off six of the strings to play it as a six string. So, I just took six of them off and just hacked on it to death until I finally sort of figured things out. My sister’s boyfriend at the time, they later got married, loaned me a Yamaha acoustic, which he still has. That guitar had so much history and Mojo with it. Not only did I learn on it, he later gave it to a friend of ours to play in the hospital while he was dying of cancer. My career as a guitar guy was very heavily influenced by that one Yamaha imported guitar. Later on I met a girl and I moved to D.C. from Richmond. I got introduced to a guy named Cesar Diaz who wanted to know about my old guitars. In specific he wanted to know about my old Gibson, and soon after he and I became close friends. Cesar was one the guys who were really influential guys in vintage American guitars and especially amplifiers. He played with a couple of really big bands back in the day and had moved from Puerto Rico with Johnny Nash. He became my friend and mentor, and we would hang out every day. There was a crew of us: myself, Linwood Taylor, Colin Stock, and Cesar. We were just four guys that ran together and I absorbed as much as I could. Cesar, during that period, met Stevie Ray, he met Bob Dylan, and from there, he just went crazy, working with most all of the biggest names in rock and blues. He encouraged me to look for old gear, “You are out on the road, out there doing your medical sales, go find guitars.” So I would look around for guitars. This blue one right here is one I found, up on the wall. It was a dead mint, 1965 Stratocaster in sonic blue. Cesar sold it to John Peden, who was the photographer for Vogue and Guitar World magazine in NYC, and he photographed it for the magazine. It was a centerfold for Guitar World back in the 80’s. You know, I found guitars from him, and it sort of made me feel bad, because he was getting the lion’s share of the profits. I started going to shows myself, and thought I still did a lot of business with Cesar I started doing business on my own. After doing it as a hobby for ten years, from ‘81 to ‘91, I opened Garrett Park Parks, so named for the town where I had a PO box that I had rented to get my guitar mail and because I thought Garrett Park Guitars had a good ring to it.
I sold Stevie Ray Vaughan two of the really seminal amps that he used on “In Step”, those were bought from my store, Cesar bought them from me for him and I shipped them to the studio in Texas. The two amps that were used were a blackfaced Vibroverb, and we also sold him a small Marshall 50 Watt combo. Those two got used heavily on that record. I got to meet a lot of people back in the early 90’s when I had my store in Arnold. J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Buddy Guy, Lenny Kravitz, Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine. For a while, I was working with Goldmine, and got to know a lot of their artists. You know, you meet people through networking and other channels. I met Alex Alvarez, Lenny Kravtiz’ guitar tech, and got to play with Lenny on stage at the University of Delaware. I had actually met Lenny when he just “Mr. Lisa Bonet” back in the Cosby days and before he became the Rock Star that he is now. He would come into the shows in the East Side of New York that Skip Henderson used to put on. These were great shows, and people from all over the country and all over the world would come into the basement of this old Catholic church, and Skip donated all the money he raised for AIDS research. It was a two day show at the church, and it was in the middle of the East Side. It was nutty. It was everything you could think of the East Side being back at the time. Anyways, I met Lenny at those shows, and a lot of others – people that worked for the Rolling Stones, and on and on and on. Fun stuff.
HP: That is really cool. So when was the move to Annapolis, and what entailed with all of that?
RH: Well, my wife and I started having kids. This job is a lot of travel. You know, you are either going to shows to sell or to buy, or you are out on the road buying. You get a call, and there is a lady from say… Peoria, Illinois that has a rare guitar. You can’t just do it over the phone. Once we started having kids, I needed to stay home more and look after them. Paul (Reed) Smith and his then manager Clay Evans came by my store, in like ‘92, along with Mark Nicholson, who was a rep for Joe Blacker of Audio Associates. They said, “Why don’t you sell PRS guitars in your shop?” And I said “Well, I don’t carry new stuff, I’m all vintage,” but then I kind of started to think about it. I knew Paul, I had known him since the early 80’s, and I thought, “Hell, why not?” We are right here in town and they make the best guitars in the world, so, we started carrying them. Soon thereafter, we wanted to get Fender, and it just was a natural progression. I wouldn’t travel that much, I had little kids, and I wanted to do the right thing by them. I started doing more new retail. We did very well with PRS, and when we got Fender the sales rep said “You have to be in Annapolis. Not Arnold.” We had been in our lease for three years in Arnold and our lease was up, so we said, “Fine, we will move.” One of the things that always worked with my store is that we moved a lot. I moved when there was a better location, in some cases when I got pissed off at the landlord. If they were doing something goofy, I would pack up and say, “Ok, I am at the end of my lease. Bye.” I was on Jennifer Road for a long time, almost nine years. That really is where I should have stayed. We have moved around but I love the location I am at right now. It is vibe – y, and we have a great location for our school, and for all of the instrument rentals that we are doing. Band instrument rentals are something new for us, and that is really exciting, and a new thing we are doing and definitely want to talk up. That seems like a natural progression.
The school is something we do, because it’s a way to give back. Yes, it’s a business, but so many kids these days are more interested in playing video games or doing electronic things, that any time we can get a kid in and get them interested, we really try to push them into the direction of learning about the craft, and the stuff that has come before and all about great, American music. Great music in general. I am not a huge fan of rap, I know people love it, but I feel like rock and roll, jazz, and blues are our greatest exports, and those things are really important to be carried on. So, we have our school, and we teach. We bring kids in, and we try our best to nurture them. Because music, as you know, it’s good when you are sad, it’s good when you are happy, you can play when you are in a great mood, and you can play when you are down. It’s always there for you.
HP: Transitioning from your work as a guitar salesman, your bands that you have played in, and not talking about the ones that you were growing up with – what is going on with the more Maryland based groups? When did you start getting into that playing circuit? And do you see yourself ever going back, or are you doing it now? What is going on with that?
RH: Musically, I will be the first one to admit that I have been a much better guitar slinger than guitar player. Selling guitars and buying guitars, and being a guitar buff, came to me easier than playing. There developed a point for me, musically, after I started this business, as late as the early 90’s, when I started to dive in and develop my writing. I said, “Hey, I am finally going to put some of this stuff down. I’ve got one hundred different sheets of papers, torn out of notebooks, that are these loose snippets of songs, and I want to play them.” So I started to hone my craft and to get better writing and playing and singing, and doing these songs. Dean Rosenthal actually was one of the guys to encourage me to get out there and play, and I would sit in with Van Dyke and Glazier, as well as Dean’s gigs. I played at the Red Door Coffee house. This was all in the 90’s. By the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I had been in a couple of bands, and I was doing this band called the Swamp Daddies. The Swamp Daddies were a neighborhood band that we had, and like a lot of bands that ended up going down in flames. It’s like a line for a Ben Folds song about “the band broke up, and two months later re – formed without me” (laughing), and that was kind of my story on that too. You go through experiences where you learn and I had to learn some lessons about humility and not get too attached and emotionally involved though It’s very hard to not take it personally. It is such a volatile mix of creative types, and with egos all bumping in to each other, there always seems to be some kind of drama or passion, whatever you want to call it. Having said all that the Swamp Daddies was a fun band and was a springboard into my playing in a band setting. After we split up, I did a couple of solo gigs with Jon Gosnell and others backing me, doing various gigs here and there. You can check out my songs at reverbnation.com/rickhogue. One of the great things about Annapolis as a town is that if you have the drive to play, you can play here. If you want to learn to be a songwriter, or if you want to play with other people, if you want to get into a certain genre and go for it, it’s open arms. This is a really strong, supportive, creative music environment here. You have to kind of punch at the wall a little bit to get in, but once you do, people are really good about sitting in and working with each other. It’s a good environment. Fortunately, for a guy like me, as an older dude that has been around for a while, I could begin to play out and have some success. We put together a project that later became the Black Hearted Angels. That was your dad, Matt Pazaryna and I, who were writing songs and put a band together. I think we played about 45 gigs and at one point, we had a pedal steel player, a keyboard player, bass player, two guitars, drums, and a female vocalist. That was a fun thing and we traveled a bit and really enjoyed ourselves. Later I formed “Feed the Good Wolf” and then the “Eastport Rescue Dogs” all of which relied on mine and some of Matts writing. To me, I have always said that I want to do this when I retire. I am working and honing my craft so at the point in time when I retire, hopefully I can be good enough to carry it and do it as a fun kind of side project.
HP: So closing up. Are there any things that you want to advertise, not only about your shop, but yourself playing music around? Are there any last words that you want to say?
RH: I have a gig on the 29th at the Broadneck Grill in Edgewater with Jen Zakowski, Tom Frideric, and Tony Fazio. That’s my band that I am doing now, called Rick Hogue and the Revolving Doors. Which is kind of a play on the fact that we have a lot of different musicians that plug in. If I go to Richmond to play, I am going to play with a certain group of guys. If I play around here, I am going to play with another group of guys, and that usually rotates. That’s a new thing that I have been doing. Our School of Music now is doing band and orchestra instrument rentals, and that is a new and exciting thing for us. We always have cool stuff floating through, great teachers. It’s a good time to be in this.
SurfRhythm wants to thank Rick one more time for catching up with us. You can check out Garrett Park Guitars’ website below, as well as his ReverbNation page for all of his upcoming shows. If you are in the area, definitely make it a point to check out his collection of instruments – it will not disappoint. And as always, be sure to check back in soon for the next installment of Local Waves. Catch you later.
Garrett Park Guitars: http://gpguitars.com/
Rick Hogue: https://www.reverbnation.com/rickhogue