The Good Lord, Family and Friends
Lee Bogan Knows What it Takes To Make a Country Hit
by Michael Buffalo Smith
From his years as guitarist for country stars Joe Diffie and Billy Joe Royal to his great new band The Rockits, Lee Bogan has displayed nothing but style and talent. After seeing hin in St. Augustine performing at The Celebration of Life show, we decided it was high time we speak with our fellow Upstate South Carolina artist.
Where you were born and raised Lee?
I was born and raised in Union S.C.
When did you first become interested in music? Were your parents musical?
My Mother has always played piano and organ in church and has always encouraged me to play music. My first interest in music like many others was when I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. That did it for me and I haven't stopped since.
Who were your biggest musical influences early on and who do you like these days?
I have a wide range of influences from The Allman Brothers, Kansas, Kiss, Jeff Beck, Rick Derringer and Edgar Winter. To this day I listen to The Allmans, and Kansas is still my favorite band.
Tell us about some of your early bands.
The first band that comes to mind was a band called Mountain Ashe. We won local, state and national battle of the bands in S.C. It was a very cool cover band with horns. I also played in a band from Union called High Cotton. Before I joined them, they recorded an album that was produced by Allen Toussaint. It was the first band that i was in that played all original music.
What was your first "big break?"
I guess that would be when I got a call to play with Billy Joe Royal. I had seen him on American Bandstand so I was thrilled when I got that call.
When did you start playing with Billy Joe Royal?
I started with him in 1976 and played with him for about four years. It was a great gig.
Tell us about the time between the Royal gig and hooking up with Joe Diffie. Also how did your gig with Diffie come to be, how long did it last?
The time between Billy Joe and Joe Diffie was long and filled with bar gigs, elks clubs, and bowling alleys. I was working at an Exxon station in Madison, Tennessee during the day and playing at a night club/bowling alley, when a friend told me that a new guy named Joe Diffie was auditioning guitar players. I decided to give it a shot and if nothing else I would make a few connections. I really didn't expect to get the gig. When he hired me I was very glad to give my notice at the gas station.
What was it like going from bars to big stages?
It was like getting out of a Rambler and jumping into a Cadillac. I went from that little bitty stage in the bowling alley to opening for George Strait in the Dallas Reunion Arena with Diffie. It was a little scary but I adjusted pretty quickly.
Any special fond memories of touring with Joe?
Yea, I got to meet and become friends with a lot of other artists like Tracy Lawrence, Wade Hayes, Travis Tritt, Leroy Parnell and many others. Another great memory I have is traveling on the bus singing old songs with Joe and the band. We had a ball.
Tell us about songwriting with Joe Diffie. Y'all had a few big ones didn't you?
Writing with Joe was scary and nerve racking at first. I couldn't believe he invited me to his home to write. We wrote two songs that night, one was called "Excuse Me For Loving You" and the other song was "Honky Tonk Attitude." I really though the first one would be the one but man was I wrong. "Honky Tonk Attitude" was a top-five song. It was also the title track to the album and the theme of the tour, so we hit a homerun with that song. We also wrote a couple of songs for NASCAR that got a lot of airplay, and we wrote two Christmas songs for his Christmas album, one being the title track called "Mr. Christmas." Singing harmony on his albums was a big thrill for me also. I was with Joe for nearly eight years and just needed a change so I decided after much thought to move on.
What came next?
I got a call from a good friend of mine Ronnie McDowell who needed a guitar player so I hooked up with him for a couple of years. I enjoyed playing with Ronnie a lot, but started feeling like I had had enough of playing behind other artists.
How did you form the current band? Tell us about the folks in the band.
After leaving Ronnie's band I decided I wanted to start my own band. I called some former bandmates that were as ready as I was to do our own thing. Our drummer Larry Goad was the first one I called. He is a great drummer and to top it off he owned a independant record label and a recording studio. Stevie Ray Anderson had played bass with Joe when I was there as well as playing in other bands with me and was my first choice for bass and vocals. I needed a keyboard man and another vocalist so Stevie brought in Buzz Pickens who just blew me away and presto, we had a four piece band.
Your songwriting is top drawer. Do you have any cuts on other folks records?
I have had some cuts on a few unheard of artists but other than that just Joe.
I love the 9-11 song.Tell us how that came to be.
"The Good Lord Family and Friends" was originally written for our fans. When the 9-11 disaster occured I wanted to contribute something to the victims and families. This song seemed to fit so I dedicated it to them. I wanted to write something new for them but I didn't want anybody to think that I was trying to cash in on the event.
I really believe "No Thanks (Drinking Makes Me Naked)" could be a number one hit. How did you come to write that one, and are you getting any bites on it yet?
First of all I am not a drinker, and it's something I say when somebody offers me a drink. It always gets a good laugh so I took the idea to Stevie Ray. he really liked it so he came to the house. Stevie had a great grasp on the idea and came up with some really cool lines in the song.
What's on the agenda for you and the band in the immediate future?
We want to keep writing more songs and play as much as possible. We just love to play. We are booking shows right now and we are looking for an opening slot on a tour with somebody. Check out our website at www.leeboganandtherockits.com and listen to our music at mp3.com. Just type in Lee Bogan & The Rockits in the search box.
Lee Bogan Website