by Michael Buffalo Smith
Lee Bogan is one of my favorite songwriters. The hard working Nashville based writer, singer and guitarist has worked with everyone from Joe Diffie to Billy Joe Royal to Dr. Hook. Now he plays guitar with country hit maker Ronnie McDowell, while also releasing his own solo records, which he makes in his own Skid Row Studios.
We recently dropped in on Lee at the studio to play a little bit of catch up with the multi-talented former Carolinian.
The studio looks great. I remember you started with a studio in your home, and now you have this one here in downtown Portland (30 miles north of Nashville). The studio sounds really good.
I moved the studio out of the house and went legit, as it were. I did a lot of upgrading with my gear. Of course I use Pro Tools, and I upgraded to the big mixing console and got some nice microphone preamps. So I did a lot of upgrading and it makes everything sound better.
You have a great vocal mic I noticed.
It’s a Marshall vocal mic. Ever since I set it up I haven’t been using anything else. It just sounds great.
And what kind of drums are those?
They are Roland TD 10 electronic drums. You set the reverb right and you cannot tell the difference between them and real drums.
And you have a Hammond in here.
Yeah, you gotta have a Hammond. It’s a ‘79.
Can’t play Southern Rock without a B-3!
For a while you were playing guitar with Ray Sawyer and Dr. Hook. What is Ray like?
He just called me up one day and said”Hello, this is Ray Sawyer from Dr. Hook.” I said, yeah, sure you are. I almost hung up on him. He said, “No, it really is me.” He said he wanted me to come to the Chicken & Egg Festival and see if I liked them and if I’d be interested in playing guitar. So I took my gear down there and set it up. He said he wanted me to play on a couple of songs.
Then when it came time for the show, Ray said he wanted me to play the whole show. No rehearsal, but I knew most of the old songs. So we got through that night and U was hired. Ray is different, I’ll give you that. I love him. I really love that man. He always called me “Lee Lee.” And his wife Linda is one of the most precious people you’ll ever meet in your life. Their son Casey was the drummer. Great kid, great drummer, kept good time. Ray’s still real picky about the music. He wants it to be perfect, and if it ain’t perfect you’re gonna hear about it. That’s just the way it is. He’s that passionate about it.
He gave me one of the best compliments I believe I have ever gotten from an artist. I’d always laugh at everything he’d say onstage, i mean out loud like Ed McMahon. He said “Lee Lee, when you’re onstage you’re like closer to the original Dr. Hook than anybody I’ve ever had in the band. You act like you’re stoned and laughing at everything I say.” I loved it. We spent a lot of time together. Every gig was out of the country. I went to Australia with Dr. Hook, Europe, Canada - We went as far in the Northern territory as you can go. Kids are riding bicycle’s at 3 o’clock in the morning. I was putting bandannas over my eyes and quilts over the windows trying to sleep. But I had a great time with Dr. Hook.
I heard you have a new song.
Yeah, I wrote it with Ronnie McDowell and we have Bill Medley on the song, from the Righteous Brothers. I got to fly out to California to produce him. The album is coming out on Curb. The album is ready but they were waiting on this song. We had originally written a song called “Hey Mr. Oil Man” when the gas prices were so high. Then gas came down. (Laughs) We learned not to write songs about things that can change quickly. Of course, we’re glad the gas came down!
So we wrote this new song called “Lost in Dirty Dancing,” and Mike Curb just loved it. Ronnie mentioned asking Bill to sing a line or two, and Mike Curb said the heck with that, let’s get him to sing a verse and a chorus. And he sounds really good. Good as ever. And Ronnie of course has still got it. They sound great together on that record.
So you played a lot on that album?
I did. Quite a lot.
Does the album have a title?
I may be called Old School, New School - but that’s just an interim name really.
You have been going out and playing a lot of shows with Ronnie.
A lot of big shows, yeah. We do two things. We do Ronnie’s show, and we get booked a lot to do the Elvis Presley Story. When we have a lot of Elvis’ people in the show like DJ Fontana, The Jordanaires or The Imperials, or The Stamps. Ronnie is not an Elvis impersonator. He hates that term and so do I. He doesn’t wear a jump suit. He’s just Ronnie McDowell telling the Elvis story.
Are you working on any more solo stuff?
I am working on an album of songs by my heroes like Journey, Don Henley, Kansas, Bonnie Raitt. Of course, i have my new single out called "I Like Her But." (Read Review)
Sounds good. I just noticed on your computer screen you have a screensaver that caught my eye. What exactly is “SPAT?”
SPAT was started by Ronnie McDowell’s youngest son Tyler an I. We are both big paranormal geeks. We’re really into Ghost Hunters and all that. We are trying to learn all we can, and we started our own investigative outfit called SPAT - Spirit Paranormal Activity Team. We’re starting small with home video cameras and growing it from there. We’re starting slow and maybe one day we’ll have a local station pick us up.
When you get it together you should do Ryman Auditorium.
Great idea. I never thought about that. But yeah, I really believe in this. I know I have had messages from beyond from my two brothers that passed away.
Oh, I believe it too buddy. One more thing. What’s this I hear about you and your wife Teresa? Got some news for us?
My wife is at this time 18n weeks pregnant. We’re gonna have a baby, and me at the ripe age of 53 I am gonna be a new Dad.I’ve got to start taking care of myself because when my baby is 18 I’ll be seventy. I am excited, and I’m looking for vitamins.