Ended 2014 with the sad news of the passing of Eddie Hogan down in Charleston; Eddie was the publisher and editor of an entertainment newspaper called Charleston’s Free Time until health problems caused him to cease publication in the late 00’s. An unselfish supporter of local musicians and the music scene around Charleston, Eddie and the Free Time paper gave the budding scene somewhere to focus itself back in 1990 when he began as a bi-monthly free paper.
Hogan managed the Record Bar in Northwoods Mall, and I was working at the other Record Bar location, in Citadel Mall, so I knew him in passing already when he started talking about the paper he was going to be putting out. I’m not sure if I was in the very first issue or not, but I’m pretty sure I contributed to every one after that for about four years. It was the first place I was published after graduation from the University of South Carolina in 1989 with a mostly useless English degree; I was working full time at the record store and part-time as a DJ for the local classic rock station. The remainder of my young single life was taken up with seeing live music around town whenever I could, at bars like The Windjammer, Cumberlands, Cafe 99, and the new Music Farm that opened during that time frame. People stare in wonder when I tell them I saw Phish on East Bay Street at the original Music Farm in 1990; or when I tell the story of interviewing a 14 year old Derek Trucks before his gig at the Farm around that same time.
The first things I wrote for Eddie and the Free Time paper were simple record reviews, but a need soon surfaced for coverage of the live scene I was already immersed in. “The Beat” was born, a column that covered local music news and spotlighted a few good shows happening during the weeks each issue was on the street. It was a pretty wide-ranging selection of bands and music included, as my tastes then were just as eclectic as they are now (check the archives on this blog for a few examples of the column in its early form).
Soon, we began doing bigger stories when touring acts came through town; the first really big one I can remember that I did was when Atlanta band Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ came through around the time their Fly My Courageous album was blowing up; I did a phone interview with bandleader Kevn Kinney, then the day of the show we did an in-store with the band at Manifest Discs & Tapes (where I’d moved over to from Record Bar). I got Kevn to autograph a copy of the printed interview from the paper and later framed it, I still have that framed, autographed interview–In a rare editing error, Eddie spelled Kinney’s first name with the ‘i’ in the headline. Kinney was gracious enough (or intoxicated enough, maybe) not to notice or at least say anything if he did notice at the time.
The processes we used back then were positively antique compared to the publishing world of today; I would write or type out my copy and hand deliver it to Eddie (or he’d stop by the store and pick it up), who then re-typed it into his publishing program on a Macintosh computer setup, print that out and do paste-up on a light table for the pages that would go to the printer. I wasn’t ever involved in that part of the paper but any time I was at the house that table and computer were in various stages of use.
Eddie was always looking for ways to support the local music scene, being a musician himself. Between the two of us and a few others involved, we organized the Charleston Music Showcase for several years in a row, bringing regional industry folks like my favorite management curmudgeon Dick Hodgin and others in for a panel discussion of various topics, followed by a night or two of live sets from handpicked local acts we liked. It was, I hope, educational and informative for all the bands and musicians–me, I just liked seeing all the live music, all at once.
Eddie’s favorite story about me and my time with the Free Time involved Hootie & The Blowfish, who back then were just getting to be a regionally popular band not too many months removed from their cover band days at USC. In one of my columns previewing a Hootie show that was probably at the Windjammer, I made the pronouncement in a review of their demo cassette that the band “was going to be huge”, something that a more experienced critic might not have gone out on a limb of hyperbole with. That was in 1991, and of course we all know what happened beginning around four years later. Eddie was pretty proud of the fact that his paper had ‘called it’ earlier than anyone else. Years later in a Hootie exhibit in Columbia for some anniversary or commemoration of the band, there was a giant collage that featured show flyers and newspaper clippings from the band’s career; that column of mine with that prediction was included.
I left the Charleston scene and the Free Time ‘staff’ in 1993 when I moved to Columbia and got married, but Eddie’s influence and friendship didn’t end there. His sister-in-law Amy Whitaker, who had helped him start the Free Time in Charleston, was several years into publishing her own paper, the Columbia Free Times. When Eddie informed Amy I was moving up to Columbia she immediately asked if I’d be interested in doing similar work for her paper. I’ve now been writing for the Columbia Free Times for over 21 years–thanks again, Eddie.
Eddie and I kept in touch and he even mailed me the Charleston Free Time for a long time; when I noticed it getting a little slim on the local music coverage in the early 00’s I contacted Eddie and offered to resurrect “The Beat” from afar as a longer column in his now once-a-month publication. With the internet now a thing, I could easily scan club schedules and do a full-page rundown of upcoming concerts and significant club shows, and did just that for a while, enjoying being able to help out Eddie again, this many years removed from our beginnings in print together.
It has been years since I saw Eddie on a regular basis but any time I’d call it was like we could pick up wherever we left off the last time, talking about music that moved us, friends we both knew, or the latest band we’d seen. He was a friend to many, as the condolences that have been pouring in on social media this week have shown; I’m proud to give him the credit for kick-starting me and my own musical musings way back when. RIP Eddie Hogan, I’m sure you and Lowell George are in the middle of an awesome jam session right about now.