DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Charlie Snuggs On Guitar

Posted in Interviews by darielb on March 22, 2012

Charlie Snuggs (Photo Jim Allen)

If you’ve been in the Carolinas for any length of time, most likely you know Charlie Snuggs. You may not remember which band you know him from, but you definitely know him.

“I’ve played in so many bands, even I can’t remember them all,” laughs the versatile  guitarist during lunch in Little River, S.C. this week.  “I’ve been with country bands, dance bands, blues bands … all of them.”
Born in Highland Park, Ill. to native N.C. parents, Charlie moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., Lakewood, Fla. and Thomasville, Ga. all before he was five years old.

“My dad was a municipal manager,” Charlie explains. “He’d be fired and rehired with every election. We lived all over the place.

“Blues was in the air in southern Georgia, when I was there in the 50s. The old men playing on the street fascinated me, and I’d put a penny in the cup, and sit to watch them.”

Family life revolved around music, too. Charlie’s old sister played classical piano. His father sang in the choir at church and community events.

Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964 was a pivotal date for a young Charlie Snuggs. He, along with a reported 73 million others, watched The Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show.

“Watching John Lennon, it hit me. That’s what made me get a guitar.

“It took me two years to learn my first song. I did it by ear. It was ‘Love Me Do’ by the Beatles.”

His next big musical moment would come in 1967 with the release of Cream’s critically acclaimed psychedelic rock album Disraeli Gears. It catapulted the young guitarist into a whole new area of music – blues.
“I started really listening to British music … the Yardbirds … the Stones … I didn’t know it was blues, but I knew I liked it.”

During this time, Charlie was busy playing. At 14, he had his first gig, playing for a teenage center  (By now the family was living in Mooresville, N.C.). A few years later he landed a spot with a more experienced band, Nova’s IX. They had recorded a record and appeared on American Bandstand. The band included Bobby Nance (trumpet player for the Catalinas), vocalist Gary Brown and guitarist Sammy Ingram (now a professor at Clemson).

“They hired me to take Sammy’s place … a 17-year-old in a happenin’ band … I think Gary Brown got me drunk for the first time!”

Later on, in Charlotte, N.C., Charlie met drummer Earl Truette, and then the Barkley brothers – Rusty and Johnny.

“We toured the hotel and fraternity circuit, playing Top 40. Then one day the Barkleys walked in wearing cowboy hats and boots. ‘We’re shutting this band down. We’re going to play country.’

“So now we’re a country band,” said Charlie.

Rusty Barkley’s comment to me about this, when I reminded him of the incident during a phone conversation this afternoon? “That was the only way we could get out of playing disco …  And doing country really opened up another kind of playing for us. Charlie’s dad had told him, ‘You’re never going to be a real guitar player until you can play Chet Atkins.’ So Charlie started doing “Yakety Axe” [the Chet Atkins 1965  single, which was an adaptation of “Yakety Sax” by his  friend saxophonist Boots Randolph.] Then doing James Burton‘s chicken pickin’ stuff and playing with Jim Brown, a guitarist for Charlie Daniels Band, who had a big influence on both of us … well the country thing opened us up to a new kind of playing.”

So the newly designated country group  hooked up with Larry Presley, who built the Beach Wagon on Business 17 in Myrtle Beach and Kaleidoscope Productions.

Continuing his saga, Charlie says, “We opened the place and played there for a couple years, opening for folks like George Jones, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and others, until the band broke up. Rusty and John went back to Charlotte. Earl and I stayed here.

“My next adventure was at  Sock’s [Myrtle Beach club on Hwy. 501]. It’s around 1979, and I’m working the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. gig.

Charlie with Jaynie Trudell. (Photo Jim Allen)

“I played with Kerry Michaels and Mike Stevens for about a year. It was a crazy place … gambling, hookers. John Jenrette [from the FBI ABSCAM debacle] used to hang out there.”

“I moved to Nashville; that didn’t work out. Went back to Charlotte, got a great gig with the Country Underground [now Morehead Street Tavern]. Upstairs was the blues band and downstairs, it was country.”

Back at the beach in the late 80s, Charlie was again playing country music with Silver at the Beach Wagon. After Hurricane Hugo, he joined Party Sharks playing the hottest gig in town at the Holiday Inn in downtown Myrtle Beach.

When Chicago Bob Hess quit his gig with Blues Express, the house band at House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, Charlie took his place.

“It was great,” he says. “They sent us to Orlando for two  months. We opened for Johnny Winter … we opened for

Robin Trower – one of the highlights of my life.”

In the mid nineties, Charlie played at Sandpipers. “Bo Diddley came in, hired a local band, so we hung out, another great time. What a storyteller he was. And I ran Smokehouse Brown’s band for a while.”

After that, Charlie played with local musician Jaynie Trudell, for some 15 years. In fact they still work together sometimes and pull in the crowds when they do.

The Sharks. L-R, Terry Harper (bass), Earl Truette (drums), and Charlie Snuggs (guitar). (Photo Rosa Bean)

“I decided at some point I wanted to have a blues jam band. And that’s the Sharks [formed in Fall 2011],  with Earl Truette on drums, Terry Harper on bass, and me on guitar. It’s sort of Widespread Panic meets Albert King,” he says. “You can’t just mimic old Elmore James sound. The rhythms are different now. So our jam band sound is appealing to a pretty broad crowd.”

Charlie Snuggs is all about the music. When he’s not playing, he’s practicing or listening to music.

“I study music all the time,” he tells me.” I’m fascinated. I like it. I like hip hop rhythms. I listen to Rihanna and Mary J. Blige. I listen to Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring.”

Chicago Bob, Ambassador of the Blues for the State of South Carolina elected by the National Blues Society Hall of Fame,  told me, “Charlie Snuggs is probably the most accomplished musician I’ve ever had the pleasure to share a stage with … He probably knows more styles of music then anyone I’ve ever met   … Charlie is the absolute best

I’ve ever worked with and I’ve been at this business for over 40 years.”

Kerry Michaels and bandmate Terry Harper concur. She said, “Charlie and I go way back [He is a] great, great guitar player as everyone knows, but with Charlie this is no other guitar player as sincere and honest. He has always been my friend.”

Terry adds, “Charlie has such great stage presence. He brings a personality to the stage before he even opens his mouth … and his playing …. it’s just topnotch.”

Rusty Barkley was happy to elaborate.  “Charlie’s ability to set a groove helps other players sound better,” said Rusty Barkley. “He’s never selfish, always does his best to help. It was Charlie, back in the day, who pulled me along. He knew theory and taught me … I always loved playing with Charlie … He was playing like Jeff Beck; I was playing Clapton. We put it together and got rock & roll … oh, and Charlie on slide…

Charlie told me that a great guitar player doesn’t want to play a bunch of notes. “We want to make the guitar sing like a voice … like B.B. King says about Lucille.”

“I hear so much emotion in Charlie’s playing,” adds local blues legend Michael “Pops” Stallings. “It’s not just technique. It’s more.” And when you go see Charlie Snuggs play guitar. That’s what you get. More.

You can catch Charlie jamming with the Sharks at 2001 Night Club on Sunday nights, beginning at 9:30 (often along with pals such as Chicago Bob, Kid Drew, Anson Funderburgh, Jaynie Trudell, Scott Cable, Digger Tozzi, and Calabash Flash. On Wednesday nights, he’s usually there, too, playing with the Coco Loco Party Band. And if it’s country licks you’re lusting for, look for the Most Wanted band, with Charlie Snuggs on guitar.

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8 Responses

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  1. Calabash Flash Ludwick said, on March 23, 2012 at 11:34 am

    First of all I want to say how much I enjoyed this article. I knew that Charlie had been around the block a few times, but I had no idea it was such a BIG block. Not being a guitar player, all I can do is look on in awe as he goes about his craft. He is truely amazing. I have seen him with other guitar players and he is so respectful of them and anybody else that is privleged to be on the stage with him. I am proud to call him a friend.
    Second, a little side note. Funny that he should mention seeing the Beatle’s first TV appearance that Sunday in February 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show. My wife Babs saw the Beatles at their first show in Washington, DC a day or so BEFORE the Ed Sullivan Show. She recalls that she felt that she was too old (she was 19) for them. Everbody was screaming and she wanted to hear the music.
    Last, being a big Bo Diddley fan (coincidently Bo and I share December 30th as our birthday), I was really impressed that he played with and hung ourt with him.

  2. darielb said, on March 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Flash. Didn’t you love Charlie’s description of the Sharks? “”Widespread Panic meets Albert King.” I agree with what you said about Charlie’s playing. In fact, so did every musician I contacted about him. I had such a good conversation with Rusty Barkley, we’re going to talk again soon, so I can write a piece about him.

  3. Chicago Bob Hess said, on March 24, 2012 at 7:48 am

    What a well crafte article Dariel … as we have all given you are take on Charlie being a master at his craft (guitar) I could say the same thing for your writing. Way to go lady! You hit the nail right on the head with this article. I look forward to being a regular visitor to your writings.

    • darielb said, on March 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks Bob, hope to see you playing at one of the jams!

  4. Larry Smokehouse Brown said, on April 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Great article. Charlie is the consumate guitar player and always makes me feel at ease when I look over and see him standing next to me. He has taught me a great deal about the craft . It has been my great fortune to have have him as my band leader and freind for these many years. Larry Smokehouse Brown

    • darielb said, on April 18, 2012 at 12:05 am

      Thanks for your comment, Larry. I’m so glad you read the piece. It was an oversight on my part that I didn’t talk about your band, too. BTW, I watched a video recently of the Kerry Michaels Band (with you on harp) opening for Buddy Guy in Winston-Salem, I think. Great video!

  5. Joe Thomas said, on April 10, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I miss the days the Party Sharks played at the Holiday Inn in Myrtle Beach during the 1990’s. I was there every weekend for the music and the bikini contests. It was a wild time. The hotel has changed names, but I still have pictures and memories.

  6. […] Thanks to DarielB – Flying Under the Radar For writing this! Charlie Snuggs On Guitar. […]


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