It Is What It Is
The conversation was a rapid-fire stream of consciousness - a verbal tennis match. It wasn't the standard husband and wife phenomenon of finishing each other's sentences, it was spirited banter between two people speaking in one voice. That same energy between "Blue Lew" Hogue and his life partner and musical band mate Nora Wixted-Hogue is evident not only in the way they talk about their craft, but also in the music they create. The third member of the Loco Locals - guitarist Butch Blasingame - is the calm in the eye of the storm. Lew and Nora were talking about how they met and how they began their music careers. Butch just sat back and let them do most of the talking. Early Influences Lew made his way to the Emerald Coast via Nashville. With influences in Southern Rock and blues masters such as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, Lew brings that same emotion to his own songs - whether playing, singing or writing. Nora, the sole Yankee of the trio, talks of being a beauty queen in New York, where she was a contestant in the 1971 New York City Junior Miss pageant. She said another singer who grew up to be Kathy Lee Gifford beat her out for the top prize. She bought a Martin guitar with her prize money - the same Martin, which Nora lovingly named "Marta," that she plays today. A chance trip to New Orleans was a life-changing event. Hearing the music that the town nurtured was all she needed to know to make it her new home. During the ensuing 20 years "if there was music in New Orleans, I played there," Nora said. In the early days, her backup player was George Porter, who is a member of The Meters - a studio band that has played with The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer and Patti Labelle to just name a few. "I was a very small girl in a very big band," Nora said. Butch was instrumental in the beginning of the Athens, Ga. music scene where REM and the B52s got their start. During his early musical career, Butch was one of the original members of Ravenstone. The band, some 30 years later, still perform and records together on occasion. With his background more into rock music, Butch said he has been working on playing the blues. "It (the blues) is more about feeling," Butch said. "It's more about making (the music) say something. Rock is more about energy. In blues, you can stretch that one note for eight bars. In rock, you play eight notes in one bar." The Beginnings Lew and Nora were the first to connect. Each was playing at different venues in Fort Walton Beach and Destin, but they already knew of the other. "I don't even remember meeting him," Nora said. At the time they were both unattached romantically, and their decision to perform music together wasn't all positive. It had a detrimental affect on their various fans. We thought about calling ourselves 'No, We're Not Married,'" Lew said. When they finally did decide to get together, they kept the news quiet for a while. "We thought, 'let's not tell anybody,'" Nora said. "We lost half our fan base. We were fired from two different places and the girls stopped coming out." The two recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. And the Band Played On The trio met at a party several years ago and when Butch later asked if he could sit in on one of their performances, Lew and Nora welcomed him on stage and there has been no looking back. The band, which officially formed in 2004, plays mostly covers of blues and classic rock favorites, but they give each one their own flavor. They slip in a few original tunes, and their regular fans love to sing along. Lew plays guitar and harmonica and performs many of the lead vocals. Nora joins in on keyboards, tambourine, guitar and vocals. Butch mainly plays electric and acoustic guitar with the Loco Locals, but he also plays mandolin and bass guitar, and sings back-up. The Loco Locals fourth member Ted Cobena is a percusionist par excellance. Not just a kit drummer, he ventures into the realms of percussion with congas, djembe and other types of world instruments. He also has his own studio, Soap and Song in the Santa Rosa Beach area of 30A. --Thanks to Tara Roberts for writing this story.--.