Buddy Dughi is a guitar player and singer. He plays in the Hot Rod Trio, Buddy Dughi Combo and also in his wife’s band, Suzy-Q and Her Be Bop Boys who also plays in double bass in The Hot Rod Trio. Here’s the interview they kindly gave us.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis
How did you meet together? Is this some kind of rockabilly romance?
Suzy Dughi – First I went to see Buddy’s band at that time, “The Moonlight Wranglers” and then ran into him at a local record store. Our mutual interest in rockabilly music drew us together and the rest is history!How long have you been doing music?
Buddy Dughi – l’ve been playing guitar since I was a child and have been in bands since I was a teenager.
How did you get started?
Buddy Dughi – First I tried playing drums along with the Beatles records, and then my parents suggested I take up guitar instead.
Did you grow up in a musical family?
Buddy Dughi – No, my family is not musical, although they listened to lots of music while I was growing up, including country, doo-wop, and of course rock and roll. My mom was lucky enough to have seen greats like Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran live a the Brooklyn Paramount Theater. So that had an influence on me and my musical tastes.
Suzy Dughi – No one in my family (mom/dad) is very musical, as far as playing an instrument goes but my mom likes to sing. They both were teenagers in the 1950’s, and I had discovered some of their old records like Elvis, Duane Eddy, etc… but most notably was my moms “Beatles for Sale” album which I found when I was about five or six and listened to nonstop, especially “Honey Don’t” and “Everybody’s Tryin’ to be My Baby”, I loved the guitar on it! I had no idea who C. Perkins was as indicated on the credits, nor did I know that what I was listening to was actually second generation rockabilly, but I loved it!
Do you remember the first record you bought and thought “Whoa ,that’s what I want to do”!
Buddy Dughi – The first record I ever bought was “Meet the Beatles”. After listening to that album I wanted to play everythinging I wanted to play drums like Ringo, and guitar like George! It had a very big impact on me.
Suzy Dughi – I don’t really remember the first one I ever bought, but I do remember in the early 80’s when the Stray Cats came out, I was about 14, I heard one of their songs on the radio and it reminded me of the music I had discovered years earlier on those old records.So, I immediately went out and bought their album and of course that led to digging deeper into the vaults of long forgotten rockabilly artists.
George Harrison was heavily influenced by rockabilly guitar pickers and they used to cover tunes like Honey Don’t, Everybody’s trying to be my baby or Words of Love… Did the Beatles connection helped you to get into rockabilly?
Buddy Dughi – Yes, they got me interested in digging deeper and finding out who originally did the songs.
Cliff Gallup, George Harrison, Brian Setzer… They’re all “Gretsch Men”and I believe you are one too. You even wrote a song about it…
Buddy Dughi – Yes, I love Gretsch guitars and those guys are the reason why I play one!
I’ve seen pics of you with a Duo Jet, a Gretsch “Cochran/Chet Atkins” model and you also have that double-neck Jaguar. Are you a guitar collector?
Buddy Dughi – I do collect them, but unlike some collectors, I actually play all of them!
Do you have a favorite model ?
Buddy Dughi – My favorite would have to be any 6120 up to 1959
What are your influences as a singer?
Buddy Dughi – As a singer, l’ve always based my style on some of the more obscure Sun artists with the real hiccupy-hillbilly wildness, although l’d have to say without a doubt. Gene Vincent was the BEST singer EVER!!!
Talking about Gene Vincent, do you know some of the European bands of the early 80’s like the Blue Cats, Dave Phillips or The Sprites?
Buddy Dughi – Yes, I am aware of them and have their records and would love to have a chance to play guitar with the Blue Cats, I really dig those guys!
Any musicians that influenced you?
Buddy Dughi – As a musician my main influences are Paul Burlison, of the Rock’n’Roll Trio and Cliff Gallup of the Blue Caps. Brian Setzer also had a very big impact on me when I was first learning how to play in a rockabilly band.
Paul Burlison was still very active until his death. Did you have the chance to meet him and even play with him?
Buddy Dughi – Yeah, I did get the chance to meet Paul Burlison and got to watch him play, he also gave me one of his guitar picks!
And Brian Setzer?
Buddy Dughi – I have known Brian Setzer for many years now and and have shared the stage with him as well.
Suzy, is there any bass player who’s a model for you?
Suzy Dughi – I can’t say there is really one model bass player for me, but through the years, even before I knew it, people like Bill Black, James Kirkland (bass player for Ricky Nelson), Ray Campi and of course Lee Rocker influenced me because I absolutely drowned myself in that music. Years later when I started playing myself I think some of their styles emerged in my playing. I do have to give credit to Lee Rocker for bringing the upright bass, as big and clumsy as it is, back in vogue
Tell us about your different bands and the musicians who play with you…
Buddy Dughi – As for the Hot Rod Trio, Pete our drummer answered an ad for stand-up drummer many years ago, we chose him and we’ve been friends and bandmates ever since. My then girlfriend, now wife, Suzy picked up the stand-up bass almost instantaneously, out of necessity when our bass player quit and we were in dire need of a bass player for a new years eve party, and the rest is history.
Suzy Dughi – I had to learn pretty quick because the band (“The Rockits“) had a show booked and no bass player.Also at that time (1990) not too many people were playing upright bass. Fortunately I new the music really well and had attended almost every one of their shows, so I kind of knew what to do and with some help from Buddy I was able to pull it off in about a month. The only thing I played before was guitar for about a year when I was ten, but I really didn’t remember much from that experience!
Buddy Dughi – As for my combo, it also included Pete on sit-down drums, Bobby Cavener on bass, which also plays for his wife’s band, Amber Foxx, and Mike Homer on acoustic rhythm guitar. This band is very traditional 50’s rockabilly in comparison to the Hot Rod Trio.
Please don’t take me for a horrible “macho man” but rockabilly slap bass is kinda physical… How do you approach that?
Suzy Dughi – That’s really what I love about it as opposed to playing electric bass, it really gives you the opportunity to really dig in and feel the rock’n’roll beat! In the beginning though it does require building up the stamina to keep going even when your arm gets tired, but if the audience is diggin’ it and their really into it you kind of get energy from that and you tend to forget about it
Wendy LeBeau (Flea Bops) told me that Stan Kessler tried to discourage her to play upright bass and told her she should stick to the e-bass…
Suzy Dughi – I think anyone, male or female, as with most things can learn do just about anything if they really want to as long as they stick with it. If anyone told me that it would give me even more reason to do it!
That’s what she actually did. Do you also play electric bass too?
Suzy Dughi – I learned to play electric bass a few years ago for a side project we did called the “Mag-neato’s”, a surf instrumental band. I also played on Buddy’s solo surf cd called “Buddy Dughi plays Hot Rod Surf”. I really like playing upright bass alot better, but electric bass definitely has it’s place music.
Let’s get a bit technical here, especially for all the young ladies who’d like to play the slap bass. Do you do something to protect your fingers ? Do you have advices?
Suzy Dughi – Most of the time when playing with the Be-Bop Boys I don’t use any protection on my fingers because the blond Engelhardt bass I use in that band is very easy to play as far as the way it is set up. The black flamed Engelhardt I use in the Hot Rod Trio seems to have a bit more tension on the strings which makes it not so kind to your fingers so I usually use white, cloth, athletic tape because it is flexible, it doesn’t slip off the strings and it stays put. Of course using gut strings as opposed to steel is also a lot easier on your hands and sounds a hell of a lot better too!
What about your albums?
Buddy Dughi – I have several albums out, although my first recording experience was a 45 on pink vinyl which I recorded with the Rockits (which was the Hot Rod Trio prior to Suzy’s joining the band). I now have two studio albums out with The Hot Rod Trio, one live Hot Rod Trio album, a solo surf album, and a soon to be released on Golly Gee Records solo rockabilly project called Buddy Dughi-Rev it Up!
Do you record live in studio?
Buddy Dughi – I am a firm believer in recording live whenever possible and my latest project was recorded live to tape with tape echo, just like they would have done back at Sun Studios.
What is the most memorable gig you played and or went to?
Buddy Dughi – One of my most memorable gigs l’ve played was when we played at a car show and Brian Setzer came down and sat in with us, that was pretty cool!
As far as the most mémorable show l’ve been to, it would probably hâve to be going to see Cari Perkins and meeting him after the show and getting a picture with him by the first hot rod I ever built!
How about your future plans
Buddy Dughi – I plan to play rockabilly forever! l’d like to possibly do some touring, I’d love to come to Europe to play, and l’d like to start recording some vinyl 45’s.
What do you think about the rockabilly scene today in Europe and the US?
Buddy Dughi – It seems to me like some of the younger people in the US rockabilly scene don’t really know what rockabilly is, it’s getting too mixed up with psychobilly and punk and that stuff is getting mislabeled as rockabilly. the Europeans however, seem to have a better understanding and appreciation for the true meaning and history behind the music and ail that goes along with it.
Some of your songs, especially on Hot Rod Trio Live have a psychobilly edge. What do you think about this kind of music. Do you think it could bring younger kids to “real” rockabilly?
Buddy Dughi – It’s probably the only way to bring kids to rockabilly. I recently played a concert with 14 Psychobilly bands, all young kids, and they loved the straight-up rockabilly we played, but kept their interest with songs like “Demons got a Motorcycle”, etc…and besides, it’s fun to let loose and go crazy now and then!
It sounds like the Hot Rod Trio is your wild/neo rockabilly side and Suzy Q. is more your Vincent/Gallup side…
Buddy Dughi – Yes, it’s very confusing for people and hard to have a “defined” sound, image and style when you switch back and forth between styles during a show. I also have a very traditional band called “The Buddy Dughi Combo” which is based on the sound of the more obscure Sun artists. I am planning on releasing only vinyl 45’s with this band.
A last word?
Buddy Dughi – If I could never listen to anyone else again, l’d die happy just Iistening to Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps!
What about you Suzy?
Suzy Dughi – That’s really hard to say because I love so many different artists and styles (of rockabilly). The same answer would probably go for me too, but really anything on the Sun label or Ricky Nelson would be just fine too! As a last word I would just like to thank anyone playing, listening to, or supporting rockabilly music in any way, shape or form simply for keeping this great form of “truly American music” alive for generations to come!