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Hot Rod Trio

Buddy Lee

Buddy Lee – Let’s Rock Tonight

Self released [2023]
Let’s Rock Tonight – Careful Baby – Digging A Hole To Bury My Heart – Don’t Be Gone Long – Hip Shaking Mama – Long Blonde Hair – Everybody’s Loving My Baby – Pepper Hot Baby – If I Had Me A Woman – I’ll Cry Instead – Here COmes That Train – Gone Gone Gone – Have Myself A Ball – My Baby Don’t Rock – Ugly & Slouchy – Rock All Night

Buddy Lee

Buddy Lee is none other than Buddy Dughi, whom we know for his solo albums and his band, the Hot Rod Trio. He is accompanied here, as usual, by his wife Suzy Q on double bass and the faithful Pete Bonny on drums (both also play in the Hot Rot Trio, and Bonny and Dughi played together in the Rockits in 1988). A fourth member, Kevin Bullat, completes the band on steel guitar.
Let’s Rock Tonight! is made of sixteen covers ranging from classics such as Long Blonde Hair, Gone Gone Gone, and If Had Me A Woman, as well as less common tracks. There is also a cover of the Beatles’ I’ll Cry Instead, which is unsurprising because this track has a solid Rockabilly structure and shows that the Fab Four knew their roots. This song has been covered many times by Rockabilly bands, whether it’s the Polecats, Stringbeans or the Nitros, and before them by Joe Cocker in a fantastic version (go and have a listen, you’ll thank me).
Buddy Lee achieves a real tour de force with this album, remaining both faithful to the original versions while appropriating them, ultimately giving a very personal album.
If Buddy Lee covers these songs, it is with sincere love. He does not transform them into something they are not. It is this same approach that guides the instrumentation. The take-off guitar is clear, precise and inventive, the double bass propels everything up, and the drums remain discreet: there’s no doubt it’s a Rockabilly album.
The addition of steel is a great idea. It not only refers to the early years of the genre – think of the beginnings of Carl Perkins or Charlie Feathers – it also adds a second solo instrument and echoes the vocals in a subtle call-and-answer arrangement. Let’s talk about this voice, an authentic Rockabilly voice with hiccups and tremolo. Sometimes it sounds a bit like a hillbilly version of Levi Dexter.
So it is not by attacking the deep form of the songs, which would be too easy, that Buddy Lee appropriates them, but rather by his personality (his voice, his guitar playing), his talent and his respect. As the veteran that he is (I hope he won’t blame me for the term), Buddy seems to know these tunes so well and understand them that he knows where to place subtle variations and how to play with them so that, eventually, they become Buddy Lee/Buddy Dughi tracks.
If you add to that an excellent band, you get a more than recommendable album!

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Rockits

rockitsThe Rockits – The Rockits

Award Records ‎– SH-1001 [1988]
Cruisin’ All Night – TwoTimin’ Baby – Stood Up

Formed in the mid-80’s The Rockits, previously known as the Top Cats, were a neo-rockabilly band heavily influenced by the earlier cat bands such as Stray Cats and Polecats. They were Buddy Dughi(Vocals/Lead Guitarist), Pete Bonny (drums), and Steve Herney (double-bass). This is their sole release, a three-song ep in pink, and black vinyl.
It contains two Buddy Dughi originals, “Cruisin’ All Night” and “TwoTimin’ Baby”, along with their tribute to Ricky Nelson, “Stood Up.” Dughi and Bonny later founded the Hot Rod Trio and Suzy Q & Her Be-Bop Boys.

Suzy Q and Her Be Bop Boys


Suzy Q and her Be Bop Boys  Cool Baby!
Suzy Q and her Be Bop Boys Cool Baby!

Suzy Q and Her Be Bop Boys – Cool Baby !

Astro Records 1967
There Goes My Baby – Babydoll Knows How To Rock – Kinfolk In Carolina – King of Hearts – Cool Baby – Demon Lover – He’ll Come Back – Hypnotic Rock – Honky Tonk Hot Rod Man – Triple Slap Cat
Suzy Q and her Be Bop Boys are basically the Hot Rod Trio augmented by Mitch Homer on rhythm guitar. But this time Suzy Dughi is totally in charge of the lead vocals and the sound is rather different. One look at the sleeve, a tribute to Gene Vincent’s first lp on Capitol, and it’s easy to guess where this combo draws a part of its inspiration. But this is not a carbon copy, it’s more a question of energy and sound, and actually there isn’t any Vincent cover here. Seven songs are from the pen of Suzy and one by her husband, guitar maestro Buddy Dughi. The remaining three come from the catalog of Ricky Nelson, Merle Travis and Bob & Lucille. The rhythm section (including Suzy’s prowess on bass) makes a perfect support for the dialog between her vocals and Buddy’s “gallupin'” guitar. The result is a bunch of first rate rockabillies, sometimes groovy (Demon Lover), sometimes mean (King Of Heart – excellent !), sometimes rural (Kinfolk In Carolina) but always good and sure to make you dance to the bop. As a bonus there’s a live version of “There Goes My Baby” and the lyrics are included. I guess it’s out of print now but you can check their website to hear some samples.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Hot Rod Trio


Hot Rod Trio - Live!
Hot Rod Trio – Live!

Hot Rod Trio- Live !

Golly Gee Records GGR 1045
Hot Rod Model A – Long Blonde Hair – Here Comes That Train – Hop, Skip, Jump – Cat On The Loose – 32 – Hot Rod Heaven -Baby Don’t Rock – One Gone Cat – What If – Demon’s Got A Motorcycle – Hot Dog – Let’s Bop – Don’t Boss Me Baby – Tear It Up – Folsom Prison Blues – Boppin The Blues – Crazy Baby
The Hot Rod Trio is a Californian modern rockabilly band consisting of Buddy Dughi on guitar, Suzy Dughi on slap bass and Pete Bonny on drums. Both Suzy and Buddy sing. They have released 2 studio albums to date and have been playing their brand of high octane rockabilly since 1991. This live album of 18 tracks is a good way to hear how they sound on stage. You can definitely find a Setzer/Stray Cats influence in their music, not exactly the sound, Buddy’s voice is more rockabilly with hiccups and tremoloes, but in the general feel and the way to approach the genre. The set is a mix of classic covers (Johnny Cash, Johnny Powers, Collins Kid, Carl Perkins…), played with enough personality to be more than reproduction. Buddy plays great solos and make ‘em his own.The band’s self-penned songs stand well among the classics. I really loved “32” and “Demon’s Got A Motorcycle” on which Buddy’s guitar roars like an engine. If you like Brian Setzer’s 68 Comeback Special or The Reverend Horton Heat, you won’t be disappointed with this one.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Suzy and Buddy Dughi (Hot Rod Trio, Suzy Q and her Be Bop Boys, the Rockits…)

Hot Rod trio (Pete Bonny, Suzy Dughi, Buddy Dughi)
Hot Rod trio (Pete Bonny, Suzy Dughi, Buddy Dughi)

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.

Buddi Dughi
(© all rights reserved)

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!

Suzy Dughi
© all rights reserved

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

Buddy around 1988 (© All rights reserved)
Buddy around 1988
(© All rights reserved)

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.

Suzy Q and her Be Bop Boys (© All rights reserved)
Suzy Q and her Be Bop Boys (© All rights reserved)

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!