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Local Artist Spotlight: Rhythm Riot’s Bill Hodgson
Bill Hodgson

FOR THE PAST THREE DECADES, local musician Bill Hodgson has been playing a wide variety of rock, country, blues and soul music throughout the Coastal Empire.

An energetic stage performer with a knack for learning songs on the fly and a versatile vocal style that can go from a gritty R&B growl to a twee, Brit-pop falsetto, area club-goers have heard him belt out popular cover tunes (and occasionally, his own original songs) everywhere from the old Cavalier C&W club on the Southside to River St.’s Warehouse.

I caught up with Hodgson by phone for a brief Q & A about his work as an entertainer. Below are some highlights.

Your full given name?

Bill Hodgson: William Allen Hodgson.

Date and place of birth?

Bill Hodgson: 11/6/59, Savannah, Ga.

What’s your sign, man?

Bill Hodgson: Scorpio, baby!

First car you ever owned?

Bill Hodgson: Blue ‘71 Chevy Nova

Your current ride?

Bill Hodgson: White ‘94 Volvo

What instruments do you play?

Bill Hodgson: Bass, guitar, some drums and piano

Favorite brand of bass and amp?

Bill Hodgson: Ampeg SVT. It’s the Cadillac of bass amps. It’s about as heavy as a Cadillac as well.

How long have you been a professional musician?

Bill Hodgson: 30 years.

Career highlight to date?

Bill Hodgson: Singing with Badfinger at Congress St. Station. Everybody but Dave was in the band at the time. My band The Tremors opened for them and they asked us to come up and sing “No Matter What” with them! I’m also proud to say that I played the original Night Flight on River St., and there’s not a lot of folks who are still playing in bands today that can say they did that.

Worst gig to date?

Bill Hodgson: The Tremors played a Wedding Reception at Sisters’ Court. We had to practically turn our instruments off and play acoustically because the room was so reflective it was overwhelming. Our drummer Ray actually had to cover his drums with our coats and play them through clothing! It was the worst place ever to hear a band.

Most lucrative engagement to date?

Bill Hodgson: The New Year’s Eve gigs at the Hyatt back in the late ‘80s.

Your Top Three Musical Heroes?

Bill Hodgson: Oh Lord... Probably Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello and Robin Trower. (laughs)

One record you try to always keep in your collection, and why?

Bill Hodgson: The Isley Brothers’ 3 + 3. I got it for my 13th birthday and I’ve had it ever since. I’ve bought it three times on vinyl and twice on CD, and I have it in my computer right now!

First real concert you attended?

Bill Hodgson: Check this out: The Jackson Five at the Savannah Civic Center in 1972! (laughs)

Last concert you attended as a spectator?

Bill Hodgson: Either Cake at a theater in downtown Charleston or Tom Jones at a big club right outside of Charleston.

Besides music, what’s another job you wouldn’t mind doing for a living?

Bill Hodgson: I’d LOVE to sell peanuts at the beach. Talk about a low pressure job! (laughs) The guys that own the Sugar Shack made enough money selling peanuts at the beach to open that restaurant, and that restaurant sent all those boys to Ivy League schools.

How would you describe your current band Rhythm Riot?

Bill Hodgson: I’ll put it this way: when I started the band, I told ‘em I was happy to do it as long as there was NEVER a serious moment. The songs are meant to be fun, and we approach it that way. We’re not gonna live or die on it, you know?

Do you have any showbiz superstitions?

Bill Hodgson: I never eat very much before I play.

Name one popular song you’ll never play no matter how much somebody offers to tip you to hear it.

Bill Hodgson: “Cheeseburger In Paradise.” That one really crosses the line. “Margaritaville” is fuckin’ hard enough to get through!

What’s the one thing you’d change about our local music scene?

Bill Hodgson: Other than the pay, I would assume? I wish there was a venue that was more open to all different styles of music. That’s the one thing the Night Flight was able to do in its day that nobody’s really been able to do since then. You’d go in there one night and see the best bluegrass band and the next night there’d be an outtasite jazz fusion group and then a terrific reggae band the next night. We don’t really have that anymore.

The Live Wire is trying to do that in their own way, though. Danny, the owner, is a good friend of mine, and he is trying for that same kind of vibe. But when everybody talks about how great the Night Flight was, folks don’t mention that back in its heyday the drinking age was 18. Just that distinction meant that an assload more people were able to come in and see the shows! Plus, younger people like that are more likely to stay out late and support that sort of thing more often.

Listen & Learn:

Find area appearances by Rhythm Riot in our weekly Soundboard Calendar.