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How 'bout them Blue Dogs?
Pasta & pickin' the night before the Marathon
Bobby Houck, far right, started the Blue Dogs 25 years ago with Hank Futch (far left).

It's been four years since the Blue Dogs, Charleston's longest-lived Americana band, played in Savannah. Considering the beloved band has been a major draw in South (and North) Carolina for 25 years, it's something of a mystery why that particular gig (head Dog Bobby Houck can't even remember the name of the joint they played) hasn't exactly gone down in local history.

It's time to change all that.

The Blue Dogs return to Savannah, in a big way, Friday, Nov. 8. They'll share the bill with Jeremy Davis & the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra at the official Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Pasta Party and Concert.

It's 5 to 9 p.m. in the Charles H. Morris Center, 10 E. Broad St.

Houck and standup bassist Hank Futch were childhood friends who bonded, years later as adults, over bluegrass music. Over time, as more musicians came into their circle and the sound became more pointed towards electrified Americana (what was quaintly, in the day, known as "country rock") the group took on the name Blue Dogs.

"We had a 10-year period, from '96 to '06, where that was our full-time, go-for-it phase, where we put out records and actively focused on recording," says Houck, who also has a Master's degree in education. "Making very little money, but putting it all back into the band. Doing that whole thing. Sometimes I think maybe we weren't focused enough on goals."

Futch recently became a CCIM-certified realtor. Houck's looking into going back to work in the school system. They both have wives and families to support. "Ultimately," Houck admits, "I don't think either of us will ever really stop playing."

Like all southern musicians, Houck has a big, rich sense of humor.

"I often think about this," he muses. "Hmm, all of my friends who I went to college with are doctors and lawyers now. They're all millionaires. Why wasn't I worried about that back then? What were they thinking about that I wasn't thinking about?"

The answer is simple: He was thinking about nothing but music. So was Futch. The future? Not so much.

"Here I am 48," Houck continues. "Maybe I should have thought a little bit harder about that when I was 21, instead of just throwing it all to the wind. I'm sure my dad told me 'You better do something with your life,' but no one ever said 'Hey, buy some real estate' or 'Put some money into your 401K.' I just kinda went for it and said 'I'm going to do this.'"

With six studio albums, three live recordings, two concert DVDs and a wealth of fabulously entertaining road stories, Houck admits he's had 25 years of experiences not many doctors or lawyers can brag about.

"That is true," he says, "and I'm not saying I would trade it."

The Savannah gig could be the basic four-piece Blue Dogs ā€” there's also drums and lead guitar ā€” or it could include mandolin, keyboards, violin, banjo, saxophone or any number of who-knows-what.

Houck and Futch are ready for anything.

"At this point, we have what we consider to be a roster of talent," Houck says. "Much like a football team or a basketball team. Depending on where we are and where we're playing, we plug in different musicians.

"And all of them are musicians that have played with the band at one time or the other. Pretty much everybody that's ever played with the band. We haven't completely pissed off any one person so far." See

On Marathon Day

At the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon finish line, in Forsyth Park, runners will be greeted by proud friends and family members, towels, copious amounts of replenishing liquids ā€” including coffee (let's remember it's way-early on a Saturday morning) and by three performing bands.

These are EARLY gigs for musicians used to working the wee hours. At least these bands are on a stage, and not plugged in, tuned up and valiantly attempting to rock out alongside the marathon route. Our hats are off to those who chose route duty.

Hilton Head's Cranford and Sons perform from 8 to 9:50 a.m. on the Forsyth stage, and our own Train Wrecks will tear it up from 12:15 to 2:30 p.m.

In between is this year's national headliner, the hard rock/metal band Jackyl, best known for its platinum-selling, self-titled debut album and the infamous "She Loves My Cā€”k," which got the album banned in Georgia K-Marts.

Jackyl, whose semi-legendary stage antics include the unfettered onstage use of a chainsaw during "The Lumberjack," performs on the Forsyth stage from 10:30 a.m. until 11:45.