Although The Woggles first got their start in the ’80s, their playful garage-psych rock would fool anyone into thinking this quartet is straight out of the ’60s. From the four-piece band’s name to its logo to its vintage sound, it’s all a perfect imitation of a musical golden era. The Woggles are about as boss as it gets these days.
Frontman and tambourine thrasher Professor Mighty Manfred, guitarist Flesh Hammer, drummer Dan Eletxro, and bassist Buzz Hagstrom make up the retro rock ‘n’ roll group, playing everything from their version of Don Gardner’s “My Baby Likes to Boogaloo” to originals, such as the Kinks-esque “It’s Not About What I Want, It’s What You Got,” which was voted Coolest Song of the Year in 2005 by Sirius Satellite Radio’s Underground Garage listeners.
Originally from Athens, Ga., The Woggles got their start on the Southeast circuit, playing their first out-of-state gig in Charleston in 1987. “It was a place called Club Dog Alley,” Manfred remembers. “It was in an older part of town, and it was filled with character and characters. In some ways it was a bizarre alternate universe — a cool place.”
Ever since The Woggles’ early days, the band has been pretty prolific to say the least, releasing no less than nine records despite the fact that the guys are spread out across the country. Manfred lives in Los Angeles now, while Eletxro resides in Alabama, Flesh Hammer in Athens, and Hagstrom in Atlanta. Still, they somehow manage to produce a tight set of songs each time they try. “Living in the same city, we’d get together and practice and nobody was doing their homework. And we’d get nothing accomplished,” Manfred tells us. “But when people are paying for their tickets or their gas to travel hours, it’s much different. And so when you show up, people feel obliged to have made everybody’s effort worthwhile.”
By day, Manfred DJs on the rock ‘n’ roll radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage on Sirius XM’s channel 21, and many nights he’s spinning records at retro-music dance clubs in L.A. — suffice to say he stays occupied.
When the City Paper caught up with him the band was busy recording a Christmas EP with one original song and one cover (Clarence Carter’s “Back Door Santa”). In the same week, they recorded a single (The Temptations’ “Treat Her Like a Lady”) for a fundraiser compilation, plus an EP of covers in the soul and R&B vein they’ll release on Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool label. When the guys aren’t recording or playing live, they’re writing. “We’re always thinking of new material and new songs,” Manfred says. “We try to work them out as soon as we can and try to stay busy enough with shows that we can try them out on unsuspecting audiences. We gotta feed ’em everything — some things they want and some things they don’t know they want until they have them.”
The Woggles are known for their wild performances that get people dancing, often trading places with audience members. One listen to songs like the bonkers “Wild Man” off 1993’s Teendanceparty — in which Manfred sounds a little like Lux Interior with a psycho, snorting pig thrown in the mix — and you can get a sense of what the band’s capable of live. That’s why they’ve shared bills with legends like Iggy and the Stooges, The Zombies, The New York Dolls, and The Sonics. And their popularity extends beyond the States to Japan and several European spots where the band is in high demand. In June, the foursome toured Spain, where Manfred says they played to thousands. By the time this goes to print, they’ll have gone to Canada. “I don’t know what they know about The Woggles in Calgary, but they want us, so we gotta bring it to ’em,” he says.
What the band brings song-wise is partly premeditated. “We’ll check YouTube to see what people have taped and realize what songs have gone over big,” Manfred says. But then again, it could be spontaneous, too. It’s the nature of the band. “The ideas and inspiration are always percolating. We are the coffee pot of rock ‘n’ roll,” Manfred adds. “That’s what we are, unfiltered — and these beans are strong.”