In the early ‘80s, San Francisco vocalist Wade Hogue was performing Top 40 hits at clubs and high schools up and down the Pacific Coast. He knew he could do more. He wanted to play at bigger venues and watch a crowd go wild.
“I wanted to do something to take it to the next level,” he said. “I wanted something heavy in vocals and with great guitar solos.”
The answer was music with more staying power: the Eagles.
Gathering a band that could create the signature sound was no simple matter, he said.
“To actually be in this band, you have to have a good deal of musicianship and vocal ability,” he said.
“We needed people that can play the songs the same way every time.”
The work paid off.
The results of his efforts are a five-member, nationally sought tribute group, Hotel California “A Salute to the Eagles,” which has been playing 175 days a year from coast to coast in recent years, including many returns for fans who crave more. They’ve performed eight years in a row at the Disney World “Sounds Like Summer” Concert Series, a lineup of top tribute bands.
For more than two decades, band members have been presenting a showcase of the best-selling band’s mega-hits — think “Take it Easy,” “Heartache Tonight” and, of course, “Hotel California” — as well as titles from the solo works of the Eagles’ Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh.
“The No. 1 song people go nuts over is still ‘Hotel California,’ ” he said. “It’s just something about it. It’s like the Eagles’ anthem.”
Other trademark tunes, though, often get show-goers jumping out of their seats.
“A lot of times, when the bass player does the high notes on ‘One of These Nights,’ you’ll get a standing O.”
Not surprisingly, some of the most enthusiastic Hotel California fans are those with fond memories of the ‘70s, the decade when The Eagles sold more records than any other band in the country.
“Our live shows are a trip down memory lane for a lot of people,” Hogue says. “A lot of the crowd we play for are baby boomers. There are a lot of memories from 40 or so years ago.”
He’s quick to add, though, that the band appeals to true music lovers — those who appreciate carefully honed talent — from any generation.
“We put our own little stamp on it,” he says. “Like on ‘Seven Bridges Road,’ we make it a little more bluegrass. We make it our own.”
Hogue says most of his crew can list at least about a half dozen instruments they’ve mastered and each has made a name for his own talents outside of tribute concerts. For example, band member Dicky Lee Dickinson — vocals, mandolin, pedal steel and harmonicas, plus lead, rhythm, slide, acoustic and electric guitars — has shared the stage with rock legends Boston and Van Halen.
That individual experience, combined with years of touring together, help them offer a rocking concert with authentic sound.
“We set up, do our sound check, and when we switch on the lights, there it goes,” he says. “You can close your eyes and think you’re listening to the Eagles.”