Music & Nightlife

The Woggles remain firmly planted in the underground

The Woggles are a fixture on SIrius/XM's Underground Garage where frontman Manfred Jones is a DJ.
The Woggles are a fixture on SIrius/XM's Underground Garage where frontman Manfred Jones is a DJ. Courtesy of the Woggles

The definition of underground music might not have changed since garage-rock throwback the Woggles got its start in the Athens, Ga. college rock scene 28 years ago, but the way underground music spreads has.

As a deejay on SiriusXM satellite radio’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage, Woggles’ frontman Manfred Jones can share six decades of rock, soul and R&B with a much wider audience than the college stations that first played the Woggles in the ’90s.

“Being on the Underground Garage has definitely helped put us in people’s ears,” says Jones (aka “Mighty Manfred”). “In the ’90s, we’d send copies to college radio stations that had specialty shows that would relate to what we were doing.”

“You’d try to get a show in one of these out-of-town places and play with a local band there,” he says, “then try to bring them to your town. There was still a network. Back in those days, people did something called reading and fanzines. God bless those guys with access to Xerox machines, or that worked at Kinko’s. Perhaps things weren’t as instantaneous, but there was still word of mouth.”

He and the Woggles return to Snug Harbor Tuesday.

With a reputation for strong live shows and consistent output – most recently on Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records – the Woggles have weathered the changes.

“I can say positively these days we sell more records and a lot of physical product than major-label debut releases,” he says. “In that sense, maybe rock n’ roll is a niche thing. We found our niche and they found us.”

That niche is a nod to early rock n’ roll, British garage rock and soul spiked with present day urgency. The band recorded at least three albums at Charlotte’s recently demolished Reflection Sound Studio with engineer Mark Williams in the ’90s, and has worked with Southern Culture on the Skids’ Rick Miller at his Kudzu Ranch studio in Mebane more recently.

Jones’ taste for the underground started early, when he realized the songs he liked in the Top 40 never made it very high on the charts.

“Then I discovered there was this left end of the dial that seemed to have way-better music,” he says. “I was coming across these specialty shows and heard Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m a Man.’ It was an epiphany for me. It was the most raw thing I’d heard in my life … menacingly evil and tough. This song was from the ’50s, and this was 20 years later and it sounded far more exciting, far more energized and real than what I was hearing on the radio at the time.”

“We don’t live in 1955,” he says. “We don’t have any desire to be in 1955. We’re where we are now in terms of our life experience. The point is to take those things as points of inspiration and take the sounds from those eras and incorporate that into our own perspective and use that as our wellspring.”

Courtney’s blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com

PREVIEW

The Woggles

WHEN: 9 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.

TICKETS: $8.

DETAILS: 704-561-1781; www.snugrock.com.

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