This ‘Renaissance redneck' rocks

Danny Hargis finally did it.

Six years ago, he left his longtime graphic arts career and dove full-time into his lifelong love of music.

In his 1904 home on Main Street, Hargis takes the eight musical instruments he's mastered and dubs them into down-home songs about North Carolina.

The songs sound like a band is performing, but it's all Hargis, 56 – the son of Depression-era parents who sharecropped on an Eastern North Carolina farm.

He's the writer, singer, player, producer and marketer. All he uses to record his tunes are a computer program and two microphone stands.

Hargis has nearly sold all of the first 100 copies of his recently released “The Way It Was.”

The CD features several musical styles, such as bluegrass and Delta blues, with one common theme: There's no place like North Carolina.

Hargis includes songs about tobacco and a Cape Hatteras sunrise.

His rockabilly song, “Cold Taters and Lukewarm Buttermilk” captures the feelings of a laid-off mill worker.

He recorded another song, “Cold Air and a Lonesome Lite-Bub,” when his voice was gravelly during a bout with bronchitis. “I was sick as a dog when I recorded this,” he said of the Eric Clapton-style blues tune.

Hargis started playing guitar at age 4 and taught himself the mandolin, Dobro, harmonica and other instruments.

He's played in numerous bands at smaller Carolinas venues and has won so many ribbons at bluegrass festivals that he's lost count. So many ribbons hang in a room of his house that I couldn't count them all, either.

Hargis was 3 when his dad moved the family to Charlotte in their '48 Dodge to seek better job opportunities. Robert Hargis, who died in 1994, ran an Esso station on the “brand-new” Independence Boulevard in the 1950s. The area was still country then.

During the Vietnam War era, Hargis joined the Air Force when he was 18 and served stateside as an allergy and immunization technician.

Later in the 1970s, while enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College, Hargis landed a bluegrass gig at a south Iredell campground that's now the gated Alexander Island community at one end of Langtree Road.

Someone told him the late Harry Mott needed a groundskeeper for the 13 manicured acres of the Mott family plantation on Langtree. Hargis leapt at the chance and moved into what once served as the plantation's Little Oak Grove Schoolhouse, which still stands. He lived there from 1976 to 1980.

Using his Air Force training, Hargis made sure Harry and wife Clara maintained their health, giving them daily vitamin B-12 shots.

Hargis also is a retired Lake Norman hunting and fishing guide and still helps part-time at Raceparts Distribution Inc. in Cornelius. He makes bluebird boxes at his and wife Claudia's home. His mom, Vera, 84, also lives there.

“I'm a Renaissance redneck,” he said of his pursuits.

Hargis doesn't know how long the family will stay in the home. Huntersville plans to move government buildings across the railroad tracks from the home, and a rail depot is planned 200 yards to one side of their land.

Claudia said she could move right now to their daughter's wooded property in Iron Station in Lincoln County, but Danny Hargis isn't quite ready.

Can you sense another song?