Just who is that man in a cowboy hat and boots and sometimes skivvies as he strums a guitar, gyrates and sings country music to commuters during rush hour on N.C. 150 West?
“Who is that nut?” Cat Brown, a recent transplant from Miami, wondered like many others before she pulled into Fred “Sonny” Hoffman’s driveway near Memory Lane Historical Automotive Museum and the pair became instant friends.
Blaring from Hoffman’s sound system as he plays is Nappy Roots’ “Good Day” or tunes on Charlotte country music station Kat Country 96.9 FM.
If you’re one of the many motorists who’s given a thumbs up, beep-beep, wave or smile while passing Hoffman’s home, then he’s succeeded in his mission of brightening another person’s day, he said – and his own.
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Countless curiosity seekers have pulled into the driveway outside Hoffman’s single-story brick rental home that he shares with best pal, Cappy, a German shepherd mix abandoned on nearby Perth Road.
People pull out their camera phones to take group shots and selfies in front of Hoffman’s 8-foot-tall by 35-foot-long sign touting his website, www.redneckhollywood.com, and that’s painted in the red, white and blue and stars of the American flag.
One woman stopped to take a picture for a friend she wanted to cheer up who’d just been diagnosed with cancer, Hoffman said.
Five weeks ago, Hoffman also started free Tuesday night jam sessions on a stage in his front yard, featuring local performers of country, rock ’n’ roll and rhythm and blues music.
“It feels like home,” fan Katie Westmoreland, 23, said of the jam sessions. “A bunch of guys playing in the backyard.”
Hoffman, 45, is a native of Staten Island, N.Y., who performed as a male dancer, including as a Chippendale, from age 17 to 25, he said.
Hoffman, who is 6 feet, 4 inches and 225 pounds, was an ironworker for three years in Cleveland and moved to Raleigh in the early 1990s where he opened an auto detailing business.
He later opened Hoffman Steel of Charlotte, whose projects included the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture in uptown Charlotte. Hoffman said he liquidated the company as a result of the recession.
He said he now hopes to make a go of it with his website, on which he’s developing shows and a newscast and will live stream the jam sessions. If it doesn’t make it, he said, there’s always the ironworks trade, which runs several generations back in his family.
Until then, he said, be sure to whistle and wave as you pass his house as he merrily sweats on his guitar.