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DOGGIE STYLE

Decked out in his weathered cowboy hat, Wrangler jeans and cherry-red shit-kickers, guitarist Gary England doesn't look like your archetypical surfer, and for good reason. Despite his role as the fair-skinned frontman for Denver's premier instrumental surf trio, the Moon Doggies, England has yet to catch his first wave--although it hasn't been for lack of trying.

"I almost went surfing once," he explains. "I rented a board. I got up my nerve. I put on my baggies and headed to the beach. But when I looked out there--man! Those waves were huge! I thought I'd better wait until they went down a little."

England's bandmates, bassist Mike Mobley and drummer Jim Connelly, aren't exactly renowned for their shredding prowess, either. Mobley claims to have made a few surfing pilgrimages to the West Coast over the years, while Connelly confesses that he has only watched the sport on TV. All in all, these aren't the kind of guys you'd expect to find banging out Link Wray covers at Herman's Hideaway.

Still, England doesn't believe that the Doggies' aquatic disabilities preclude them from exploring this musical style. "It's not really surf music if you think about it," he says. "There's definitely surf music in it. But it's really just twangy guitar music. I grew up with that stuff. I mean, when the Ventures came out, it was some of the most exciting guitar stuff I'd ever heard."

"There's sort of a twist [to our music], too," Connelly adds, "because there's a lot of energy in it. It's real hard-hitting stuff. It's not like the Ventures were thirty years ago."

That's a fact: The Moon Doggies' full-tilt live show and preference for stinging reverb seldom evoke nostalgia. Although the players profess a fondness for the Wray-Ventures-Dick Dale trinity worshipped by many of their surf-guitar contemporaries, they frequently cover work by other artists. Their song list includes everything from obscure guitar gems such as "The Bumblebee Boogie," by B. Bumble and the Stingers, to modern neo-surf classics like Shadowy Men From a Shadowy Planet's "Having an Average Weekend"--otherwise known as the theme song from The Kids in the Hall.

The Doggies have also added a handful of originals to their repertoire in recent months, including Connelly's ultra-tubular "Ranch of the Damned." With its propulsive beat and locomotive guitar progression, "Damned" exemplifies the trio's rootsy surf boogie. When he wrote the song, Connelly notes, "I was sitting down at the piano at my parents' house. I just made it up on the piano, since I don't know how to play guitar."

"It's one of those timeless surf-piano songs," Mobley interjects, laughing.
"Damned" has not yet joined "Wipeout" in the surf-guitar Hall of Fame, in part because the three Doggies have not dedicated themselves to the band. They've been woodshedding for close to two years now but have played live on only three occasions. Fortunately, the trio has found other ways to fill those long stretches between shows. Connelly, for example, plays skins with the Capitol Hillbillies, while England is a member of the Jinns and a regular in the combos led by Theresa Lynn, Renee Scofield and Denver Joe. As for ex-Jinn Mobley, he's a student with only one musical outlet. "I save myself for the Moon Doggies," he enthuses. "I spend my time listening to surf music and reading surf magazines and sitting in my bathtub."

Judging by recent developments, Mobley may not be quite so clean in the future. England promises that the Moon Doggies will record several new songs early next year. They also plan to hit the stage more often; the group appears with the Hillbilly Hellcats for gig number four on Monday, December 19, at Cricket on the Hill.

England swears that he'd like nothing more than to see the Moon Doggies become more of a going concern in the months ahead. "This is definitely my favorite band," he concedes. "What I like about [the Moon Doggies] is that it's always `me, me, me.' It's just endless guitar. We can get up there and play whatever we want to play. I don't have to stay out of the way of some guy who's, you know, singing or whatever, and I don't have to give a solo to some other guy. It's like, `Oh, all these solos are mine.'

"I'd say we're ready to get fired up now," he concludes. "I think this town might be ready for us.

 
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