For Kenny Hogan, the memories linger vividly: rides down Route 1, listening to the AM radio; his father, a tireless worker, devotedly polishing fenders; the 17-foot beast of an automobile, a 1967 Chrysler Imperial.
“That car was his pride and joy,” said Hogan.
And so it is fitting that Hogan, a lifelong musician, pays homage to his father after completing his own multi-year labor of love, a solo album named “Frank’s Imperial.”
“After 30 years of playing in cover bands, it occurred to me that I had nothing really to show for it,” said Hogan, “so I wanted to sit down and record on my own.”
For the Stoneham resident of nearly two decades, “on his own” is an understatement. Everything on the album is Hogan’s doing – the writing, singing, instrumentation, engineering and recording. For the song, “Heaven,” he recorded and layered all 19 vocal parts. The instruments include Hogan’s first, the guitar, and his latest, the ukulele, among others.
“That was the toughest part, when I hit a wall, and a part wouldn’t come, and I’d have to say, ‘what would a drummer do here?’” said Hogan.
And although the individualistic album took 3 1/2 years to complete, its creator speaks absorbingly of the process and the freedom, after so long with bandmates, to have complete ownership of a song.
“Things just kind of pop into your head,” said Hogan, “and your job is to get it out of your head and into the real world. Some people do crosswords of Sudoku, but for me, putting a song together is a puzzle.”
The musical pieces began for Hogan when he was 10 and his older brother was given a guitar, spurring jealously. He then describes how his entire Medford neighborhood was inspired by the Beatles iconic performance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” Soon after, his friends formed bands, securing barbecue gigs and school dance performances.
Until his mid-30s, Hogan was a full-time musician, traveling, often on an old school bus, through the East Coast and Canada, playing most nights, Tuesdays through Sundays. He has played in bands covering the musical spectrum of the times, from rock, disco and soul to 80s high energy and 90s unplugged.
Now off the road, Hogan made it his New Year’s resolution at the start of 2006 to create a song a month and to record an album.
“Well, that year lasted three and a half years,” said Hogan. “It just didn’t happen that fast.”
Consciously, “Frank’s Imperial” is varied in terms of musical styles, paying homage additionally to his breadth of performances and his early days of AM radio, when genres weren’t separated so distinctly and there was only one Top-40 countdown.
The songs themselves also originated from varied sources. According to Hogan, the album’s final track, “Startin’ All Over Again,” is 35 years old. Another, titled “Real Good Day,” comes from Hogan’s cancer-stricken brother offering a dose of perspective.
And although Hogan bemoans a music scene that he believes has “really changed” in terms of energy and attention towards performers, he is considering ways in which his jack-of-all-trades album can be converted live.
In the meantime, however, Hogan is expanding into yet another genre, and trying his hand at recording a novelty album.
But at least now, the musician, far removed from the AM radio in the Imperial, has his first solo album in the books.
“It took a long time,” said Hogan, simply.
For information, visit www.kennyhogan.com.