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Local legend Doug Dugger was country when country wasn’t cool

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Veteran country music legend Doug Dugger has accumulated some memories over the 50 years he’s been playing music. His trajectory has taken him through the annals of country music stardom—from the Grand Ole Opry to Hollywood to countless recording studios. Along the way he performed alongside and met such greats as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, George Jones, Elvis Presley and others. We thought we’d take a moment to fire a few questions at “The Chaplin of Country Music.”

What is it like being a legend?

It backfires sometimes. People remember songs of mine like “Deck of Cards” and “Bummin’ Around,” but after a while people forget your name. I give my Mom and Dad all the credit. We grew up poor as church mice but had all the love in the world in our house. They taught me well. I’m just a plain ol’ country boy and a good American and always have been. Thank God I didn’t get lost like some musicians did.

How would you describe the current state of country music?

It’s just perfect. Perfect in rhyme. Perfect in meter. There are some good artists. But I don’t hear any heart, and I don’t hear any soul. Willie and Waylon are still making it happen, and so is Loretta Lynn. Us old guys never did it for the money. It’s a terrible shame that a lot of the heritage of country music has been lost, and the Country Music Hall of Fame doesn’t seem to be doing them justice.

Have you ever competed in any Santa Claus look-a-like contests?

No—but I hear that sort of thing all the time. One kid a few years back declared that my Santa-like beard was a fake. After a firm tug, his eyes went big and he said, “It’s him, it’s him!”

It’s rumored that you’ve played around a million shows. Is there one particular show that stands out as a highlight of your career?

A few years back, Boxcar Willie was stricken with leukemia and dying and asked me to come play at his theater for a cancer fundraiser. Well, I did, and by the end all these folks were in laughs and tears and Boxcar came out to join me on the stage, joking that it was his theater and he was the only one allowed to do such a thing. It was an honor to perform in his theater.

So what makes your shows different than other country music acts?

Apart from my playing and singing, I tell some funny stories and have some routines. There’s a difference between being an entertainer and being a showman. Showmanship is about grabbing and keeping the crowd’s attention. You gotta introduce the songs the right way and create just the right mood. A good love song works much better than Viagra. I’m a dinosaur, I guess, but people always ask me why I don’t learn some of the newer country songs. Well, I say I happen to know 2,500 of the best songs ever.

Doug Dugger will perform Friday, Feb. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Cookie Cow Café and Isis Studio Gallery in Dixon. Call 246-ARTS.

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