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Real Music - November 2014 - Sunday Ramble


Real Music - November 2014 - Sunday Ramble

by Robert Feuer

Gary Vogensen, whose music career came alive during the 1960s San Francisco music renaissance, is one of many of that era’s players who’ve migrated to Sonoma County. As a teenager growing up in San Rafael, he had access to venues like the Fillmore, the Avalon, and Keystone Corner, where he learned from watching seasoned players, ending up working with them. “I’m a visual learner. I had a good enough ear where I could mimic people,” says Vogensen, during a recent interview.

He describes Mike Bloomfield as an advocate, mentor, and good friend. This began with Bloomfield’s invitation to join him in an after-dinner jam, singing a Howlin’ Wolf song. “He took me under his wing and introduced me to people. I went to a lot of cool places, played a lot of cool gigs, with a lot of cool people.”

Currently, Vogensen has an every third Sunday gig, the Sunday Ramble, at Petaluma’s Aqus Café with his group, the Ramble Band, including five players focusing on blues, R&B, Americana and a little country, he says. He plays regularly with the Blues Broads, including appearances at the Russian River Blues Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival and this year’s Earlfest. On Nov.7, the Blues Broads play Rancho Nicasio. He also performs with the Rivertown Trio and the Blue Moon Band. Real Music - November 2014 - Sunday Ramble - Vogensen

Other adventures include 20 years with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, ending in 2005, and time with the Commander Cody and Norton Buffalo Bands, including, with the latter, an Austin City Limits show in the late ‘70s. Vogensen calls a “pickup gig” behind Etta James at the Marin County Fair, “a life-changing experience. She was a first-generation blues artist, the first real, real deal I’d worked with.” Other legendary artists he’s backed up are Lloyd Price and Irma Thomas. “These are people you learn from,” Vogensen says.

Now, he’s passing on his knowledge and experience to others. He’s had a private practice, the Gary Vogensen Music Studio, for 20 years, now working out of Tall Toad Music, where he teaches guitar, singing, and music theory.

At Kenwood School he runs the band, teaching kids songs, how to play licks and patterns, and telling them stories. “I help people express themselves musically in a way they find fulfilling and satisfying.”

It’s been a long road for Vogensen since the days Bloomfield set him up with his “first legitimate job in a rock n’ roll band,” he says, touring with Barry Melton. “I was ready to get on the bus.”

 “The business has changed,” he says. “The Ramble Band is a world-class band, playing for tips at Aqus. Few of my colleagues are able to squeeze a living out of music.” He blames this on the advent of the computer and internet, and the lack of respect for intellectual property. “We adjust to the economics of the situation because we love to play music. It was a great run but it’s over.” 


Vogensen can be contacted at 707-481-7042 or