The Woggles Get a Texas Tune-Up in the Garage

The Woggles (well...most of them!): Buzz Hagstrom, Dan Elextro, The Mighty Manfred, and Shane Pringle.
The Woggles (well...most of them!): Buzz Hagstrom, Dan Elextro, The Mighty Manfred, and Shane Pringle. Photo by Buffi Aguero
The last time The Mighty Manfred was in town, it was at the start of a mini-Texas tour co-fronting the ‘60s-inspired rock and soul ensemble revue the Magnificent. It would find him gigging at both the Houston and Austin Continental Clubs, as well as the club C-Boys and the Lone Star Roundup classic car show, both in the Capital.

Flash forward a year and the California-living Manfred’s back hitting the exact same circuit, but this time with his “main” group of some 35 years, modern Garage Rock royalty the Woggles. Could it be the start of an annual sojourn the South?
“I hope so! Steve Wertheimer [Continental Club co-owner] is so great to us. I’m very happy about it!” Manfred says via Zoom just after wrapping recording an installment as a DJ for his regular “Midday Matinee” show on SiriusXM’s Underground Garage channel. “It’s been a few years since the Woggles have been there.”

Of course, playing the club gigs are a bit different that the Roundup, at which the main attraction is not necessarily the music, but the shiny slabs of metal. “We did the first one with [‘60s Garage Rock legends] the Sonics, and they had about 100-150 people engaged. If they were doing a music festival that size, it would have been thousands! But having music does add a cool sheen to things.”
In addition to Manfred on lead vocals (and aerobic instructor—the dude runs around a lot), the current lineup includes longtime members Buzz Hagstrom (bass) and Dan Elextro (drums). Their two newish guitarists are Graham Day and Shane Pringle, though Pat Beers of the Schizophonics is filling in for Day on these Texas gigs.

Beers’ own stage presence is equally frantic and frenetic as Manfred’s, so the question must be asked: Who’s more likely to have a heart attack on stage?

“That would be me! Pat is much younger!” Manfred laughs. “Sometimes, I joke on stage that he’s my son. And people believe it. They’ve told me after the show ‘What a great family you have!’ and I just say ‘Yeah, he’s a good boy!’”
Beers is also the chief songwriter and plays as a guest on the Woggles’ most recent single, released last year. A-side “Flesh Hammer” is a tribute to the Woggles guitarist Jeff “Flesh Hammer” Walls, who died in 2019 at the age of 62 from a rare pulmonary disease. He was also a co-founding member of ‘80s-era Atlanta-based college rockers Guadalcanal Diary.

“Flesh Hammer” was his stage name while with another pre-Woggles band, Hillbilly Frankenstein. Walls had played with the Woggles informally since 1990 and joined full time in 2003 after the death of previous guitarist George Holton.

“The last tour that Jeff did was a string of maybe five West Coast shows with the Schizophonics, and Pat and Jeff really had a chance to bond, even though they’d known each other before that,” Manfred says.
After Jeff died, the band’s initial idea was to record with a series of guest guitarists. When they reached out to Beers about participating, he noted that he’d written a tribute song already, with some help from singer/songwriter Robert Lopez (aka El Vez). A few more lyrical and chord changes later, it’s the song they put out as the single.

The B-side is “The Witch,” a cover of a tune done by German rock band The Rattles, who had an international hit with it in 1970. It was actually that band’s second go-round with the tune, and it cracked the U.S. top 100. The Woggles 45 will be available—along with other goodies—at the band’s merch table. Beers is on this tune as well. Manfred says their version is somewhere between the symphonic Rattles take and the stripped down one done a few years later by a band called Wool.
click to enlarge
More Woggles! The Mighty Manfred, Pat Beers, Dan Elextro, and Buzz Hagstrom.
Photo by David Klein
Fans of Garage and Psychedelic rock of the 1960s know that last year was the 50th anniversary of the release of Nuggets. The double LP compilation put together by Patti Smith guitarist and music journalist Lenny Kaye included a lot of the genre’s Big Anthems like “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” (the Electric Prunes), “Dirty Water” (the Standells), “Pushin’ Too Hard” (the Seeds), “Lies” (the Knickerbockers) and “Psychotic Reaction” (the Count Five).

It’s likely also the first place a lot of people heard Texas’ own 13th Floor Elevators under the leadership of Roky Erickson (“You’re Gonna Miss Me”). Nuggets has since been grown into an expanded box set and sequels. This month will see a newly-released 5-LP box set for Record Store Day and a Kaye takeover of the Underground Garage channel. And there will be a series of commemorative concerts in May.
What Harry’s Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music was to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dave Van Ronk, and hundreds of aspiring folksingers, Nuggets was to Garage Rockers. Manfred remembers his own first encounter with the set.

“I went off to college and in the spring of 1984 I met a guy named Craig Phillips through a friend, and he had the original double album. He lent me that and a Pretty Things double album,” Manfred recalls. “It was mind blowing to me. The stuff was so great! Some of them were hits, but all of them should have been. It was refreshing, straight-up rock and roll. Three chords, great choruses, and just real fun.”
In fact, a number of Nuggets songs have found their way into Woggles’ sets over the years, as well as Manfred’s own radio show (which he’s hosted since 2005). He said he does all the research on the background of the songs he plays himself—though mentions if he makes an error, hardcores will let him know about it…immediately! He also hosts a weekly “Coolest Conversations” with an artist who has a new record out.

The Woggles plan on finishing recording of their next full-length album (sessions started last year), with hopes to release it in spring 2024. There’s no title for it yet.

“Well…” Manfred chuckles. “There has to be a discussion with the record company on that!”

The Woggles play 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, at the Continental Club, 3700 S. Main. Call 713-529-9899 or visit The Allen Oldies Band opens. $10-$20.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero