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home : art & life August 22, 2017

7/26/2017 5:35:00 PM
Jim Craig Keeps the Hogeye Tradition Going Strong
By Les Jacobson


It may not be clear what a hog-eye is. Some say it is a flat-bottomed riverboat; others, the harpoon man on a whaling vessel.

One thing is clear: It is a spirited sea chanty, sometimes enlivened by suggestive lyrics, such as “Oh Sally’s in the garden sifting sand/her hogeye man sitting hand in hand.”

The song was regularly performed by the folk duo of Anne Hills and Jan Burda, the married couple who along with musicians Tyler and Joan Wilson started Hogeye Music on Central Street in 1978, across the street from
a bookstore run by Ms. Wilson’s parents.

“We figured, there weren’t a lot of stores focused on old-time folk music,” recalled Mr. Wilson.

The original Hogeye was located near the corner just west of Green Bay Road, where Chase Bank is now. But as soon as the owners got word of the bank’s impending construction, they took over the dry cleaners just west of the alley, where it has been located ever since.

In addition to selling instruments and offering lessons, the store also featured folk music concerts. Rows of old chairs, purchased for 75 cents apiece from St. Athanasius School, provided seating. Some prominent performers played there, including Eddie Holstein, Sally Rodgers, David Roth, Paul Geremia, and Fleming Brown.

Eventually the original owners decided to sell, and looked to Jim Craig, who had worked at Hogeye as a guitar teacher and instrument repairman.

Mr. Craig’s father was in the Navy, and Jim was born
in 1945 at Great Lakes Naval Station. Like many a “military brat,” he moved often with his family, living for a time in Minnesota, then Texas, and later Indiana. He went to Hanover College in Indiana and “majored in philosophy, which made me a good bartender.”

He arrived in Chicago at the age of 22 to attend McCormick Theological Seminary, but dropped out and worked assorted odd jobs, including bar-
tending and construction. Mostly, he wanted to play guitar.

“I came of age during the folk boom,” he reminisced recently from his shop. “I was listening to Pete Seeger and Dave Van Ronk, but also more obscure musicians like Dock Boggs and Pink Anderson, folks who were off the map but were rediscovered in the early ’60s.”

Mr. Craig taught guitar at the Old Town School of Folk Music, jammed with such luminaries as Eddie Holstein and Steve Goodman, and played folk clubs like the Quiet Knight. He also played guitar with his future wife, Vivian, at clubs. They still perform together in what they call a “ukelectic show.”

“Jim’s a very good guitar player and has an incredible voice,” said Mr. Wilson.

In 1973 Mr. Craig and Vivian married; they have one daughter and two grandchildren. When Mr. Holstein managed Hogeye for a time, he enticed Mr. Craig to teach there. When the owners decided to sell in 1991, Mr. Craig took over.

The shop has not changed much since then. It sells guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolins, strings, percussion instruments, harmonicas, T-shirts, and musical accessories, as well as “Chicago’s largest selection of folk music books and recordings,” according to its website.

“Instrument sales are down due to the Internet and big box stores,” Mr. Craig says, “but we’re more service-oriented and do a nice business with lessons and repairs.”

His dog, Scout, an 8-year-old border-collie mix, is the “official greeter” and keeps an eye on things.

Teaching guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and bass are long-time instructors Paul Kaye and Rick Veras, plus younger teachers Brandon Acker (who teaches guitar, bass, and ukulele), Laird Patten (banjo), and David Dewey (harmonica).

Terry Koller, a local psychologist, has been taking guitar lessons at Hogeye for 20 years. “It’s a cozy atmosphere, a very comfortable place to take lessons,” he says. “Jim’s very helpful and knowledgeable, and Hogeye is well known throughout the city.”

“Jim’s a good guy,” adds Mr. Veras. “He’s a great repairman; people come from all over the Midwest to get their instruments repaired at Hogeye. And we have students from 5 to 70.”

“It’s a neighborhood music store,” Mr. Craig says. “There aren’t too many of those around anymore. Next year will mark our 40th anniversary. Our philosophy has always been to encourage people to make their own music. There’s an old saying, ‘Music self-played is happiness self-made.’ We provide people the means to do that.”

 





Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Comment by: Gerry Field

Jim has been a friend and colleague for many years. Nice article Les. Hogeye Music is a gem and an island of sanity in this world of internet and social media.






















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