Just as alternative rock was signaling the death knell for many of the “guitar shredders’ of the late ’80s, a few instrumentalists were able to sneak in under the radar, such as Gary Hoey — who attracted some attention via his 1993 debut, Animal Instinct. Hailing from Boston, MA, Hoey was first a music fan before picking up the guitar — following such renowned rock bands that hailed from the area (Aerosmith, J. Geils Band, Boston, etc.). It wasn’t long after that Hoey decided to give the guitar a try, initially inspired by the usual guitar greats (especially Jimi Hendrix, whom he dug initially because of his “cool clothes”). Hoey was not entirely self-taught, however, as he would often hang around outside of Boston’s renowned Berkelee School of Music, make friends, and then offer to pay them for lessons. Sensing that he should devote all of his time to music, Hoey dropped out of high school and began playing Boston’s local clubs, making ends meet by teaching guitar to others.
Hoey’s big break appeared to come his way in 1982, when Ozzy Osbourne began looking for a replacement for his recently deceased guitarist, Randy Rhoads. Despite a series of auditions (including Hoey being asked to fly out to Los Angeles), Hoey failed to land the gig, but in the process, he decided to relocate permanently to the West Coast. Packing up all his belongings into a U-Haul, Hoey arrived with $17,000 in his pocket (saved from his playing and teaching gigs). Years later, Hoey eventually came to the attention of manager Dave Kaplan, who helped get the guitarist’s career moving forward. Although it wasn’t the best of times to launch a career for a “guitar hero” in 1993 (with Nirvana and Pearl Jam being all the rage), Hoey did just that and, surprisingly, scored a sizeable MTV/radio hit with his cover of the early-’70s prog rock gem “Hocus Pocus” by the Netherlands-based group Focus. The album it was taken from, the aforementioned Animal Instinct, also featured contributions from a few notable names of ’80s hard rock — bassist Tony Franklin (ex-Firm), keyboardist Claude Schnell (ex-Dio), and drummer Frankie Banali (ex-Quiet Riot).
Hoey never managed to scale the same heights commercially, but it didn’t prevent him from carving a niche for himself, as his albums got progressively more surf-based and rootsy. A friendship with surf guitar great Dick Dale soon blossomed, with Dale going as far as declaring Hoey as one of his all-time favorite players, alongside the likes of Eric Clapton, B.B. King, and Andrés Segovia (in Guitar Player magazine), which led to the two working together. The two talented guitarists went toe to toe on a remake of “Miserlou” (titled “Miserlou ’97″) for the 1997 benefit album M.O.M., Vol. 2: Music for Our Mother Ocean, which also saw Hoey produce and play on another track for the collection, “V-12 Cadillac,” by a then still unknown Jewel.
Hoey continues to issue solo albums on a regular basis (including a series of Christmas-themed releases), as well as being a regular guest on several nationally syndicated radio shows (Mancow, Mark & Brian, etc.). He also has worked with various musical instrument and electronics companies creating his own signature gear for retail. In 2006, Hoey released American Made on Surfdog Records. – Greg Prato