Rockabilly musician Lou Hobbs dies after Parkinson's battle

Saturday, September 22, 2007
Lou Hobbs

For decades, Lou Hobbs was a musical representative of Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri.

His recordings hit the national country charts, and Hobbs gained widespread media attention for his song about the area's constant earthquake threat in the context of Iben Browning's 1990 prediction of an increased risk of a major earthquake on the New Madrid fault line.

Now the Southeast Missouri fixture that was Lou Hobbs is gone. The musician died Thursday at Southeast Missouri Hospital following a battle with Parkinson's disease that lasted more than a decade.

Hobbs was born Oct. 11, 1941, into a poor family. He learned to play guitar as a teenager, following in the footsteps of his musical mother, Ruby. By the late 1950s he had joined fellow Southeast Missouri native Narvel Felts of Malden, touring the country performing a new style of music called rockabilly. He would later be inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Hobbs split from Felts and start his own band, continuing to play the rockabilly style he latched onto as a teenager. Several of his recordings hit the U.S. country charts in the 1980s, and the late 1990s and early 2000s saw Hobbs' music hit the Top 40 of the European independent music charts. In 1986, Hobbs started his own TV show, aired on KFVS12, on which he performed and interviewed famous artists like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones and Randy Travis. The show was aired in other markets, as well, and stayed on for years, making Hobbs a familiar face to locals.

Hobbs got his own advertisers for the show and marketed the program himself, said KFVS12 general manager Mike Smythe, and the hard work paid off.

"He had a fan base, and we'd hear about it when the show didn't run," Smythe said.

Even after Parkinson's began taking its toll on his motor skills, Hobbs never stopped doing what he loved, said KFVS marketing director Paul Keener.

"He wouldn't give up," Keener said.

In 1990, Hobbs gained widespread attention for his song "Living on the New Madrid Fault Line," inspired by Browning's prediction.

Most people familiar with Hobbs knew him through his music, but those with a closer relationship said his personality was largely defined by a philanthropic spirit. Every Christmas Hobbs would anonymously "adopt" a family to provide with food and gifts, said daughter Ruby Voshage.

"If you wanted it and he had it, he'd give it to you," Voshage said.

Bill Anderson, owner of country station C106, said Hobbs' music was a fixture on his station. The station played Hobbs' songs Friday as a tribute to the musician.

"He was a very talented person, and pretty much made a living with the music business, so you would have to say he was a professional," Anderson said.

But Anderson also saw Hobbs' generosity on several occasions. Hobbs lent his talents to benefits time and time again, Anderson said.

"Lou Hobbs has probably done more benefits to help people out than any artist that I know of, or anyone else in Southeast Missouri," Anderson said. "If a family was in need, all I would have to do was call Lou."

In that spirit of generosity Hobbs' family is asking that memorial donations be made to the food pantry at the Red Star Baptist Church, one of Hobbs' favorite charities.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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