It might have been “Waltz Across Texas” or “Jambalaya,” but the music totally captured Grogan’s imagination.
“I could play like that. I liked it because I could do it,” the 79-year-old Grogan remembers.
Born in Kilgore on March 2, 1935, Grogan’s family moved to Corpus Christi when he was 3 years old.
His family realized Grogan was musically inclined, so the summer before first grade, his mother signed him up for piano lessons.
Grogan up until piano had played by ear.
“I learned to read music. I was not good until I got in high school,” he recalls.
In high school, he played the viola, but he always had the dream of being in a band.
And he found three other high school boys who had that dream.
On the lower floor of the Robert Driscoll Building a radio show run by Tex Waters took place. There, Grogan and his band played at KWBU, a 50,000-watt station.
“Gene Looper worked there at the time,” Grogan said. Looper was later an important anchorman for KZTV Channel 10.
At the age of 15, Grogan became part of his first band: Bill Barr & The Sons of Texas.
Grogan’s talent and long playing career in the Corpus Christi area earned him a star in the South Texas Music Walk of Fame in downtown Corpus Christi (near the Executive Surf Club).
“It was my first band of all adults. I was the youngest one,” Grogan said. “My dad let me play with them. He made them promise not to let me start drinking and smoking. That worked out. I still don’t.”
Grogan was began saving his money from playing for a couple of guitars he spotted.
Soon, he had a huge roll of cash tightly kept together with a rubber band.
But his dad found it. And his dad thought the worst of it. He thought his son was stealing money.
“He didn’t believe I earned it. After all, Grogan was earning $35 less than what his dad worked for all week long.
Grogan worked Friday and Saturday nights and a matinee on Sunday.
The discovery of his son’s wealth was a turning point.
“From the point on, I paid for my clothes and everything,” he said.
But he managed to buy the guitars he wanted: An Epiphone F-hole guitar for $750 (same guitar today would cost in the neighborhood of $3,000). And he bought a Fender, which his band mates called a two-by-four with a guitar neck on it.
“They talked different after they heard it play,” he said.
Grogan played at numerous Corpus Christi places, including the Western Palms, Maverick’s, Bats and the Nelson’s Hoedown Club.
The latter club was the place Grogan got to play with Elvis when he performed in Corpus Christi.
Elvis was banned from Corpus Christi after that performance.
Grogan said during the performance, one of Elvis’ players said to the audience that the girls go crazy over Elvis.
Elvis replied saying, and with a hand gesture, that girls went crazy over him because of his “firecracker.”
“That was pretty risqué,” Grogan said.
“When I was 19, Ernest Tubb picked me up. It was the first big band I ever got on a bus with,” Grogan said.
Grogan played with Tubb at the Palms (not the Western Palms) in Corpus Christi. Then Tubb toured Texas and brought Grogan back afterward.
But Grogan got to meet Bubby Evans (steel guitar player), Jack Green and Billy Boyd.
“Me and Buddy Evans were about the same age, 18 or 19,” Grogan said.
Needless to say, the girls fell for Grogan and tried to get him to go with them.
“I said ‘No’ as often as I could,” Grogan said.
Through the years, Grogan played with numerous big names: George Jones, Minnie Pearl, Ray Price, Webb Pierce, Dolly Parton (before she was a blonde), Bob Wills, Leon McCauliffe, Bill Mack, Lawton Williams, Purty Little Miss Wanda Jackson, Buck Owens, Tex Ritter, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson and the great Chet Atkins.
So it is not surprising that seven years ago Grogan was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“The founder of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Bud Fisher, died five years ago,” Grogan said.
“Everything was turned over to me two years ago. I’m now the president,” he added.
Since his tenure as president of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grogan said Johnny Rodriguez was inducted last January.
Grogan has performed in the South Texas Country Opry 25 years at the Al Amin Shriner’s Hall at 7:30 p.m. the third Thursday of each month to raise money for injured children. The Al Amin Shrine Center is located at 2001 Suntide Road, (off exit 7 of Interstate 37) in Corpus Christi.
Grogan said he is beginning a Portland Country Opry, too.
He said one of the highlights of his long career was being part of the house band at Panther Hall in Fort Worth for 10 years.
The hall is modeled after the Astrodome and seats 5,000 people.
“I ended up owning a third of it,” he said.
Grogan also was one of the Marlboro men (there were three of them).
“And I don’t smoke,” he said.
And he played banjo for Frito Lay commercials and the Frito Bandito.
Grogan also played with the Louisiana Hayride. There he played with Elvis, Loretta Lynn, Carl Smith, Charlie Pride, Dolly Parton and many others.
Grogan attended Del Mar Junior College, then continued at Baylor University, where he earned a degree in music education and the performing arts.
He is accomplished at guitar (lead, rhythm), piano, drums, steel guitar, dobro, mandolin, violin, cello, viola, bass and banjo.
Grogan’s traveling came to a stop when he realized touring was tough on a family man.
“I quit the road. I didn’t like what was going on – it was 24/7-party. I can’t have a family and do that,” he said.
“I can make almost as much at home, and you can have a family,” he said.
Pat later moved to South Texas and taught for 20 years at Clawson’s Music Store in Corpus Christi. Then, as now, one of his passions was to find and develop young talent. He’s justifiably proud of his students. Zack Childs, a protegé for 7 years, played lead guitar 3 years with Brad Paisley and is now involved producing several projects in Nashville with Teri Clark.
Grogan is married to Geneva. She had five children, and he had five children. They now live in Aransas Pass.
Grogan currently teaching music lessons for Rod Raines at Southern Cross Recording Studio located on Highway 77 in Refugio. For a 30-minute lesson, it’s $20. Double that amount for an hour.
Raines and Grogan also compose custom music tracks for songwriters and new artists. Later this year, Grogan is scheduled to appear in a documentary video about his musical life.
To book “Mr. Pat,” as he is nicknamed at the studios, for “live” guitar concerts, please call Southern Cross Studios at 361-526-4800.
Grogan’s guitar finger work – even at 79 – remains lithe and is mesmerizing to watch.
And he doesn’t plan on stopping his long musical career.
“I am going to keep on playing,” he said.
“I’ll either die on stage or going home to it.”