MARQUETTE - In the heyday of the Upper Peninsula bar band scene in the 1990s, Charlie Reager was the drummer for one of the busiest groups around, Uncle Ugly.
And while he's still drumming with UU for occasional gigs, Reager has branched out in recent years, putting together a solo act in which he plays the guitar, singing many songs he's written.
For the first time in a long time, Reager will be in the central U.P. bar scene in early January, this time bringing this solo act to center stage at three venues.
Uncle Ugly drummer and singer Charlie Reager’s first solo CD, ‘‘Charlie Reager: Good Life,’’ is out now.
Reager has been a musician for three decades.
"I've been playing drums since the age of 13 and I got started playing school dances," said Reager, a native of downstate Cheboygan. "By the time I was 16, I was playing in a full-time weekend bar band.
"I am pretty much a self-taught musician who played the trumpet in the school band until the 10th grade, then switched to percussion."
n 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5 at Foggy's Steakhouse in Christmas
n 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6 at the New Moon Tavern, Eben
n 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7 at Harley's Lounge in the Ramada Inn, Marquette
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After graduating from Cheboygan High, Reager headed to the U.P., enrolling at Northern Michigan University. It was during his days at NMU that Reager formed a band with his brother, Wyndham, on bass, and Michael Hauswirth on guitar.
"I went to school for about 3 years, then left school to get serious about playing drums and singing in my band Split Image, which later changed its name to Uncle Ugly," Reager said.
The band rocked the U.P., northern Lower Peninsula and Wisconsin, winning battles of the bands and opening for national acts along with way.
"I lived just outside of Marquette until 2001, then I moved back to Cheboygan and built a house to start our daughter (Kelsey) in the same schools my wife (Jody) and I went to," he said.
While still playing with Uncle Ugly, and in a duo with brother, Wyndham, as well as other musical groups, Reager wanted something more.
"I always had harmonicas around me for as long as I can remember," he said. "I took a few piano classes at Northern, too. I bought my first guitar in December 2004 and starting pickin'.
"I have always been surrounded by great musicians, so learning how to play guitar to the songs I have been singing or playing drums to came pretty easy," he said. "I play some acoustic duo stuff where I play the djembe hand drum.
"This will be my first solo venture to the central Upper Peninsula," Reager said. "I am looking forward to playing the Marquette scene again. I want to be back in touch with all the great people in the area that I used to play for drumming/singing in Uncle Ugly. I want to introduce my music to the area.
"We still do select dates in Uncle Ugly but right now, my primary focus is on my solo thing," he said. "I put out my first CD, 'Charlie Reager: Good Life' that features 10 songs. I wrote eight of them and the CD has been getting great response. I played guitar, sang lead and backing vocals, harmonica, djembe and other hand percussion. I chose not to play or have drums on the CD because I wanted the acoustic 'earthy' sound."
But that's not the only work he has available for sale at his gigs.
"I also have a live CD ('Charlie Reager Live') that consists of covers and one original I recorded myself at a live show."
The dates Reager has booked for the central U.P. are: 9:30 p.m. Jan. 5 at Foggy's Steakhouse in Christmas; 8 p.m. Jan. 6 at the New Moon Tavern in Eben; and 8 p.m. Jan. 7 at Harley's Lounge in the Ramada Inn, Marquette.
Those unable to attend a live gig can purchase Reager's CDs for $10 from his website, charliereager.com.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.