By Jenna Lazenby
It has been nearly two decades since local musician Hoppie Vaughan made his way to the Roanoke Valley. A native of N. Augusta, SC, and former Nashville resident, Vaughan started playing music at the young age of 10, when he fell in love with the bass guitar during his older brothers’ garage band sessions.
It was playing alongside his brother that carried him to Nashville in the early 80s. Over the next dozen years, Vaughan played with a number of bands and musicians, recorded at the infamous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, and even competed on the hit television series, “Star Search.” Then, in 1996, Hoppie’s wife Sandra landed a job at the Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Salem and the couple moved to the area. They were only supposed to stay two years, but fell in love with the region and its slower pace of life. Two years has now turned into twenty and Vaughan has made a name for himself, playing a mix of soul, blues, and jazz that he calls “blue-eyed southern soul,” around the Roanoke Valley.
“I grew up playing James Brown, Wilson Picket, Motown, and Marvin Gay. Going with my brother was the only way my mother would let me out of the house to play in bars. I wanted to play Rock ‘n Roll, but to play with my brother, I had to play soul. Later in life I came to understand that rock music came from soul.”
In his early years in Roanoke, Vaughan played in the Fat Daddy Band, led by local blues musician Kerry Hurley. It was Hurley who gave Vaughan the nickname “Minister of Soul” when he would introduce him during shows. It was a name that Vaughan decided he’d keep when12 years ago he decided it was time to start his own band. Hence, Hoppie Vaughan and the Ministers of Soul was born.
Since its inception, the band has developed a solid reputation amid the local music scene playing a combination of original hits and classic covers. This past February, Vaughan and the Ministers released their fourth studio album. An 11-track compilation titled “Living the Dream,” that was recorded at Summit Sound Studio and features Vaughan on vocals, bass and guitar, his son Robert on drums, Jamiel Allen on keys, Chris Blankenship on guitar, James Pace on Organ, and Brittany Sparks on backup vocals.
Vaughan writes all of the original music, which he says starts with a great melody, because that is what catches people’s ear. Once he gets the melody down, he writes the lyrics to match the music.
“If you have a heartbeat, you have music in you. The world is rhythm. The universe is rhythm. People are scared to tap into it. If you tell yourself you can’t do it, you’ve blown it. Don’t be that person second-guessing themselves, just continue to do the work to be better.”
Vaughan says that a lot of his lyrics comes from real-life experiences and many are love songs about his wife who he attributes much of his success to.
“Roanoke isn’t a place where you have many full-time musicians. I’m able to make it because of the support of my wife. We were high school sweethearts and married when we were 22. I was wild when I was younger, and Sandra saved my life. These days she’s still the one who makes it possible for me to focus all my energy on music.”
Hoppie’s son Robert is another key to the sound and success of the Ministers of Soul.
“Robert and I have been playing together for 12 years. He watches me like a hawk. He can read my body language. He now has two little boys, ages fives and six, who like to come to the studio. You can already tell that music is inside of them. I hope to live long enough to someday play music with my grandkids.”