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Songs in the key of awesomeness
A musical career like Robert Hagan’s — spanning decades and stretching across the U.S. — can only be described as awesome.
Hagan, a recent Sequim transplant, created a one-man variety band several years ago while waiting for a chance in Hollywood. Audiences and other musicians became so enamored of his sound and setup that he was coined “Awesome Bob.” Hagan liked the name so much he legally changed his middle name to “Ossem” 21 years ago.
His awesomeness doesn’t stop there; Hagan said his musical repertoire includes more than 3,000 songs in several genres from the mid-20th century to today. He said his preference is a mixture between country and pop, but he knows how to please audiences.
“I know songs that get people moving, like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Mustang Sally” and depending on the crowd, more patriotic tunes like “Proud to be an American,” Hagan said.
“I play whatever kind of music you like. I love it when there are a lot of people together dancing. I want to see these groups having a good time.”
Hagan is looking for more opportunities to show his talents in the area at private functions — weddings and birthdays, benefits, events and festivals. He recently played in a tent along Washington Street before and after the Sequim Irrigation Festival Grand Parade. He hopes to play shows with proceeds benefiting leukemia research in honor of his son Robbie, who died at age 11 of the disease.
Most listeners now are the local deer, he joked, at his wife Sue’s business, Oh Susanna’s Bed and Breakfast.
Hagan said he first performed in front of an audience at age 5.
“People went crazy for it,” he said. “I had that gift until my voice changed at 11, so I took up trumpet.”
Hagan took up singing again at 22 and incorporates his trumpet skills during each gig.
“I still go to the job with a childlike enthusiasm,” he said.
His musical abilities only opened more doors from there. While in Alaska, Hagan became the pep band campaign director for Gov. William Allen Egan, Alaska’s first governor. Egan’s letter of recommendations and contacts helped Hagan gain entry into the U.S. Navy School of Music in Little Creek, Va., and he toured until 1971 with the group, where he learned a variety of genres.
“It taught me how to be able to step on any stage and perform for a full night,” he said.
He performed behind a number of top talents, including Bob Hope in Viet Nam and singer Nancy Wilson, appeared in the film “Tora Tora Tora,” played before presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and welcomed back the captured crew of the Pueblo and returning Apollo 12 astronauts.
During his military tenure, he received five combat stars for being on a ship in combat. He retired out of Pensacola, Fla., where he lived and performed for 18 years.
Before becoming his own band, Hagan played with a number of bands and musicians. As a songwriter, too, an unusual opportunity came to his fingertips — to write the theme song for the 1984 National Blood Donors Association.
“What in the world can I write to make people want to give their blood?” Hagan asked.
He created a gospel song called “Do the Same,” drawing from the idea that Jesus gave his blood for sinners so people should do the same to save lives.
In 1985, Hagan went far in a Nashville, Tenn., TV show contest, “You can be a Star.” He beat out 3,000 groups to be on the show and performed original songs to judges and songwriters/singers Dottie West and Mel McDaniel. He received a perfect score from West and near perfect from McDaniel with his first performance but was later eliminated.
“Both were very enthusiastic about me and my work,” Hagan said. “It was a thrill being welcomed as an artist and original songwriter.”
Eventually, Hagan perfected his one-man band.
His equation is one live piano player, one live trumpet player and one live vocalist equals a one-man band that sounds like a full-sized band, he said.
Before moving to Sequim, Hagan was performing north of Branson, Mo., at the Lake of the Ozarks resort where he had played for years. However, Hagan said he’s focused on his life in Sequim.
“I am very enthusiastic about my future here,” he said.
In his spare time, Hagan, a devout Christian, said he plans to write contemporary Christian music and other original songs.
No matter what Hagan does from here on out musically, Sequim can know he’ll remain awesome, or Ossem.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org