Spike Coggings captures the spirit of Idaho with his ‘front porch blues’ style

Folk singer Spike Coggins performs his own style of folk music he calls his brand of ‘front porch blues.’

Coggins is a one-man-band who uses his banjo, harmonica and other traditional folk tools of the trade to craft a story of the history of Idaho. He often focuses on tales of the mining towns with ties to the railroad and riverboats.

“I got my first banjo coming back from a river trip. I was surprised they paid me, it was such a great time I thought I would have to pay them.” he said.

He said after the trip he went into a music shop with a particular sound in mind. At first he picked up the ukulele, then the mandolin. He said it took three trips going back to the store before he picked up the banjo. He knew instantly it was the sound he was looking for.

Coggins picked up his nickname from his grandparents. His grandpa called him “spike” after a railroad spike and his grandmother called him cog. One night his wife put the two together into one word, he said it just stuck from there. He said suggested it was fitting of their Scottish ancestry so Coggins was pleased.

He described himself not as a musician but an entertainer. The music is his vehicle for telling stories. Those stories are the center piece of his show. He said he stays fairly busy doing multiple shows a week. His show in Buhl is already his third for the week. He was in Idaho Falls and Boise earlier in the week.

Scoggins doesn’t just look the part, he lives it. The man travels across the state playing in bars and other venues driving his RV he affectionately calls the ‘Wind Dragon’.

Long beard, coveralls and his own personal brand of beard grease in hand, Coggins wants to bring to life the folk tales of those he writes about by being in character all the time.

Coggins grew up in northern California. He came to Idaho in 1989 when his family relocated following an earthquake. He said his family had ties already to the state and he fell in love with the history of the state. That history not only forms the basis of his act, he said it drives everything he does.

When he wasn’t performing he was spotted sitting on wood stool in an old antique shop in Shoshone. He said he loves the history of Shoshone.

“Shoshone has a great old west history going all the back to the days when railroad was king.” he said.

“Back then, it was known as one of the roughest places to get along.” he added.

He travels with his belongings in his truck. He carries a few personal items, everything he needs to do his show and a few souvenirs he can sell to his fans.

Coggins likes to keep his act as original as he can.

“Sure I cover a few personal favorites, but if you really want to hear Willie Nelson songs you want to hear Willie perform them.” he said.

Coggins gets his songs from all over. He told a story how he met the cell mate to Claude Dallas, a man convicted of killing two Idaho game wardens. He typically shoots for doing 2 sets of music mixed with stories he picked up.

Coggins also has 3, 5-track albums he sells at his shows. His latest one was recorded at a studio in Twin Falls recently. He said he does all the music in layers, then it gets mixed into a complete track in the studio. He likes for his records to capture the authenticity of his live shows, which he said he enjoys doing as often as he can.

Clad in overalls, a bear down to his chest, and leather cowboy boots, Coggins performance includes a banjo he plays as the center piece. He also has a harmonica attached to his microphone stand he blows on during certain songs. One aspect that added a sense of authenticity to his act was the chain he had around his boot, he would tap his foot on the board using the spurs on his boot to play the wash board, keeping things as close to traditional porch music as possible. To add to the authenticity he even sells his own personal brand of beard grease.

The act itself is well worth checking out, especially anyone with a love of interest in Idaho folk-lore. The venue where this was recorded itself was a perfect example of the local culture one can expect to find in Southern Idaho. The grilled cheese sandwich is served with bacon rather than traditional boring old ham. The decor is all old west mountain style wooden counter tops with sheet metal grating along the walls. Even the stools legs are fashioned out of the types of scrap piping any rural resident of Idaho would have used as it was likely something they had lying around. Our family was known for their own take on this brand of homemade furniture.

The good was authentic for the area for sure. However, the real draw is the local brew. The pub serves all their own concoctions, offering a wide variety of beer types and flavors. For the individual wishing to get a non-alcoholic beverage they offer their own locally brewed ginger ale, root beer or cream soda. The atmosphere is about as representative of the people of the Magic Valley as you can get.

Coggins made his first ever podcast appearance on The Dark Web podcast on May 4, 2018 where he invited The Spiders Lair to record his live show. The entire show, complete with pre-show interview, will be available on The Dark Web podcast Saturday, May 5, 2018. This very special on site show is a first for The Spiders Lair.

The music is a mixture of banjo, harmonica and traditional folk sounds including a washboard and chains. Coggins has a Facebook @spikecogginsmusic and a YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/spikecogginsmusic.

Coggins himself is a gentle man, quite with a touch of down to earth realism that is right at home with The Spiders Lair. Our purpose is to find the meaning of life, or as our slogan suggests To Organize Chaos. A man whose career is spent telling  the history of the State of Idaho through music, the state of my birth, is as good a place as any to start looking for those answers.

Find The Dark Web podcast on iTunes by searching The Spiders Lair or visit www.thespiderslair.podbean.com for current and past episodes. Be sure to check out our YouTube channel where you can find full episodes of the podcast if you prefer that distribution method.

The music, food, drinks and decor all made for a show that was truly a home in the Gem State. The authenticity of the show is coupled with the pub being located on the very Highway 30 many of Coggins songs feature as a setting. By his own admission he has a strong interest in the folk lore and history of the iconic Highway 30.  The entire evening just filled me with a flood of memories growing up in this amazing state I had left behind so long ago.