Guitarist Gary Hoey joined Loudwire Nights on Wednesday (Dec. 20) to share the story of how he started recording rock and roll interpretations of Christmas classics — and what led to him auditioning for Ozzy Osbourne‘s band in the late-’80s.

“It kind of happened organically,” Hoey admitted to host Chuck Armstrong about winding up in the Christmas music world. “I had a hit with my first single, ‘Hocus Pocus.’ It was kind of my first big single I had, that was the song that broke me.”

Following the success of that song, Hoey and his manager thought it would be cool to record a rock and roll Christmas song to send to radio stations as a sort of “thank you” for their support.

“The first song I put together was ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas,'” he said. “I thought it was a cool riff and then I started combining this good and evil thing and it was born. I thought that’s a cool formula and when I finished the arrangement of that song, I was sitting there in my studio literally going, ‘Did I just do this? Is this really going to happen’? I did it on an 8-track recorder at my house. It was very organic. It was very natural.”

Nearly 30 years later, Hoey has found himself as one of the premier artists delivering true rock and roll reinterpretations of holiday songs. His latest is “The Nutcracker (Sugar Plum Fairy).”

“I thought, ‘If I could reinvent ‘The Nutcracker,’ that would be so cool.’ So I started playing this Ronnie James Dio thing…and then I started building the song. It took me awhile. I’ve been working on it for the last couple of years to arrange it right and to get the harmonies.”

When Gary Hoey Auditioned For Ozzy Osbourne’s Band

As he reflected on his history with Christmas music, Hoey also shared the story about how he auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne’s band in 1987 — eight years before he ever released “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

“It’s like a fairy tale, like a Cinderella story,” Hoey told the Loudwire Nights audience with a smile on his face. “I grew up in a mill town and I was a big Black Sabbath fan. I had every record. I had them all leaning along the floor all around my room. I had the black light going and I would sit there — it was like blood in my veins. So incredible.”

Hoey remembered listening to WBCN in Boston one day and Ozzy happened to be on the air.

“I hear him talking about looking for a guitar player so I called the radio station up, I threw the phone on the ground and I started playing [my guitar].”

Much to Hoey’s surprise, when he asked the radio station if he could talk to Ozzy, the answer was a quick “no.”

“But, he yells over and he tells Ozzy there’s some guy on the phone who sounds just like Randy Rhoads,” Hoey said. “They gave me an address to send a demo tape to.”

Ozzy was holding open auditions all over the country and so Hoey did exactly as he was told and put together a tape featuring an original song he had written as well as some Ozzy tunes.

A few weeks after he dropped the tape in the mail, he got a phone call.

“‘This is Ozzy’s management. We’re going to fly you to Los Angeles,’ and I’m thinking this is some friend playing a joke.”

Management bought Hoey a plane ticket and flew him to L.A. When he got off the plane, there was a limousine waiting for him that took him to Hollywood.

“I walk in a hallway,” he recalled, “and there’s like 20 guitarists with long hair like me, black leather jackets. It’s a total cattle call and I’m thinking, ‘This is unbelievable. So surreal.’ But I gotta tell you, in my heart I absolutely felt like I could get that gig. And when I went in there, I did a really good job.”

They called Hoey back the next day and Ozzy told him something that changed his life forever.

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“He said, ‘Gary, you should move to L.A. and even though you might not get the gig, you should come out here. You have something special.’ To hear that from Ozzy, it just lifted up my spirits so much and it made me feel like I could do anything.”

Hoey went home, sold everything he owned and drove a U-Haul across the country, just like Ozzy told him he should do.

“I feel like I owe a lot to Ozzy, even though I didn’t get the gig. It was a fairy tale come true.”

What Else Did Gary Hoey Discuss on Loudwire Nights?

  • He shared his all-time favorite Black Sabbath riff
  • Why he thinks one of the best things he ever did was learn some guitar theory
  • What happened when he told his mom that he wanted to quit high school

Listen to the Full Interview in the Podcast Player Below

Gary Hoey joined Loudwire Nights on Wednesday, Dec. 20; the show replays online here, and you can tune in live every weeknight at 7PM ET or on the Loudwire app; you can also see if the show is available on your local radio station and listen to interviews on-demand. Stream “The Nutcracker (Sugar Plum Fairy)” at this location and check out Gary Hoey’s full tour schedule.

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