I met George Ogg at Sweetwater, where he was teaching guitar lessons. He has been a large part of the music Scene around North East Indiana for decades. He was a delight to know, gentlemanly and soft spoken, and so talented… He was awe inspiring. I asked him to play the guitar on “Stille Nacht” appearing on the German album, as well as the Christmas Compilation.
I gave him the direction that I wanted the guitar to be the main supporting sound to the vocal, and be largely arpeggiated, like a cross between Michael Hedges and Phillip Glass. The part he came up with was absolutely perfect, and so perfectly in line with what I had in mind, it was as if he had a direct line to my imagination.
I was excited at the prospects of working with George on many songs, however, the next time i went to contact him for a session, I learned he had died.
The world is a darker, more lonely place without this gentle soul. Even for someone who knew him so briefly.
Here is the article that came out after his death, in the Fort Wayne Newspaper:
George Ogg dies at 56: Guitarist was vital part of club, church scene
Lutheran worship leader had battled cancer for 4 years
By Sheryl Krieg
Saturday, January 15, 2011 – 10:35 am
George Ogg, 56, an area musician known for his skillful guitar playing as well as for his resiliency in the face of adversity, has lost his battle with B cell lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In two previous The News-Sentinel stories, Ogg detailed his battle with the cancer and how it made his faith stronger in God.
An April 12, 2010, story focused on a bone marrow transplant Ogg was to receive this past summer. However, the transplant never took place because of a steady decline in Ogg’s health.
Ogg fought his cancer for four years, according to his wife, Christina.
Funeral arrangements were unavailable.
For Ogg, a 1973 graduate of South Side High School, music was his passion.
Local drummer Steve Smeltzer said he met Ogg in high school and their relationship was cemented in 1972 when they performed together at a talent show and received a standing ovation.
In 1976, Smeltzer and Ogg went on the road with bass guitarist Jeff Stone and a couple of other performers and played gigs in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana using the band name Kapelle. That lasted two years, according to Stone, who had known Ogg since he was 15 and is a professional musician residing in Indianapolis.
In 1979, the group became a trio, with Ogg and Smeltzer writing songs and sending out demos to obtain a record deal, Stone said.
“He could write lyrics and write in any style. He was the whole package. You couldn’t ask for anything better,” Smeltzer said.
Ogg traveled to Los Angeles in the early 1980s and performed with the band The Deacons, Smeltzer said.
Stone said he also went to Los Angeles and lived with Ogg and his wife from 1983 to 1985. Ogg and Stone worked as apartment building maintenance men by day, and played in a jump blues band by night.
Ogg returned to Indiana about a decade later when his father passed away, Stone said.
Ogg re-entered the local music scene in the early 1990s when Bob Green needed a guitar player, according to Smeltzer.
Ogg, Smeltzer and Stone reunited briefly as K2, a progressive jazz band. Smeltzer and Ogg wrote songs that were recorded with vocals by Stone’s wife, Chris, at Ajax Studio.
With Stone living in Indianapolis, Smeltzer and Ogg continued to perform together in the Fort Wayne area, playing an early evening gig at Columbia Street West or at Paula’s Seafood, stopping by Smeltzer’s house for some Chinese take-out, then rushing to Club Soda to perform another gig.
“George always had a real connection with the crowd. He could take a popular tune and make it a jazz tune. He challenged himself. George really cared about what people really wanted to hear,” Smeltzer said.
Eric Clancy, another local full-time musician, knew Ogg for about 13 years and played with him, especially as part of the George Ogg Jump Blues Band, which played at Club Soda.
Clancy said very few people are able to make a living as a full-time musician, but Ogg “had done so effectively for years.” Ogg used Clancy’s recording studio to produce all his CDs, including, most recently, a CD of Christmas songs he finished Dec. 19.
Clancy said Ogg was a “great friend and amazing musician — a bright light with everyone he’s played with.”
Mike Conley, a musician who knew Ogg for about 15 years, first met him at the Music Spectrum, where Ogg taught guitar lessons.
“He’s an icon as far as musicians go. He taught numerous musicians,” Conley said, adding, “He was very complimentary, encouraging. Fort Wayne has a really healthy music environment … and George contributed to that success.”
Ogg also was a regular performer at times at Joseph Decuis, Columbia Street West, Paula’s Seafood and the since-closed Opus 24. He taught guitar lessons at Sweetwater Sound, Tri-State Music and at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, where he also was music director of the church’s Saturday evening worship service.
Tim Anderson, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the local band The Bel Airs, recalled asking Ogg to join the band 15 years ago after another member wanted to switch instruments.
“We were stunned he wanted to play with us. He was the best guitarist in Fort Wayne. Right up at the top of the list,” Anderson said.
Taking the nickname “Jake” Bel Air, Ogg sang harmony and lead while playing the guitar for the group. He also wrote two songs: “Jake’s Boogie,” which is an instrumental, and “That Dance We Do,” a late 1940s-style crooning ballad during which Anderson would sing lead and Ogg would play a guitar solo in the middle.
Tod Ramsey, drummer for the Bel Airs, said sometimes while playing one song, Ogg would “slip in a line from another song just to keep us entertained. The crowd didn’t notice, but we did.”
Ramsey said Ogg could play something from about every music genre, such as 1940s jazz, 1950s rock-n-roll, Buck Owens’ country tunes, blues and Eric Clapton. Ramsey added, “When Michael Jackson died, he played Michael Jackson tunes. He pulled them out of his hat.”
Ramsey said that, while Ogg’s health continued to decline over the summer, Ogg played every show with the Bel Airs. “He didn’t let his illness get in the way. He was proud of that. One time, he had just had chemo(therapy). They introduced the Bel Airs, and he played up a storm. No one knew but the group,” he said.
Friend and fellow musician Don Wharton also praised Ogg for his resiliency when Wharton was recording an album and invited Ogg to participate in the recording.
While Ogg couldn’t attend the first recording session, he said he would try to attend the second after having just received a chemo treatment.
After Wharton recorded the first song during that second session, Ogg walked into the studio. Looking pale, someone offered Ogg a chair. Wharton said, “George, you really shouldn’t have come.” Ogg replied, “I really wanted to do this.” So recording continued.
Wharton said the next song was “Be Strong and Courageous,” based on Joshua 1:1-11 in the Old Testament. “George Ogg lived being strong and courageous,” Wharton said.
“The fight is a lesson to all of us. … The cancer may take his life, but this cancer will never take his hope. It inspired me and countless other people.”
Wharton helped organize a summer 2008 fundraiser concert for Ogg. His friend was not eligible for medical insurance coverage because of recurrence of his cancer, which had been in remission.
As well known as Ogg was in the music community, he was equally well known in the church community. Members of Bethlehem, Emmanuel and Suburban Bethlehem Lutheran churches assisted with fundraisers to help defray Ogg’s medical costs and loss of income due to his disease.
Ogg previously was a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, where his two eldest children attended elementary school. At the time of his death, he was a member of Suburban Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Ogg also performed at past Easter and Christmas services at Grace Point Church of the Nazarene. He most recently performed during worship Dec. 18 at St. Peter Lutheran Church.
Ogg drew on the church’s support system while fighting the disease, and never wavered in his faith.
“You have to have faith to deal with it,” Ogg said during one interview. “Death isn’t the same. I know where I’m going. You have to ask, ‘Do we believe what we believe, or do we not?’”
Surviving are a wife, Christina, and children, Eric, Kirsten and Natalie.