Johnny “Harlem” Hozey Sr.

It was another sadly sweet reunion for Jagged Edj last month at the Legion Hut, when the annual celebration was minus one.

Johnny “Harlem” Hozey Sr., 65, passed away at his home on the Gulf Coast in January, and a celebration of his life in music that started in Laurel continued here at the annual gathering.

Last year’s reunion was a celebration of Charlotte Saik — known as the Edj “Queen Bee” — shortly after she passed away.

The 20th reunion was a “Summer Jam,” with Hozey’s presence filling the familiar venue and patrons with music and fun. The goal for organizers was to have a memorial similar to the one that was in Biloxi in January.

“For those of us fortunate enough to attend his Celebration Of Life on the coast, we witnessed a beautiful and moving tribute that will forever stay with us,” was message from organizers of the Summer Jam.

That memorial service had friends and fans who were “laughing through their tears” as they shared memories of the talented guitarist, according to a report from WLOX. It was at the Seashore Mission, which is a charity that Hozey held near and dear, friends said.

“Had it not been for Johnny Hozey, I would not be a musician today,” said Chuck Lofton, who often played gigs with Hozey, sometimes in Laurel. “I mean, he showed me the ins and outs of it, the good and the bad. And man, it changed my life for the better.”

Lofton was among the many performers at the memorial service. He did a stirring rendition of “Go Rest High on That Mountain” and closed with “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Hozey’s son John Laurence Hozey Jr. performed “Into the Mystic.” 

“He was a special, special player and sweet guy and my brother,” said fellow performer George Mills, who performed “I’ll See You in my Dreams” at the service. “I loved him and I am going to miss him terribly.”

Hozey was born in Laurel on Aug. 14, 1953 to Suzi Bergner and Ira Hozey and began nurturing his natural gift for guitar at an early age.

He toured the Southeast and the rest of the United States, forging friendships and deep connections with countless people who would remain close to his heart until his last breath, according to his obituary.

Loved by many, Johnny encouraged those around him every day without even trying, inspiring them through his music, his passion for life and his deep love for family and friends. He had the rarest of musical talent and was known for his sense of humor, his appreciation of food and his hunger to learn from others. 

Memories of him can be read or posted at a Facebook Page titled “Johnny Hozey Sr.: A Celebration of Life Memorial.”

Memorial contributions in his name can be made to the Seashore Mission (P.O. Box 226, Biloxi, MS 39533 and/or MusiCares at 3030 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404.

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