Named after the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers is one of the US's
premier slide guitarists performing today. He is also an internationally
acclaimed producer, having produced recordings for John Lee Hooker (4
Grammy Nominations and 2 Grammy Awards) and Ramblin' Jack Elliott (2
Grammy Nominations). He has received numerous accolades for his
songwriting (Grammy Nomination for ‘Song for Jessica’ ), as well as his
work on movie soundtracks and television. His latest CD release, 'Split
Decision', is his first studio recording with his band, The Delta Rhythm
Kings, in seven years.
Check out Roy's Biography
What are your first musical memories
growing up in California?
Roy: One of my first memories is hearing a cousin’s
recording of Bo Diddley and seeing that great cover with him in a large
plaid coat carrying his rectangular guitar and riding on a Vespa! An
early peek into another world.
Did you always was to become a musician?
I liked music from the beginning, it just felt good to play it - I
didn’t know a thing about becoming ‘a musician’…. I really wanted to be
a history teacher because I liked the study of history -still do.
How did you get started in music?
Roy: My guitar lessons started when I was 12, but I
got in a R&R band when I was 13 (1963). I was the youngest guy in the
band and was a ’quick study’, as they say.
What kind of material were you playing
in the early days?
At first we played everything from Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley to
Hi-Heeled Sneakers and even Wipe Out (for the drummer of course!). But
the more I learned about the blues - I wanted to play that, so we played
Jimmy Reed stuff, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King etc. as time went on.
Who are your favourite blues artists
(both old and new)?
I mainly like the ’classic’ guys best (still) because I listened to
their recordings the most and was so influenced by them - Elmore James,
Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy II, Howlin’ Wolf as well as the
country blues artists further back like Robert Johnson (especially), Son
House and Skip James.
Who has influenced you the most in your
music writing and playing?
Roy: My writing influences comes from a lot of
different places - not one particular person or type of music. With
that said, I will always have a blues–based foundation in songwriting….
As far as guitar playing - Robert Johnson would have to be my most
profound influence, but not just in his guitar style but in his approach
to the instrument - he is still amazing to listen to really.
Who inspired you in slide guitar?
Roy: Robert Johnson # 1, Elmore James and Muddy Waters
(tied for #2).
What first attracted you to the blues?
Roy: The feel and the groove, especially when it’s
‘between the lines’ and really laid back. There is nothing better!
Tell me a little about your time with
John Lee Hooker, the band, the shows, the personal relationships.
Roy: I would have to write a book about all the good
times I had with JLH. It was a very special friendship that we had. To
be playing with him on stage and just see how DEEP he could take the
music still inspires me when I think of it. The show could and did get
to ‘fever pitch’ - he was a tour-de-force and could drive a band as good
as anyone when he wanted to. We were close -- not only from road
travels with the band but especially from all those great sessions we
did together when I started producing him beginning with “The Healer”.
Sometimes he would call me up and just start singing a song idea over
the telephone! He was most certainly a one-of-a-kind. He was also a
very caring person and helped a lot of people in later years. I am
honored to have known him as I did.
How did you get into producing records?
Roy: I just stared producing my own and that led to
other projects - simple as that.
What was the best blues album you ever
Impossible to pick just one - absolutely impossible! But I could give
you a start: Robert Johnson / King Of the Delta Blues Singers; Best of
/ Muddy Waters; Moanin in the Moonlight / Howlin’Wolf; Chicago
Blues – early 50’s / Various Artists.......
What is your favourite instrument?
Roy: Guitar #1, Piano #2 Saxophone #3
Are there any particular songs that you
play that have special meaning to you?
Roy: Some songs are more personal than others, as in
ballads. I have been doing some of my arrangements of Robert Johnson
songs for a long time now - they are like old friends to me.
Your second solo album, Slidewinder
featured duets with John Lee Hooker and Allen Toussaint. What were they
like to work with?
Roy: Terraplane Blues with JLH is REALLY special
because the good feeling between us in the studio was captured so well
on the recording (we both even laugh at the end of the song). The
session with Allen Toussaint was also very special, but in a different
way. The session was recorded live to 2-track and we kept doing
multi-takes until we got it just right, with Allen’s prodding - it was
intense. Allen knew intuitively how far to push it to get it right.
Of all the albums you have released,
which is your favourite?
Roy: I get asked this a lot. It’s like trying pick
your favorite child or something! They are all different and you love
them all. My ‘pat’ would be my latest recording is best---
why?--otherwise I shouldn’t have made it!
Tell me about the Delta Rhythm Kings
band, when did you get together?
I formed the band in 1980 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Tell me about the making of your new
unique eclectic album 'Split Decision'.
Roy: It had been seven years since I had recorded the
band in the studio, and I felt that it was the right time to explore
some new material. I had done various other recording projects in
between. For me, you see, it’s about stretching the boundaries, of
course within your capabilities. Thus, this material reflects some
really different genres of music for me, but hopefully the songs go
together - like chapters in a book, exploring different characters
and/or themes… But it all must come together in a cohesive way to
present an album, at least for me
Some music styles may be fads but the
blues is always with us. Why do you think that is?
Roy: The blues is the basis for most music that you
hear. Whether you like traditional blues or progressive blues or jazzy
blues - it is always there. My concept of what the blues IS is probably
much broader than a lot of folks.
How do you see the future of blues
Roy: It will be vibrant music all the way. Some
people will wish to preserve what they classify as ‘real blues’ which is
OK, but some people will do something totally different with their blues
influences and that is how the music will really survive - that is the
way it has always survived, to my way of thinking - by being re-defined
somehow by a different generation of players.
What are your future plans / gigs /
tours / albums?
Roy: I continue to tour in the U.S. and worldwide,
going down to Brazil again soon… I had such a great time recording
‘Split Decision’ that I think that I will be back in the studio this
coming year to record again. I have lots of ideas to combine slide
guitar with other instrumentation - stay tuned!
Thank you so much Roy, I really appreciate
Alan White - earlyblues.com
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