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John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



Early Blues Interview
Roy Rogers, slide guitar/songwriter/producer


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


© Copyright 2009 Bob Hakins. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   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.  

Alan:   Did you always was to become a musician?

Roy:    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. 

Alan:   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.  

Alan:   What kind of material were you playing in the early days?

Roy:    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. 

Alan:   Who are your favourite blues artists (both old and new)?

Roy:    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.     

Alan:   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.  

© Copyright 2009 Bob Hakins. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   Who inspired you in slide guitar?

Roy:    Robert Johnson # 1, Elmore James and Muddy Waters (tied for #2).

Alan:   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! 

Alan:   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.     

Alan:   How did you get into producing records?

Roy:    I just stared producing my own and that led to other projects - simple as that. 

Alan:   What was the best blues album you ever had?

Roy:    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.......

Alan:   What is your favourite instrument?

Roy:    Guitar #1, Piano #2 Saxophone #3 

Alan:   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. 

Alan:   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.   

Alan:   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!  

Alan:   Tell me about the Delta Rhythm Kings band, when did you get together?

Roy:    I formed the band in 1980 in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

Alan:   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

Alan:   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.  

Alan:   How do you see the future of blues music?

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. 

Alan:   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!  

Alan:   Thank you so much Roy, I really appreciate your time.

Alan White  -  earlyblues.com




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