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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Walkin Blues

Roy Rogers is one of the 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 release, 'Split Decision', is his first studio recording with his band, The Delta Rhythm Kings, in seven years.

Born in Redding, California in 1950, he began playing guitar at twelve years of age. A year later at age 13, he was performing in a rock 'n' roll band that wore gold lame jackets and played Little Richard and Chuck Berry tunes. He discovered the great blues players early on, especially when his older brother brought home an album by Robert Johnson. Thus began his love of the blues, slide guitar in particular, which had an immediate effect on Roy, who was indeed named after the King of the Cowboys. Through the years he developed a distinctive style of playing slide guitar that not only emerged, but one that is instantly recognizable.

During the 1960's Rogers frequented the San Francisco rock clubs where he saw many of the blues greats who inspired him. He performed with various groups until 1976, when he and harmonica player David Burgin formed an acoustic duo and recorded an album Rogers And Burgin: A Foot In The Door for Waterhouse Records. They also played on the "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" movie soundtrack before splitting up. Rogers then formed his own band in 1980, the Delta Rhythm Kings, hit the club circuit, played a few more movie and television gigs, and toured Europe with the 1982 San Francisco Blues Festival Revue (recording an album with that Revue in Paris).

Shortly after returning from Europe, Rogers was asked to join John Lee Hooker's Coast to Coast Blues Band. During the four years he toured with Hooker as a featured guitarist/vocalist, Rogers established a strong personal and professional relationship with the venerated blues legend. Said Hooker, "I just can't say enough good things about Roy. He plays so good. Some of the best slide I've heard, best blues I've heard. He gets real deep and funky, and he masters whatever he plays." Near the end of his tenure in Hooker's band, Roy began to open shows as a solo act, giving him a chance to perform some of the classic country blues and original compositions he'd been perfecting for years. He then went on to produce a total of four recordings for John Lee Hooker.

In 1985 he released his first solo album, Chops Not Chaps on his own label, which received widespread radio play and was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award. In 1987, Blind Pig released his second solo album, Slidewinder. It included duets with Hooker and New Orleans piano great Allen Toussaint, as well as songs with his own band. The rave reviews in the national press and extensive radio play that followed further enhanced Roy's growing reputation. Roy's third solo release, Blues On The Range was also issued on Blind Pig in 1989 and continued to win new fans to his incredible slide guitar and songwriting skills.

Roy’s musical talents were featured on the soundtrack for the 1990 film “The Hot Spot,”
which he recorded with Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal and which garnered a Grammy nomination.

In 1991, Rogers hooked up with another Bay Area artist, harmonica virtuoso and vocalist Norton Buffalo to produce the highly acclaimed release R & B. The album is a colorful array of acoustic tunes from blues to ballads capturing the incredible chemistry of these powerful performers. The cut "Song For Jessica" received a Grammy Award nomination and another track, "Ain't No Bread In The Breadbox" was made into a performance video which received airplay on many outlets, including The Nashville Network.

The duo came back in 1992 with the Blind Pig release Travellin' Tracks, featuring live performances as well as studio tracks where they are joined by a rhythm section on several cuts. The dynamic interplay between the pair is undeniable and the release furthered the artist's already outstanding reputations.
Roy’s growing reputation led to his signing to a major label and the release of several albums including – Slide of Hand (1993) and Slide Zone (1994) on Capitol Records and Rhythm & Groove (1996) and Pleasure and Pain(1998) on Virgin Records. In 1999 he recorded with Shana Morrison and released the duet CD Everybody’s Angel. His next band recording was the all-instrumental Slideways (2002) on Evidence Records and he self- released his first live recording – – Live at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room in 2005, soon to be available on DVD. The video-taped concert received wide television exposure on NPR stations as part of the “Sierra Center Stage” series. In 2006 Roy and Norweigian pianist Reidar Larsen recorded and released The Crossing in Norway , to be released in the U. S. soon. Finally, in 2008 Rogers recorded “Ballads Before the Rain” with the renowned Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek.

For years Roy has been widely recognized as one of the finest practitioners and innovators of modern slide guitar. Guitar Player said, “Many guitarists dabble in slide guitar, but the number of modern masters can probably be counted on one hand. Roy Rogers is surely one of them.” Rolling Stone offered, “Rogers is an exceptionally articulate slide guitarist… one of the rare guitar heroes who values feeling over flash,” while USA Today commented, “Pundits who bemoan the scarcity of guitar gods haven’t laid ears on Roy Rogers, whose slide riffs could peel a crawfish.”

Always eclectic in approach, Rogers is constantly stretching the boundaries of slide guitar. Regarding the new CD, Rogers states “Split Decision is more about the songwriting and in addition I aimed to create a much more edgy sound and cross-genre style. I really wanted to craft strong stories and mix it up a bit with a lot of very different guitar tones and textures - and still have those solid roots-oriented grooves. My influences are from all over the map. I love combining different elements on a recording, but ultimately it is about “the feel” of the total record. I hope that shines through in a positive way."

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