I recently had the chance to sit down and pick the brain of slide guitar master Roy Rogers. Roy started his climb to the top by joining John Lee Hooker's band in 1982. He went on to produce some of John Lee's best work winning a number of Grammys in the process. Roy has also played on CD's by artists such as Sammy Hagar, Norton Buffalo, and is featured on the song "GNAWIN' ON IT" on Bonnie Raitt's new SILVER LINING cd. This interview was conducted on 4/11/02 - after Rogers' soundcheck - at the Railhead, Boulder Station Casino, Las Vegas.
DB: Who were your musical influences growing up?
RR: Growing up, I was a little rock 'n roller. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, later artists like the Rolling Stones.
DB: When did you start playing guitar?
RR: I was thirteen years old, in the eight grade.
DB: Is that also when you started playing slide?
RR: I started playing slide when I was fifteen years old. Now, I've been playing it over 35 years.
DB: Were you parents musical?
RR: My dad wasn't musical, but my mom was a very good pianist and a big influence. If my mom wanted music, she would sit down and play the piano, so we always had music in the house. Now I do the same thing when I'm at home, sometimes I just sit at the piano and play.
DB: What made you realize that you wanted to be a musician?
RR: Well I played in bands in high school, but I didn't know how to get a music career started. So I went to college to have something to fall back on. I received my degree in History, I could have become a teacher. Instead, I kept day jobs, you know, anything to pay the bills, and played music at night. This lasted until 1982, when I went on the road with John Lee Hooker.
DB: How was it to play with, and produce, the legend John Lee Hooker?
RR: First of all, John Lee never played a song the same way twice. So I had to learn to go with the flow. If we were in a noisy room, instead of turning up the music, he would change the dynamics of the song to a whisper, until the room became quiet. Producing John Lee was easy. We became like family over the years. The hardest thing in the studio was to get John Lee to try my National. It took me about two years to get him to try it. When he finally agreed, we got eight songs in about 45 minutes. I think it's some of his best work.
DB: Slideways, the new CD, is great. What made you want to do an instrumental CD?
RR: I wanted to do an instrumental CD for years. I've included instrumental songs on my CD's for years, so I believed it would work.
DB: Do you think that blues music is losing its popularity?
RR: No, I don't believe the fans are losing interest. There are few radio stations playing the blues, so it's not easily accessible to most fans. The problem with touring and CD's is getting the word out.
DB: When you listen to music, who or what do you listen to?
RR: I listen to everything. Lately it's been alot of jazz. John Scofield, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. I can't go too long without listening to Miles. I like people playing instruments, and playing them from the heart and soul.
(Roy left to grab dinner before the show and I saved my last question for after his show.)
DB: So Roy, how did you like playing the Railhead?
RR: It's a real nice room, I like it a lot. Six months or maybe a year from now, hopefully I'll be back.
bluesInteractive™ go to Roy Rogers: Slideways Review | Roy Rogers Caught Live! | Roy at Yesteryear's Cafe | At the 5th Doheny Blues Festival | Interview w/ Roy Rogers & Norton Buffalo | Roots To China