Roy Rogers is the fastest guitar gunslinger in the West and he says slowing down would be like riding off into the sunset.
“I am a busy guy and I am happy to be busy in this crazy business of ours,” said Rogers, who started out the festival season May 22 at the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point, California.
In addition to the festivals, Rogers will tour the Northwest in June, open for the Steve Miller Band at Lake Tahoe in August and perform in Scandinavia in the fall. And, naturally, the artist who has collaborated with so many others has another new musical project.
“You’ve got to stay in the present and not rest on any laurels because then you’re sunk; you might as well give it up as far at I’m concerned.” Rogers told Tahoe Onstage.
No one would blame the 65-year-old slide guitarist if he did. Rogers has more laurels than do the forests on Northern California coast.
Rogers is a slide virtuoso on both his 1970 Martin or custom double-necked Gibson guitars. He’s produced records for John Lee Hooker and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, written for Bonnie Raitt and played in a duo with Norton Buffalo for nearly two decades. He also made three albums with Ray Manzarek, the late keyboardist for The Doors.
Rogers calls his latest musical project String Shot. It includes Reyes, who plays violin and stringed harp, and Brazilian classical guitarist Badi Assad. Five songs have been recorded but there are no plans yet for a release or a tour.
“It’s a really different sound,” Rogers said. “I hate to call it Latin and blues because then you think Carlos Santana; it ain’t like that. It’s Latin and blues, but it’s very different. This is a cross between old and new, i.e. Sergio Mendes and Sade.
“It’s just wonderful stuff. We’re talking very new kind of sound. To me, I just wanted to see if I could do it.”
String Shot is just the latest in a career full of collaborative explorations.
“It’s just putting one foot in front of the other,” he said. “I’ve had the good pleasure to meet and play with a lot of folks. You’re only as good as your last show, so don’t dwell on what’s gone. Ray and I made some great music and I think most people haven’t even heard it because of the demise of the record business. I’m really proud of those records but Ray’s gone, so it’s on to the next project because you’ve got to keep going.
“I acknowledge and am thankful for all the opportunities. First of all, you’ve got to grab it when it comes around. I’ve always liked the collaborative things. I feels that pushes me. You can have the idea, but it takes two to tango, and that’s what drives me.”
Early in Rogers’ career, a music critic wrote, “This is the Roy Rogers with chops, not chaps,” distinguishing the guitarist from Roy Rogers, “The Singing Cowboy.”
“Chops Not Chaps” was the title of Rogers’ 1986 album with Blind Pig Records, and it’s also the title of the record company Rogers heads today. The latest album, “Into the Wild Blue,” was released last year, and includes guest appearances from violin and string-harp player Carlos Reyes and keyboardist Jim Pugh, an esteemed studio player also known for his many years with Robert Cray.
Reyes and Pugh will join Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings – drummer Kevin Hayes and bass player Steve Ehrmann – on Sunday at his “third or fourth” appearance at the Doheny Blues Festival.
“It’s a great festival,” Rogers said. “It’s well organized. It’s right on the water. I played it once with Norton and once or twice with the band. People are just rocking out right next to the ocean. I am delighted to be invited again.”
The Doheny Blues Festival features everything from Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, rockabilly’s Brian Setzer, New Orleans’ soul singer Aaron Neville, and Americana’s Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers to blues standouts Walter Trout, Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Kirk Fletcher Band and upstarts The Record Company.
“I am bringing the full, big band down there again. I don’t want to call it my big band because people will think there are horns, and I don’t want to call it my larger band because it might be confused with Lyle Lovett and His Large Band.”
Let’s just say Rogers has more Rhythm Kings in his court.
- Method to Tommy Castro’s madness. LINK
- Walter Trout lives to tell about it. LINK
- Roy Rogers slides into Tahoe ahead of Steve Miller. LINK
- Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Section
May 22 – Doheny Blues Festival, Dana Point, California
Aug. 7 – Bluesapalooza, Mammoth Lakes, California
Sept. 3 – Trinity Tribal Festival, Junction, California
Sept. 8-9 – Big Blues Bender, Las Vegas, Nevada
Oct. 6 – King Biscuit Blues Festival, Helena, Arkansas with Sonny Landreth