Down and Dirty with G. Love: Slide Guitar Great Roy Rogers
This past weekend, we were out on a four-show fly date that took us from Lake Charles to San Diego to Las Vegas and finally to Trinity, California, for the Trinity Tribal Stomp. I caught up with my old Okeh Records label mate, Anders Osborne, and had the great pleasure to see a true master of the Delta blues, Roy Rogers.
My day had started in Vegas. After a great set and a late-night three-card poker run with Philly Frank at the Silverton Casino, I crashed at 2:30 a.m., only to drag my tired ass down for our 6 a.m. lobby call. Rock 'n' roll.
Needless to say, I felt like shit all day. In between four different naps on planes, airport lounge floors and roadside motels, I finally made it to the gig and wondered how I was going to get it together.
I was in the outdoor tent, which was our dressing room, when I heard Roy Rogers take the stage. It only took me about half of a song to realize some heavy music was going down. I grabbed a drink and went side stage, where I caught a seat and an amazing set from Roy Rogers and his two-piece band.
Roy plays a lot in open G, he uses a slide on his pinkie and he is a very expressive player. Many of his songs have a really beautiful and slow intro before launching into the real deal, barrelhouse stomps he was rocking all night. This particular night was the anniversary of Robert Johnson's death, and Roy played a bunch of very unique interpretations of Robert Johnson's tunes, including his version of one of my favorites, "Walking Blues."
Roy had some nice guitars up there, including a souped-up Martin acoustic, a 12-string electric Dobro (featured in the video above) and a double-neck Gibson. I was utterly floored by his mastery of the guitar, and as my bass player Timo Shanko and organist Mark Boyce and I watched the set, we just were laughing because it was so good.
The music Roy played really healed me up after my long day and I was feeling inspired. I watched the whole set and I really can't wait to get home and practice what I saw. That's the best thing, you know, when you see someone play the guitar and it kicks your ass into shape. Great guitar players always make you realize that the guitar is a limitless possibility. There is no end to what you can make that box and strings do.
Practice, practice, practice.
After the set, I went over to see if Roy would sign my Gibson J-45 and he was really cool. We sessed out for 10 minutes before I had to bounce so he could get paid and I could take the stage. We talked about John Lee Hooker and John Hammond and the blues, and it made my whole tour to share some time with this master of the blues.
I first heard of Roy Rogers from the John Lee Hooker record, The Healer (iTunes), which Roy produced. Roy played in John Lee's band for four years and produced The Healer, which was one of the biggest-selling blues records of all time. Selling close to 2 million copies, The Healer was a tremendous comeback and pay-off to one of the deepest, most consistent and my favorite blues man, John Lee Hooker.
Roy talked about producing John Lee Hooker and how he had pushed John to turn in the amazing performances on The Healer?>. They co-wrote the title track with Carlos Santana, which is a very unique collaboration, to say the least.
I think I could've listened to Roy's stories for a week, but our time was short. Still, it's always amazing to meet these cats like John Hammond and Roy Rogers who played and toured with the legends of the blues. Stories, stories stories. The roots of the blues live on in musicians like Roy Rogers, and it’s a powerful and important connection to the music, which has really shaped all popular music.
Roy Rogers and his band tour often, so make sure you get out to see them whenever you can. Trust me, you'll come away a better player watching a cat like that. Play the blues!
G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron™ pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.