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“Roy Rogers means the modern master in the art of slide guitar…His versatility with the technique is nothing short of astonishing.” ~ All Music Guide
Virtuoso slide guitarist and Grammy nominated songwriter/producer and recording artist Roy Rogers remains defiantly upbeat on his 12th solo album Into the Wild Blue — out June 2nd on CD all and digital formats.
Even though 64 year-old Rogers has lost longtime friends like blues legend John Lee Hooker, his recent recording partner of eight years, Ray Manzarek of The Doors, as well as his younger brother Robert — he says “life’s too short” to wallow in our grief or what we have lost. “I want to celebrate life through my music.”
Into the Wild Blue wails, squawks, stomps and boogies with authenticity — ready for the open road and the live stage. Years of working with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Sammy Hagar and Steve Miller has given him a pop musicality.
“I’m the guy that always likes to push the envelope,” Rogers says, at home in Northern California. “We cover a lot of ground on this record.”
Rogers says he had no “master plan” for the 12th addition to his solo catalog. “It’s just putting one foot in front of the other.” Yet Into the Wild Blue demonstrates a master’s confidence and vision.
Born in Redding in 1950 and named after Hollywood’s King of the Cowboys, Rogers grew up in the Bay Area of California and started playing guitar at the age of 12 and became entranced by the recordings of the blues, especially Robert Johnson at age 15.
By age 13 he was playing in a local R & R band, and quickly became a young blues fanatic hitting the San Francisco’s ‘60s club scene – even once taking his little brother to see Jimi Hendrix perform. When John Lee Hooker asked him to go out on tour in 1982, it changed his life.
Rogers toured throughout the 80’s with Hooker, also recording with BB King and Miles Davis along the way - becoming synonymous with feverish slide guitar skills. As a producer, he garnered dozens of production credits, eight Grammy nominations, and two Grammies were awarded for his work with Hooker.
Rogers’ debut solo LP Chops Not Chaps (1985) paid homage to Delta Blues, yet the jam-oriented, pop song structures and arrangements evoked early Van Morrison, and Steve Miller Band. Rogers repeatedly cracked the Billboard Blues Chart Top 10, with #3 best seller Slideways, and #10-ranked Split Decision. His second recording with Ray Manzarek Translucent Blues reached #1 on the Americana Roots chart.
The collaboration of Rogers and Manzarek produced 3 releases - Ballads Before The Rain (2008), Translucent Blues (2011) and Twisted Tales (2013) - Manzarek’s last recording. The seemingly odd pairing ‘just clicked’, Rogers said, and both had appetites for musical experimentation. Rogers stated Ray always like to call their music “21st Century Blues.” In reference to the blues, Rogers has stated “I’ve never felt like I was preserving anything or traditional in approach,” he said. “I just want to make good music.”
Into the Wild Blue launches right into a raucous slide guitar jam. It’s a positive take on the final fight in a relationship — the “Last Go-Around." Blues credentials established, Rogers adds some funk to the beat and ‘60s Motown female back-up vocal elements in “Got To Believe."
“I grew up when LPs first came out. You made a recording like a book, from start to finish,” he said. “I know that many people just buy individual tracks these days, but I approach recording like writing chapters in a book. The sequencing is important to me.”
Rogers worked on the lyrics and music for a year. The basic tracks of Into the Wild Blue were recorded in just four days, it was well rehearsed before going in to the studio. “I’m old and new school in the studio. To me, technology should support the music, not be the music. Spontaneity is key,” said the rhythmic composer.
Producing a record is so much about maintaining the vibe of the song’s original inspiration. “That can be hard to do,” he said. “You’re grabbed by any song usually in the first few seconds. The real excitement for me is when I know the song will work – then the real work begins.”
The self-produced Into the Wild Blue sounds up-close, stripped down, and highly intimate. “I want the music to be right in your face, but with a little bit of an edge. I just want it to feel real to people when they hear it.”
Rogers wails on his trademark custom doubleneck with a glass slide, or his vintage Martin with its DeArmond pickup, or his ’58 Les Paul. Steve Ehrmann is on bass, alongside drummer Kevin Hayes, with Jimmy Pugh on Hammond B3 organ. Virtuoso Carlos Reyes performed on the violin and stringed harp.
Losing a buddy like Manzarek, and then your brother, might make any songwriter embrace the dark side. “That’s not what the music is about,” Rogers said. “Music, whether it’s blues or anything else is about singing your heart out and hopefully feeling better in the process. As John Lee Hooker said, “it’s all about the feeling.”
The wistful, closing instrumental “Song for Robert (A Brother’s Lament)” comes from a place of acceptance, and while sometimes plaintive, it focuses on the overarching beauty and mystery of life.
“It hopefully should be uplifting, and for me it is about remembering my brother – It’s my salute to him” Rogers said.
Songs like “Dackin’’ and “High Steppin’” really capture the energy of Rogers’ live show, and Roy will rock on selected dates worldwide through 2015 featuring the songs on this recording.
“Thatʼs not a slide on Roy Rogersʼ pinky, itʼs a time machine. With it, Rogers transports you to the Mississippi Deltaʼs past and future. ......” ~ Guitar Player
Steve Ehrmann was born and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin, where he fell in love with Blues and Rhythm & Blues music, and began playing electric bass.
Since moving to Northern California in the 1970’s, Steve has played in the bands of, among others, John Lee Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Roy Rogers, Elvin Bishop, Coco Montoya, Katy Webster, The Gospel Hummingbirds, Mighty Mike Schermer, Angela Strehli and The Blues Broads.
He has also had the privilege of backing up blues and R&B/Roots Music greats Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Walter Horton, Johnny Adams, Earl King, Luther Tucker, Tad Robinson, Sista Monica Parker, Terry Hanck, and many more.
Since the mid-1970’s, Steve has enjoyed an ongoing music association with slide guitar-master Roy Rogers, and for most of those years has performed with Roy as one of the DELTA RHYTHM KINGS.
Kevin Hayes is a San Francisco Bay Ares based drummer and songwriter, probably best known for his 20 years as the drummer for The Robert Cray Band. During his time with Cray from 1989‐2008, he recorded 9 studio albums, including the 1999 Grammy winning Take Your Shoes Off, as well as a double live disc, Live From Across The Pond, recorded at London’s Royal Albert Hall. During his time with Cray’s band he also played on records by John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Van Morrison, among many others. His live show credits include performances with B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Allen Toussaint, Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings, Tracy Nelson, Jon Hendricks, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Vaughan, Lee Dorsey, Curtis Salgado, Bonnie Hayes, and many others. Since leaving Cray’s band, he has worked independently on a variety of musical projects, including playing and recording with virtuoso slide guitarist Roy Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings, recording and touring in the Manzarek‐Rogers Band with Roy Rogers and the late Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, as well as recording and touring with the sensational British blues guitarist and singer Matt Schofield.
Violin / stringed Harp
Carlos Reyes is renowned for his musical mastery, not only on the violin, but for the stringed harp as well. Breaking down barriers at an early age, he continues to ‘break them down’, touring worldwide in a variety of musical settings and making his own recordings as well. Classically trained, he has performed and recorded with an incredible array of artists and in different formats – from Arturo Sandoval to Steve Miller and from solo to full orchestra.
Roadie Ralph Baglio has been with Roy Rogers since March 1990. Born and raised in San Francisco, Ralph has been a guitarist playing with various local rock bands since the 1960’s. He helped start the very first ‘Bananas At Large Music Store’ in San Francisco, now known only as Bananas and saw just about every live show there was to see at The Filmore, Winterland and Avalon Ballroom during the 60’s and 70’s. Outside of jamming with the band and friends, Ralph’s interests include Japanese culture, vintage film posters, mountain biking and his Converse All Stars.