Payin' Dues: Roy Rogers

Named after the singing cowboy, slide guitarist Roy Rogers, born in 1950 in Redding, California, is perhaps best known for his work with John Lee Hooker – he was a member of Hooker’s Coast To Coast Band and produced four of his albums including 1989’s The Healer. He also produced Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and co-wrote Gnawin’ On It for Bonnie Raitt. His new solo album Into The Wild Blue is all about “pushing the envelope”.

It’s been five years…
After making three recordings with Ray Manzarek, it was time for me to do another solo project, but more importantly, I felt that the songs were good enough. My music will always be based on the blues, but within that framework I like to pursue new directions, not only in songwriting, but with other players and instruments. That’s what drove Into The Wild Blue.

John Lee Hooker was like a healer.

Tell us about your time working with John Lee Hooker.
People always ask me what I learned about music from John Lee Hooker. My answer is I learned a lot about life from him. He could take music as deep as anyone on the planet, he moved people and could really take the listener to another place. He was like a healer! The song [Terraplane Blues] we recorded together on [1992’s] Slidewinder was one of those special moments that sometimes happen in the studio. It is a very special track, especially when we both laugh at the end.

You produced The Healer sessions.
They were all different because we recorded the guest artists over a period of time. Everyone was just plain excited to be recording with John Lee Hooker. We chose the songs carefully for each artist.

How did it compare to working with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott?
It was actually not that different from producing John Lee Hooker – both legendary artists with their own unique styles of playing and singing. With both you are trying to capture the moment in the recording, so it is a matter of how people feel and the vibe, as well as setting it up right and choosing the right song.

You mentioned recording with The Doors’ Ray Manzarek. How was that?
Ray Manzarek was wonderful to work with and we really became good friends. We brought out the best in each other creatively and on stage too. We wanted to stretch the music in a new and different way. I think our album [2011’s] Translucent Blues speaks for itself.

Into The Wild Blue is out now via Chops Not Chaps.