The blues have many hues. Just listen to Roy Rogers and Curtis Salgado, who for decades both have been called bluesmen although they deliver very different sounds. Salgado is a soulful singer who also plays harmonica. Roger is a master slide guitarist who delivers vocals with a rock ‘n’ roll bent.
Rogers and Salgado — and their respective bands – will share the stage on Saturday, Dec. 21, in front of a seated audience in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room. Salgado is expected to go on first.
“I am certainly always associated with the blues and I don’t mind,” Rogers said. “Just the fact that I play slide guitar puts it in that category for a lot of folks. But we rock it up and it’s all related to the blues.
“Soul music is blues too. Curtis has that soulful voice and he’s a helluva harmonica player. He’s blues and soul and I’m sure a lot more in between.”
Salgado has won five Blues Music Awards for Best Blues Soul Singer. In his hometown Portland, Oregon, the Cascade Blues Association’s Muddy Awards honors the top male vocalist with the Curtis Salgado Award. He was the harmonica player on Robert Cray’s first album and was the inspiration for John Belushi’s character Joliet Jake in the move “The Blues Brothers.”
Salgado, 65, is a three-time cancer survivor. In 2006, doctors told him he had three months left to live. He had emergency heart surgery in 2017. His comeback performance was at the Fourth of July Waterfront Blues Festival, where he shared the stage with Roy Rogers.
Don’t be surprised if Salgado joins Rogers and The Delta Rhythm Kings toward the end of the show. Live shows can always have surprise moments.
There was a memorable occurrence the last time Rogers played in the Crown Room. In 2011, he was playing in a duo with Ray Manzarek, The Doors keyboardist. During a question-and-answer session between songs, a fan came up with a doozy: “Would you autograph my pictures?”
The fan had a stack of them.
“Now?” an incredulous Manzarek exclaimed.
“That isn’t the first time that ever happened in a show with Ray,” Rogers said. “That happened a few times, actually.”
The most memorable time was during a show in a baseball stadium in Fargo, North Dakota. The stage was in center field.
“This guy holds up a Doors album and he wants Ray to sign it. And Ray goes, ‘You want me to stop the show and sign the record for you now?’ He says, ‘Yeah.’ So Ray gets up and (angerly) says OK, walks around stage, takes out his marker and signs the record.
“A guy standing next to him was so furious, he took the record from him and flipped it like a Frisbee toward home plate. The look of horror on this guy’s face! I don’t know if he ever got his record back. You don’t forget that kind of stuff. A lot of stuff can happen during a live show. But, hey, it’s live. That’s why we like it, good and bad.”
Rogers, 69, is apt to collaborate with other musicians. His most recent project is Stringshot, a Latin-jazz blended trio with Brazilian guitarist Badi Assad and violin and stringed harp player Carlos Reyes. His best-known collaboration was with harmonica great Norton Buffalo.
Rogers and David Burgin recorded on a folk label in the late 1970s when a music writer for the Twin Cities Reader distinguished the slide guitarist from the “King of the Cowboys.” He noted that this Roy Rogers “has chops, not chaps.”
Rogers liked the phrase so much he named his publishing company Chops Not Chaps Records.
John Lee Hooker, a Delta bluesman who moved to Detroit in 1948 and began a famed career, had Rogers in his band from 1982-86. A position in the group opened when keyboardist Deacon Jones broke his arm. Rogers came in as a second guitarist after being introduced to Hooker by bass player Steve Ehrmann.
“Steve is responsible for me playing with Hooker,” Rogers said. “It’s all his fault.”
Rogers’ first show with Hooker was in Detroit and the response was unforgettable, he remembers. During tours, Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings would open the shows. Ehrmann remains in The Delta Rhythm Kings, along with drummer Kevin Hayes.
Rogers produced two Grammy-winning records for Hooker. He later produced two records for Ramblin’ Jack Elliot that were nominated for Grammys. He also wrote a song recorded by Bonnie Raitt that was nominated for a Grammy.
Rogers’ resume expanded in 2019 when he came out with a coffee blend, — Roy Rogers Rock Slide Roast, which is a blend of French roast, espresso and other ingredients.
“I’ve been a coffee drinker my whole life,” he said.
Perhaps it’s coffee that is Rogers’ secret weapon, a reason he can play guitar so fast.
“Hey, don’t let that get out,” he said.
— Tim Parsons
Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings, Curtis Salgado Band
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room (seated show)
Tickets: $25 in advance or $30 on the day of the show
Where else: Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings perform Saturday, Feb. 22 at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael and Saturday, Feb. 29 (Leap Day), at the Sutter Creek Theatre.
Coffee? To purchase Roy Rogers Rock Slide Roast, visit www.roy-rogers.com