When Roy Rogers plays at Squaw Valley, it’s like a reunion
“I am here to settle all rumors,” slide guitar master Roy Rogers declared. “The Newports are not making a comeback.”
The Newports were a gold-jacket wearing band Rogers played with when he was in middle school. He said the group played in Squaw Valley in 1964 or ’65 at the Truckee High School senior prom. Instead, Rogers will perform on Tuesday, June 18, at The Village at Squaw Valley with his newer band, The Delta Rhythm Kings, for the weekly Bluesdays performance.
While Rogers’ memories of his show with The Newports have faded, they are quite fond when he speaks of Bluesdays, which is starting its 11th summer.
“There’s nothing like a great live show and to be part of a crowd that’s participating,” Rogers said. “(Music listeners) have access to videos galore and recordings, but it’s not like being part of crowd — large or small — and we can point the Bluesdays. Those crowds are always great. They are up close and personal and people are just into it.
“It’s definitely a live scene and that’s why it’s so popular. And it’s grown over the years. I’ve done it a number of times and it’s exciting for people to have that live moment. It’s not a band playing at you. You are a participant in the concert, whether you are the musician or the listener. That is the moment.”
It’s almost like a hometown show for Rogers, who lives in nearby Nevada City, California. He set the Bluesdays attendance mark in the early years of the series. People have caught on to Bluesdays, which features the nation’s top blues players. The Village is constantly filled. Trying to keep track of attendance records now would be futile.
It’s a free show and the crowed is comprised of the wealthy and not so wealthy, tourists and locals. And people can view the show from wherever they desire. There’s no tiered seating. Stand and dance up front, or relax back in a chair and soak it all in.
“It’s not like a normal stage,” Rogers said. “People are right in front of you, It’s very close and it’s all around you. It envelops you. It’s got those shops and tall buildings. It’s like in Italy when you play a piazza.”
[pullquote]We’re not looking for perfection. We’re looking for it to feel as good as it possibly can.“[/pullquote]The legend of Roy Rogers — the one with chops, not chaps – is well known to blues lovers across the globe. He performed with and produced for John Lee Hooker on a Grammy Award-winning album. He played for years in a duo with the great harmonica player and vocalist Norton Buffalo. He loves to absorb himself in projects, such as collaborations with Ray Manzarek and his latest, StringShot, a Latin-blues trio with violinist and stringed harp player Carlos Reyes and Brazilian singer and guitarist Badi Assad.
But in addition to Rogers’ early band, The Newports, many might not know of his first major studio session. He played on the soundtrack of a 1975 movie that starred Jack Nicholson, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
“I was playing at the Drinking Gourd on Union Street in San Francisco, an old folk club, long gone,” Rogers said. “People from the movie said, ‘We’re looking for folk musicians to play at a place across the Bay.’ They hired us on the spot, just doing our little duet with Dave Burgin. They hired musicians from around the Bay Area.”
Rogers said he mostly played acoustic guitar but did use his slide on the song that’s heard while Nicholson takes his fellow mental institution inmates on a fishing boat across the Bay.
“The was quite an experience for a neophyte,” Rogers said. “Jack Nitzche was a great producer. That was a long time ago. I still get little tiny checks in the mail whenever it’s shown on TV. It’s hard to believe from that long ago.”
And about that newer band, The Delta Rhythm Kings. That’s the rhythm section of drummer Kevin Hayes (a longtime member of Robert Cray’s band) and bassist Steve Ehrmann, who played with Lightnin’ Hopkins and was the person who introduced Rogers to John Lee Hooker.
“It’s such a joy to play with musicians like that,” Rogers said. “It’s really a communication. It’s unwritten. It’s wonderful to play with guys who know the grooves like the back of their hands.
“We’re not looking for perfection. We’re looking for it to feel as good as it possibly can.“
Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm KingsWhere: Bluesdays in The Village at Squaw Valley
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 18
June 15 – World Records, Bakersfield
June 16 – Moe’s Alley, Santa Cruz
June 21-22 – Rio Das Ostras Jazz & Blues Festival, Brazil
June 25 – Bourbon Street Music Club, Sao Paulo, Brazil
July 2 – Todos Santos Park, Concord, California
July 4 – Waterfront Blues Festival with Carlos Reyes and Jim Pugh, Portland, Oregon
Bluesdays6 -8:30 p.m. TuesdaysThe Village at Squaw Valley
June 18 — Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings
June 25 — Vanessa Collier
July 2 — Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue featuring Rusty Zinn
July 9 — Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
July 16 — Danielle Nicole
July 23 — Coco Montoya
July 30 — Chris Cain
Aug. 6 — Sugar Ray Rayford
Aug. 13 — Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers
Aug. 20 — Dennis Jones Band
Aug. 27 — Honey Island Swamp Band
Sept. 3 — Popa Chubby
ABOUT Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.
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