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Roy Roberts

Remember that funny bit of hyperbole that goes: "It's so good if you look in the dictionary under so-and-so and you'll find a picture of so-and-so" . Well, if you look in the dictionary under "Soul Blues" you'll find a picture of "Roy Roberts" (at least in a perfect world). Roberts exemplifies this music form, a healthy amalgam of Memphis Soul & Modern Electric Blues replete with real horns and stinging guitar licks. He's released 9 terrific records thus far, including one live and one "Best Of" but his new CD "Sicily Moon" is simply his best. A true Soul album. A contender for Album Of The Year for sure. Equally praiseworthy is his work as producer for records by Chick Willis, Lou Pride, Eddie Floyd, Floyd Miles, Priscilla Price and Tommy Thomas (see reviews at bottom of page).

Blues singer, guitarist, song writer, producer and label mogul Roy Roberts was born Oct. 22, 1942 in Livingston, TN. He first learned piano and gospel music with his mother but eventually he bought his first guitar, a “Sears Silver Tone”, and began playing R & B with a Greensboro Ponderosa club house band. There he had the opportunity to play in the same venue as legends like Clarence Carter, Joe Tex, Eddie Floyd, Dee Clark, Solomon Burke, and Otis Redding. He even was for a time part of Solomon Burke’s orchestra and later in Eddie Floyd's group (Some 30 years later Roy produced Eddie's comeback CD "To The Bone", released on Roy's Rock House Records imprint). Perhaps his greatest learning experience came in 1965 when he played guitar for the "Big O" Otis Redding! In honor of the departed legend Roy cut his very first single "The Legend Of Otis Redding" following Redding's tragic death. For a time he was on the road with his band as the Roy Roberts Experience throughout the late 60s and 70s until Disco reared it's ugly head and stalled the careers of many Soul, R & B & blues singers. But that didn't stop this musician because Roy Roberts went Country! (Take that Bee Gees!) He teamed up with C & W artist and friend O.B. McClinton and hit the road. Roy even threatens to cut a Country record soon. After McClinton’s death in 1989, Roy concentrated on gospel music . But one day while in the studio he heard a song on the radio that sounded a lot like himself..it was Robert Cray's "Phone Booth" and suffice it to say Roy was soon back to the blues...

The Interview

BC = Blues Critic

Roy = Roy Roberts

BC = You've actually been recording since the 60s, yes? You even played with Otis Redding!

Roy = Yeah I played guitar in his band. My first recording was in 1967. I had that song "The Legend Of Otis Redding". It was a slow ballad. We had a couple more too from that period. "I'm Number One", "Let You Know I Love You".

 

BC = You even went country for awhile?

Roy = Yeah in 1980 when the disco music put bands out of business we played country from 1980-1989. Me and the black country singer O.B. McClinton. But he came down with cancer in 1989 and die a year later.

BC = I've read that you were inspired by hearing Robert Cray on the radio and that brought you back to the blues?

Roy = I really started out in R & B, which is the kinda blues Robert plays. I heard "Phone Booth" on the radio and I said "he's got a style kinda like mine". It gave me a good feeling. The blues having that crossover success. I was in my studio at the time producing gospel music as I had quit playing for about four years and then I heard that song. This inspired me to start performing again.

BC = It's interesting that it was that Cray song from 1980 instead of his big blockbuster success with "Smoking Gun".

Roy = I was doing country music during that time. I'll even be cutting a country album in Tennessee in the near future. It really wasn't until 1993 that I was back to the blues.

BC = Your new record, "Sicily Moon", which may just be your best yet, puts heavy emphasis on Memphis Soul. Were you aiming for the Southern Soul market more with this one?

Roy = I just got tired of doing the 12-bar blues. it's been played a billion times. You run out of arrangements so I got fed up and went another direction. I sat down with the horn players and we worked on some Soul music.

BC = Do you expect some flak from some critics for not doing blues on this record?

Roy = Some of the cats might come up and say something. But if they don't like it too damn bad (laughs). I do it for me and you can't please everybody. That's the way it is. Blues people they're going to say I'm selling out but I wasn't a blues guy in the beginning. I started doing R & B in 1962 all the way up to Disco. I know the Blues players but I wasn't into those cats but the blues thing just drew me in.

 Roy Roberts "Sicily Moon" (Rock House)

BC = Why did you choose the title "Sicily Moon"?

Roy = I've been going to Italy for 6 or 7 years and I've just had such a good time down there. In Sicily that's where I got the title. Thecover on the new CD is an actual picture taken during my last festival appearance there. It was out doors and that moon was spectacular on the water as I drove to my hotel. As I looked at the beauty around me, the concept of the title cut “Sicily Moon” came to me

BC = So the Italians are big on your soul/blues?

Roy = Oh yeah the Italians eat this music up. I have a lot of fans there.

BC = Okay, now I gotta ask. The liner notes refer to it but can you please explain the rap thing "Show Me What You Got"?

Roy = (laughs) We were playing in Greensboro. The guys wanted to make it a Blues club and we go into play with a 400-500 capacity. They had a DJ playing all the Hip Hop and no Blues band can compete with that. We started playing and there was only a few people dancing. We took a break and I told the guys we gotta do something different so when we go back out I tell the drum to kick this beat off and then told the keyboard player what to do and I just started singing "show me what you got" and "what's going on down there" and the place went wild. Women throwing their dresses up and all kinds of crazy things! So I knew I had a hit. So I went into studio with Dana Dane, he's one of those Old School rappers from the 80s and we cut this thing. I'm not afraid to take a chance.

BC = What did your children think of it?

Roy = They think it's cool.

BC = I'm sure they teased you too!

Roy = (laughs) Oh you know they were going to throw that in. 'What's an old goat like you doing trying to rap. You should be ashamed! (laughs)

BC = I noticed you aren't playing guitar on the new record. How come?

Roy = I had a little problem with my hand so I couldn't play on that album. So I brought in this guy, Gary Woodard. As a little boy he used to listen to me play. If you listen he sounds so much like me. But when I'm back on the road I'll be playing again. Like Armold Schwartzenegger said , "I'll be back!"

BC = You teamed up with fellow Soul/Blues man Johnny Rawls for "Partners & Friends". Who's idea was it and was it difficult to have two Producers together?

Roy = No, not at all. Johnny And I agreed on everything. At a gig in Pittsburgh we were just out in the car and we said we should do something together. We just came up with some ideas he brought songs he wrote and I brought songs I wrote.

BC = Your song "I Slipped" from the CD "Daylight With A Flashlight" has been a monster on the Carolina Beach Music circuit.

Roy = Yeah it's still a hit today. That song won the 2004 Cammy Award for Blues Song of the year. But wait 'til they hear some of the cuts on 'Sicily Moon"! They're gonna love it in the beach market.

BC = You also like to add a little humor to your songs. On the song "Every Time I (You) Turn Around" from the CD "Daylight With A Flashlight" you sing that folks always coming around looking for a loan!

Roy = (laughs) Yeah even right now somebody's standing here wanting some money. My daughter's always worrying me all the time (laughs). Everybody thinks I'm rich or something so I said I'm gonna have to put a sign on the door that reads: "Roy's National bank has just closed!". So you need to get yourself a J-O-B. I ain't got no more money.

ROY ROBERTS DISCOGRAPHY HERE


WRITINGS ARCHIVED

2017 SOUTHERN SOUL BLOG here

2016 SOUTHERN SOUL BLOG here

2015 SOUTHERN SOUL BLOG here

2008 SOUTHERN SOUL BLOG here

2007 SOUTHERN SOUL BLOG here

2006 SOUTHERN SOUL BLOG here

2005 SOUTHERN SOUL BLOG here

INTERVIEWS here


(C) 2018. All written material found on this website is the property of Blues Critic and may only be used with permission and full accreditation (either "Blues Critic" or "Dylann DeAnna of Blues Critic") and link to this website.