When the “real” Roy Rogers comes to Carson City, he’ll be ridin’ rhythm and blues rather than a horse called Trigger.
The real Roy Rogers is a slide guitar player and music producer who ignores musical labels, embraces hot licks that leap through genres, and laughs about being the namesake of a singing cowboy who went by a made-up moniker.
Rogers reminds people asking if his real name is Roy Rogers — after telling them it is — that the cowpoke/actor called Roy Rogers actually was born Leonard Franklin Slye. But the celluloid cowboy’s name captured a generation’s fancy, and the musician ended up getting to answer that stupid question occasionally.
“I was named after the cowboy; I was born in 1950,” Rogers said during a telephone interview about his upcoming Aug. 3 gig at Carson City’s Community Center.
Western handle aside, it was rock music rather than shoot-’em-up soap operas that turned his head as a teenager until his older brother came home from college with the music that became his life’s work.
“I was a little rock-and-roller when I was in high school,” he said, but then he heard Robert Johnson. “So I became immersed in the whole blues thing.”
He still is, though he pushes the envelope while traveling as far from his Nevada City home in California as to Scandinavia, Australia and Latin America to play for audiences, or as nearby as Nevada’s state capital for a benefit concert appearance.
He’ll play, along with his group the Delta Rhythm Kings, in the community center’s Bob Boldrick Theater at 7:30 p.m. on that first Saturday in August. The appearance also is being billed as one of the kickoff events of the Jazz & Beyond music festival, which features a host of artists and genres at venues throughout the community next month.
Rogers says blues often is associated with jazz festivals and doesn’t consider himself a traditional bluesman anyway, though his roots are there and he plays some traditional fare along with his own creations.
“It’s high-energy stuff,” he says of the sound he and his group put out. “We just let her rip. I don’t consider myself a traditional bluesman; I’m kind of building on the stuff that was traditional. I’ve just taken the slide guitar and done my own thing with it the last 30 years. If you don’t stretch, you kind of atrophy.”
No one who hears Rogers is likely to accuse him of resting on his own or predecessors’ laurels; nor will anyone confuse him with the singing cowboy for whom he was named.
Event proceeds go to the Comstock Residents Association in its battle to preserve the Virginia City National Historic Landmark despite mining on the Comstock, as well as the Jazz & Beyond event. But Rogers’ focus was on the preservation issue; he said the Nevada City-Grass Valley area of California was concerned about similar issues at one time.
“I was available, and it sounds great,” Rogers said.