THE REAL DEAL: If the United States ever did a true accounting of national treasures, Jimmy Rogers would be high on the list.
Born James A. Lane in Mississippi in 1924, Rogers taught himself guitar and harmonica in his early teens. By the time he landed in Chicago via St. Louis in 1945, his musical experience included playing with blues legends Snooky Pryor, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, Roosevelt Sykes and Walter Davis. He found work at the Sonora Radio & Cabinet Co., where a co-worker introduced Rogers to his cousin, another Mississippi transplant, McKinley Morganfield--better known as Muddy Waters.
Rogers, Waters and Little Walter Jacobs started playing together in Rogers' living room. They combined traditional delta blues with electric guitar pick-ups and gave birth to what is now known as the Chicago Blues sound. Calling themselves The Head Hunters, the band began playing clubs and eventually recorded a body of work for Chess Records, including such classics as Waters' "I'm Your Hoochie-Coochie Man," "Mannish Boy," Little Walter's "Juke," and Williamson's "Don't Start Me To Talking." All featured Rogers' amazing guitar work. Rogers recorded his own songs, "Ludella," "Walking By Myself," "That's All Right," and "Chicago Bound" for Chess. Unfortunately, the Chess brothers stiffed Rogers (and many others) on royalty payments.
Tired of getting ripped off, Rogers stayed away from music for most of the '60s. He and his wife bought a clothing store to support their family, but the store burned down and Rogers accepted a European tour in 1971.
Rogers' work had greatly influenced a generation of British musicians, including Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who said that he recognized himself "in there between Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers." Ireland's own living musical legend, Van Morrison, paid tribute to Rogers in his song "Cleaning Windows" with the line, "I went home and listened to Jimmy Rogers on my lunch break..."
Now in his early 70s, Rogers is the only remaining originator of the Chicago Blues sound. Given the scope of his influence, it's impossible to imagine what music would have sounded like without him.
Jimmy Rogers appears in concert at the Rialto Theater, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 9. Tickets are $10, with a $1 discount for TBS and KXCI members, available at Hear's Music and all Zip's and Loco Records locations. Call 740-1986 for more information.
LAST NOTES: Finnish surf-rockers Laika & The Cosmonauts sound every bit like they were born and raised in Southern California, reveling in the spirit of Cold War America--Sputnik, satellites, spies and surf; Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Steve Allen, Jack Kerouac, Dr. Strangelove (the best movie ever made), That Was The Week That Was--you know, that period between '55 and '65 when America could think and laugh at the same time and radio wasn't afraid of playing rock instrumentals like the ones this band delivers so brilliantly.
Laika & The Cosmonauts make it all sound fresh at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, May 10. The show starts at 9 p.m. with Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys and Seven Deadly Five. Tickets are $5, available at Club Congress. Call 622-8848 for information.
Asleep At The Wheel rolls into the Rialto on Saturday, May 11, bringing their signature blend of country, swing, jazz, boogie, honky-tonk, Cajun, blues and rock to Tucson. The band celebrated its 25th anniversary by winning a 1995 Grammy Award for Best Country Song by a Group or Duo with Vocal for "Blues For Dixie." Their latest release, The Wheel Keeps On Rollin', contains both traditional and contemporary elements, with guest appearances by Bèla Fleck, Johnny Gimble, Chad Hudson, Ray Benson and Albert Lee.
Stellar songwriter Chris Gaffney opens the show with his own mix of country, rock and roll, soul and norteño. Gaffney's musical path has taken him from Arizona to Canada, where he backed major talents such as Ferlin Huskey and Webb Pierce. Along the way, he's been a contributing force in the Southern California roots-rock scene. His latest release, Loser's Paradise, contains trademark wit and sincerity in tales of heartache, losers and dreams of a better tomorrow.
Show time is 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, available at Hear's Music, Loco Records and Zip's. Price is $12 day of show. Call 740-1986 for more information.
The Zia Records party rocks at Club Congress on Sunday, May 12, with performances by Penelope Houston (of the S.F. punk band The Avengers), Beat Angels, Satellite and The Piersons. This event is free to everyone 21 and over. Call 622-8848 for the low down.
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