New Doors open with Manzarek-Rogers Band
The Doors in the 1960s recorded “Twentieth Century Fox.” Today its keyboardist plays “21st century blues.”
Ray Manzarek’s new musical partner is accomplished slide guitarist Roy Rogers, and their second album is based in the blues, music Manzarek grew up listening to on the South Side of Chicago.
“That’s the first stuff that really knocked me out,” Manzarek said. “On the radio I heard Muddy Waters, Howlin” Wolf, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker – holly cow, man! Imagine hearing all that stuff on the radio.”
After Manzarek moved to Southern California in the 1960s and joined Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger and John Densmore to form the Doors, that band, of course, had its own unique sound.
The Manzarek-Rogers combination has created a different sound for a new millennium. The album “Translucent Blues” features poetry Manzarek was given by his peers: Michael McClure, Jim Carroll and Warren Zevon.
“What we did is try to stretch the structure of the blues, keeping the basic blues foundation,” Manzarek said. “But rather than a strict 1-4-5 (12-bar blues), we stretched out and altered the structure to fit the poems to work the words into the blues format. And that’s what we set out to do, open the blues up to the 21st century.”
“The exciting part,” Rogers said, “was really making it work like that. It was really just fun because Ray and I really bounced a lot of ideas. He had some ideas already in hand for certain songs and I brought some songs to the table and then we collaborated. … then the poems. … It was a very creative and fun to do it that way.”
Manzarek couldn’t have found a more suitable blues cohort than Rogers, who has made numerous albums with his band, the Delta Rhythm Kings, and his longtime partner Norton Buffalo, and he also was a producer for John Lee Hooker.
“I’m not going to say Roy’s the king of the bottleneck but he’s damn close to being the No. 1 bottleneck player, and if he’s not, I don’t know who the hell is,” Manzarek said. “So he’s a great guitar player. I think any keyboard player would be highly desirous and drooling to play with the slide guitar master Roy Rogers.”
Rogers had a more concise description for his bandmate: “A basic philosophical, poetic guy.”
The two came together as the suggestion of their mutual booking agent.
Rogers had a symbiotic relationship with Buffalo, who died in 2009.
“This is the same thing, I must say,” Rogers said. “Ray and I, if we don’t do a gig for a month or two, or if he goes out and does something with Robby (Krieger) on the road or I’m doing something and we come back, it’s simpatico. We don’t miss a beat. We don’t have to rehearse. We just hit it, and it reflects not just how we both know the material, but we both enjoy performing together, as Norton and I did.”
Manzarek feels the same way.
“I think we live in it,” he said. “We don’t have to try to get back in it. We are in it. I am in it. I’m always in the blues base. As a mater of fact, I was thinking of calling the next album that: ‘Blue Base.’ “
Rogers said he and Manzarek have been “woodshedding songs” and plan to record another blues-based studio album with a full band. Their first CD, “Ballads Before the Rain” was simply the duo playing “easy listening music where you have a glass of wine and look west at a Lake Tahoe sunset,” Manzarek said.
The more rocking “Translucent Blues” was rated the No. 3 release in 20011 on the Roots Rock Chart.
“It really translates live,” Rogers said. “We’ve had such great shows. A lot of times there is a struggle for people to really make it happen on a live setting, translating songs from an album like that, but, boy, not with this thing.”
Manzarek said Saturday’s appearance will be his first visit to South Shore. The Manzarek-Rogers duo played two years ago at the Crystal Bay Casino. The rhythm section at Harrah’s will be drummer Kevin Hayes, formerly of the Robert Cray Band, and bassist Steve Evans of the Delta Rhythm Kings.
Listeners familiar with Rogers can clearly recognize his slide guitar, and, of course, Manzarek’s distinctive Doors sound is easy to hear, too. And Manzarek sings in the same key as did Morrison.
“I play the way I play,” Manzarek said, “and people say, ‘Gee, that sounds like the Doors.’ Well, I guess that’s … me playing the way I play and me singing the way I sing, and Jim was in a band with me, so the two of us were simpatico.”
“I think that Morrison probably learned a lot from Ray because Ray was a musician,” Rogers said. “Not a lot of people have known about Ray’s singing.”
And the man who wrote the music for “Riders on the Storm” is as creative as ever. He said his fingers are “independent.”
“I’ve got 10 little maniacs at the ends of my arms and you never know what they’re gonna do,” he said. “They take over.”
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