If James Rogers’ had to pick a guitar that embodies the essence of a friend, without doubt he’d choose his custom-made Strat.
Rogers built the body and pickups himself to ensure the hybrid had a particular sound, a little more gritty than the bright, brutal tones of a regular Stratocaster.
He’s been playing it since the early 1990s and even thwarted a pair of thieves to recover the guitar after it was stolen in 2011.
“No matter all the trials and tribulations you go through in life, you’ve always got your guitar,” says Rogers, who grew up and still lives in Maple Ridge.
“Friends come and go, relationships come and go, problems come and go, but one thing that remains consistent is the music and the guitar. That’s the one thing that’s been consistent in my life.”
Rogers’ latest CD My Guitar’s My Only Friend could be seen as a bit of a tribute to his favourite stringed instrument.
It’s a title musicians can relate to, he says.
“I’m sure everybody has some sort of passion in life that is consistent above everything else.”
Written by Rogers and Tom Lavin of Powder Blues fame, the 10-song oeuvre showcases Rogers’ lifelong love of the blues.
The Juno-nominated album is the first to feature the name “Buddy” – as a tribute to Rogers’ father Bud, who passed away in 2010.
Rogers’ credits his dad for instilling a love of music in him from the time he was a toddler.
By 11, Rogers formed a band and started gigging. Within two years he was a regular at local blues clubs. At 15, his band Texas Storm was being booked by Canada’s top agency for opening concert slots.
“My dad went to the liquor control board and got a license so I could legally play in bars,” says Rogers, who went on to gig with some of the great blues players in Vancouver, including the late Muddy Fraser, Tom and Jack Lavin, Jim Byrnes and Russell Jackson.
At the age of 19, Rogers teamed up with former B.B. King bassist Russell Jackson and began a tour that lasted five years. Based in Kansas City, they played an endless string of clubs, concerts and festivals, sharing the bill with Canned Heat, Sam Taylor, The Holmes Brothers, Elvin Bishop, Kenny Neal, Katie Webster and countless others.
In 2000, Rogers started his own band and played blues clubs across Canada and Europe. When he wasn’t working under his own name, he appeared on U.S. tours and recordings with many other blues acts.
His main influences on guitar – Johnny Watson, Jimmie Vaughan and the three Kings – plus years of being a blues road warrior have helped shape him into one of the most inventive and penetrating blues guitarists performing today.
To be nominated for a Juno as an independent artist is a feat in itself.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I took a bit of flack on it because it’s not a straight up blues album,” says Rogers. “People from record labels in the States were saying it’s too commercial sounding, not traditional sounding.”
Rogers shrugs off the criticism from folks who think the blues can only be played by a certain segment of the population.
“The blues doesn’t have to be an old black guy with a guitar. I got a lot of that touring the States,” says Rogers.
“The blues doesn’t always have to be devastation. You can live the blues in a different way.”
To hear My Guitar’s My Only Friend, visit jamesbuddyrogers.com. James ‘Buddy’ Rogers plays twice a month at Kingfishers Waterfront Bar and Grill. He’s on stage this week – Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12.