Clarksdale's native bluesman Earnest "Guitar" Roy talks about the truths of blues life

"A Bluesmen is born is not a mechanical thing. I will not give out names of a particular artist but, I will say that their will always be a true Bluesmen, it means I lived the life I sing about."

Earnest "Guitar" Roy: Ground Zero Blues

Earnest Roy, Jr. was born on September 25th, 1958 in Clarksdale, Mississippi under the watchful eye of his father, guitarist Earnest Roy, Sr., who worked with Jackie Brinston, Ike Turner, John Lee Hooker, Wade Walton, Raymond Hill and many of the other Clarksdale bluesmen. Earnest's father taught him bass guitar at five, and when Earnest turned eight, he began playing in his father's band, Earnest Roy and the Clarksdale Rockers, whose members included Big Jack Johnson.

At age eleven, Earnest Jr. began playing lead guitar, and he formed his first band at 14, which led to his being regular performer on Soul TrainBy 1989, Jim O'Neal of Rooster Blues Records had signed Earnest "Guitar" Roy to the label and released a single called "Too Many Women And I Wanna Know What My Little Girl's Been Doing." The song was written in a San Diego hotel room while Earnest was touring and playing backup guitar for Albert King. Earnest's other credits include playing drums on Big Jack Johnson's first album Oil Man, and playing lead guitar and drums on Frank Frost's Midnight Prowler album.

From 1993 to 2001, Earnest played for the international televangelist and pastor Rod Parsley, whose ministry aired on 320 nations around the world. In 2001, Earnest "Guitar" Roy returned to his blues roots when he began touring and appearing at blues and jazz festivals with Sam Carr. Earnest's most recent CD is Going Down to Clarksdale from 2011.

Interview by Michael Limnios    Photos by Nathan Miller

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

Blues is a style of music that I was born into, because my father "Earnest Roy Sr." was a Mississippi Delta Bluesman. Blues is a Genre that I respect and understand, because of the hardship and relationships from the past.

How do you describe Earnest Guitar Roy sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

I describe my music between blues and jazz, music is different because of multiple styles I was brought up with which was Mississippi Delta Music, BB. King, Albert King, George Benson, and Wes Montgomery.

What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas for songs most frequently?

The same way that always triggered my ideas for songs "life".

"The music is not the same nowadays, the lyrics is not about the blues in the younger generation."

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

The most interesting thing was being raised knowing who God is and learning about salvation. The best moment of my career was being able to entertain the audience with my style of music and the audience enjoyed; the worst moment is too time off between gigs.

Why did you think that Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Because it brings all kinds of people together simply because people can relate to true experiences about life.

What's the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

The best jam I ever played in was at the house with my daddy. All of them were memorable gigs.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Sitting down with my daddy Earnest Roy Sr. and listening to every word  that came out of his mouth. The advice my daddy gave me "always be a good listener".

Which memory from Sam Carr, Frank Frost, "Honeyboy" Edwards, Sonny "Sunshine" Payne and Jim O'Neal makes you smile?

They were all positive influences to what it means about life, the rises and falls. What makes me smile is they still stand behind for what they believe.

Photo: Earnest "Guitar" Roy & Sam Carr

Are there any memories from Albert King and Big Jack Johnson which you'd like to share with us?

They were all great Bluesmen.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

It was more authentic in the past because we live what we song about, nowadays it is more political, because musician are more concern about winning awards and being true to what their singing about.

Some music stars can be fads but the bluesmen are always with us. What means to be Bluesmen?

A Bluesmen is born is not a mechanical thing. I will not give out names of a particular artist but, I will say that their will always be a true Bluesmen, it means I lived the life I sing about.

What are the lines that connect the Southern Blues with the urban Northern scenes and continue to West Coast?

They all went through the same thing at some point or another.

How has the blues changed over the years? Do you believe in the existence of real blues nowadays?

The music is not the same nowadays, the lyrics is not about the blues in the younger generation.

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?

I've met most of the biggest.  I like meeting with all blues artist from all walks of life.  I cannot signify one and leave out others.

Earnest "Guitar" Roy - Official website

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