June of 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roger Wilson Guitar Studio of Atlanta, Georgia. My first location was at 220 Pharr Road in the Buckhead neighborhood of North Atlanta, from 1973 to 1980. It was then located at 2796 Piedmont Road from 1980 until 1985. The business operated full-time during that period, but is still in existence today in Kennesaw, GA as an online forum. During the 12 years in Atlanta that the brick and mortar location existed, I had the pleasure of teaching guitar to hundreds of people that passed through the doors at both locations. The story of the studio is an interesting one. In early 1973, I was attending college in my home state of New Jersey, but I wanted to return to Georgia after having attended high school there at Woodward Academy in College Park from 1967 to 1972. I had already been exposed to and was now saturated with the desire to pursue music as a lifetime career. A friend made a few phone calls for me to look for any possible music oriented job opportunities, and contacted a gentleman named Sidney Ayscue, who owned and operated the Buckhead Music Studio in North Atlanta. I spoke with Sidney several times on the phone and I decided to head back to Atlanta and make a go of this potential opportunity. When I arrived back in Atlanta in June of 1973 at age 19, Sidney allowed me to move into a room in the studio by agreeing to try to expand, but realistically to build a guitar teaching business. My only teaching experience was about 6 months at a little music store in Matawan, New Jersey, while my knowledge of the guitar and music was already that of 10 years. Sidney and I named our new operation the Atlantis Music Studio, which placed it in the “A” section of the Yellow Pages. Sidney and I worked together for about a year before Sidney was starting to lose interest in teaching and wanted to change his life’s direction. One day in August of 1974, while sitting at my desk in my small studio, the phone company called inquiring about the phone bill, which was apparently overdue. When I explained to the gentleman on the phone the situation of lately not seeing my partner, Sidney, around for a few days, the writing on the wall was evident that I had to make a quick decision. I was then a year into teaching fulltime, and I was making an OK living teaching guitar lessons. I still needed the phone, but I would have to open a new account, under a new name. The phone company guy stated that the Atlantis Music Studio account was now delinquent and asked me what name I would like to use. In having to make a split second decision, I told the gentleman to open the account under “The Roger Wilson Guitar Studio”. As I said that, the words seem to fall out like a 2 ton boulder. It sounded really weird. Being all of 20 years old, I wondered who in the world would ever take me seriously. The next day, I walked around the corner to the phone company and put down the $50.00 deposit, which seemed like a fortune at the time, on the new phone service. From that day on, the journey began.
While I had been teaching each of my students the traditional approach of reading music, it was apparent to me that it was a tedious method. Some related to it OK, and some just weren’t looking to be that serious about it. One day, a kid showed up for his lesson with an electric guitar and a record album. He had no idea of any guitar basics. I don’t recall the album he brought, but it may have been Led Zeppelin IV. I do remember it was a song, probably Black Dog, that he wanted to learn.
After explaining to him that he really needed to learn to learn some basic technique before taking on any advanced material. He said, “Yea, I know… but just show me something on this album I can have fun with”. While I was tuning up to the song, I guess I played one of the song’s signature licks. He said excitedly, “Show me that, show me that! After trying to eek out the part I showed him for about the last 20 minutes, he promised to go home and practice it until he had it perfected for the next lesson. When he left, I remember that was grinning from ear to ear. I sat there stunned wondering what had just happened. After that, my phone never stopped ringing, and kids were carpooling 4 at a time in their parents’ cars to come take guitar lessons from “the guy that will teach you what you want to learn… and make it fun”. I always loved it when they left happy, having fun, and of course, telling their friends.Thanks for 40 years!
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Roger is now accepting students in the Atlanta for the 2013 Fall season area on Wednesdays at Ponier Music in Marietta, GA.
We will be documenting the tour via video along the way. Please keep checking back.
2013 Northeast & New England Summer Tour Schedule
Mon. 24 – Relax Lounge – Chambersburg, PA (Solo acoustic 6-9PM)
Wed. 26 – Johnny’s Smokehouse – Pearl River, NY (Solo acoustic 8-11PM)
Thur.27 – Rhoades Tavern – Sloatsburg, NY (w The Rusty Paul Band)
Sat.29 – Tuxbury Pond RV Resort – S Hampton, NH (Solo acoustic 6-9PM)
Thur.4 – Patten Pond RV Resort – Bar Harbor, ME (Solo acoustic 7-9PM)
Fri.5 – Narrows Too RV Resort – Bar Harbor, ME (Solo acoustic 7-9PM)
Sat.6 – Mt Desert Narrows RV Resort – Bar Harbor, ME (Solo acoustic 7-9PM)
Fri. 12 – Moody Beach Outdoor World – Wells, ME (Solo acoustic 7-9PM)
Sat. 13 – North Atlantic Blues Festival Club Crawl (Solo acoustic 7-9PM)
Wed. 17 – Pearl River Library – Pearl River, NY (Solo acoustic 7-9PM)
Thur. 18 – Johnny’s Smokehouse – Pearl River, (Solo acoustic 8-11PM)
Sat. 20 – Timothy Lake RV Resort – E. Stroudsburg, PA (Solo acoustic 7-9PM)
Sun. 21 – Rowland Cafe – Rowland, PA (Solo acoustic 7-9PM)
Wed. 24 – Private Event – Virginia Beach, VA
Fri.26 – Sam’s BBQ1 – Marietta, GA (Solo acoustic 6-8PM)
Sat.27 – ROGER’s 60th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
Sam’s BBQ1 – Marietta, GA (Solo acoustic 6-8PM)
Anyone who knows me knows that I am constantly in search of good blues music, which is not necessarily readily available. Mostly because Europe has found no record label or released the CDs in self-publishing and are very difficult to obtain. Just such a gem is the purely acoustic live CD of Willie Smith and Roger Wilson1in 2012. The show was recorded on 11/09/2009 at the sold out Whitaker Center in Harrisburg, PA.
Willie “Big Eyes” Smith is known to us all as the legendary bluesman who played harmonica and drums, sang and worked for many years at the side of Muddy Waters. His last album he played shortly before his death (16/09/2011) with the also deceased Pinetop Perkins meantime a. For this album, he received a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album (Joined at the Hip, 2010).
Roger “Hurricane” Wilson is a physically impressive blues man who is constantly on the road for 40 years. He initiated the project and released the CD on his own label. Here, two have come together for a concert, this is not one of them had expected (surprise!).
Four of the thirteen songs contributed Roger Wilson, the others are mostly good old friends: The opener, Sonny Boy Williamson’s song, “Eyesight to the Blind” is an absolutely reduced Blues – harmonica, guitar, two voices. Slim Harpo’s long-running “Scratch my Back” starts with a very tender accompanied by the guitar three minutes Harpsolo, Muddy Waters is represented with “Long Distance Call” and “Got my Mojo Workin ‘,” Willie Dixon with the indestructible “Hoochie Coochie Man”.
Here are two great blues musicians at work, both veterans who have made outstanding contributions to the blues for decades. You pick up a guitar, a harmonica, their voices and two bar stools (I assume at least) and play in front of an enthusiastic audience a great concert an what is necessary and really good with everything. You can hear that in the reactions of the audience and the musicians.
Unfortunately, it will not be such a concert – but the CD is both a document and a recording that belongs in every well-maintained Blue collection. They like to bring again and again for a quiet hour out – these blues is timeless. As the title says, Blues Protected By Smith & Wilson.
I have seen that the CD is available for download in Germany, and I myself have put me in touch with Roger Wilson and he sent me the CD – there’s a way (Roger is a great guy and a great medium Paypal!). THICK KAUFTIPP!
To Order, visit http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/williebigeyessmithrogerh2
We were all saddened by the loss of the legendary Les Paul in 2009. We know that he changed the world of music with his inventions of sound on sound recording, as well as the invention of the solid body electric guitar. Many know that he crossed many boundaries by winning multiple awards for his achievements, as well as inductions to various halls of fame. Many obituaries, tributes, and eulogies are being written about Les Paul. When I was in the broadcast news business, one of my bosses told me, “If you are going to write something, tell me something I don’t know!” Well here goes! It is true that for me, being friends with a guy like Les Paul would never be an unwanted attribute, but in my case, it was truly unexpected.
In September of 2003, I was on tour in the Northeast, and I decided I wanted to catch one of Les Paul’s weekly shows in New York City. A couple of friends and I decided to make the trip to the Iridium Jazz Club near Times Square to catch Les’ show. After paying the thirty or so dollars each to get in, we were there! I was really excited to be able to catch the guy in action that I had read about for many years, plus for the years of my playing the model of guitar named after him… The Gibson Les Paul! I had determined that I was going to make this night pleasurable and go easy on myself. I wasn’t going to try to get an autograph, or get on stage, or schmooze, hustle, or do any kind of PR or music business. It was just going to be a guitar lesson for me.
The lights went down, and Tom, the sound man announced, “And now the man that has changed the course of popular music for all of us, Mr. Les Paul and his trio.” It was amazing, and I was enthralled! There he was, in the flesh… the guy that invented multi-track recording, and the solid body electric guitar. I was savoring the moment and was oblivious to everything else around me. This was what I was waiting for. After about 3 or 4 songs, Les starting cutting up with the crowd and the band. It seemed that someone on the front row was talking to him, and had said something on the order of “I play guitar too”. Les replied, “so you play too, well come on up here and show us what you can do.” At that moment, a well dressed Middle Eastern Indian gentleman approached the stage. He strapped on the guitar that Les keeps on the piano for just such occasions. I wasn’t sure what was happening here, and I was trying to figure it out. The guy started playing the introduction to T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday… BADLY! Now I was getting worried! The hair on the back of my neck was starting to stand up. My friends, Bobby and John, knew I was starting to get restless.
I was trying to keep from turning green and to not have my clothes split off me like The Incredible Hulk. The guy played the one song, and he was off the stage. It really wasn’t a pretty site, and I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. But now, I was fit to be tied, mainly because I couldn’t leave this night with that vision in my head. Les resumed his show and I did eventually calm down to enjoy the rest of the set.
At the close of this, the first show, the announcement was made that CD’s could be purchased from Les’ son, Russ. I immediately went to him, bought a CD, and asked him if that last appearance had been planned. He said that they had never seen the guy before. I explained to him who I was, and that I was on tour, and that I had my first Les Paul guitar when I was 18. Russ said if he had known I was there, he would have gotten me up to jam. I immediately said, “I’m still here!” He said OK, come on back and I’ll introduce you to Dad. I was caught off guard by his response and ecstatic at the same time! When I met Les, it was like talking to an old friend. I explained to him my situation, and he seemed pleased. He said to stand by the stage and he would get me up with him. I did that and was beside myself. In the next set, he called me up with no idea of who I was or what I could do. I introduced myself to the audience over the mic telling them my name and how honored I was to be there. I immediately launched into a simple version of “Everyday I Have the Blues”, with the band following. As I played and sang, Les was smiling. After that song, he said, “Well what else ya got?” I went into a slow B.B. King Blues classic, “Sweet Little Angel”. That was exciting since, I made it to the second song!” Les and I swapped some licks back and forth. He and I were having a ball! The first guy got the hook after the first tune, but I got to play the second song. When I came off stage, I was walking on air. This was a day I would never forget!
Over the next few years, I would return to jam with Les and the band another 6 times. I became friends with the band and crew, Lou, Nicki, John, Tom, and Chris. Les’ son, Rusty and I would stay in touch, and during my trips to the northeast, I would attend his Sunday night jams at various locations around northern New Jersey, and then go into the city to see Les. The stories I was hearing from him were priceless. He told me how he got Mary Ford to speak into a mike down the hall, and when he heard her voice repeated on the extra tape head he installed, he knew he had found the thing that would change music recording forever. He told Mary to grab the laundry, throw it in the car, and that they were heading to Chicago. She kept saying, “What if it doesn’t work?” During that trip from California, by the time they were in New Mexico, he was wondering if it would work. He then said, “By the time we got to Chicago, I had convinced myself that it wasn’t going to work”. He was thankful that when they drilled the first hole in a new Ampex tape recorder in Chicago to add the extra record head, that “we didn’t screw anything up!”
During another of my visits, Les simply said, “Man, if I was to ever retire, I would just die!” He was 89 then! Another time, I was helping the guys carry some gear up to the street to put in the car. After 2 shows, he had signed autographs for a line of people that circled the inside of the club. He had signed everything from guitars to pictures, to records, to pick guards, to you name it! After signing every last item, Les was still downstairs in the rest room. As I headed back in, the manager at the door with keys to lock up said, “What did you forget?” I said Les is still in the club! I ran back down and got him. I’ll never forget Les Paul holding on to my arm as we climbed the stairs at 1 A.M.
When he turned 90, it seemed that the world showed up to witness him. The crowds were lined up out the door at the Iridium on Monday nights. Interviewers from all walks of media were at the dressing room door for weeks before and after his birthday. I had the pleasure of sitting in with him 3 days before his actual 90th. The big event was a couple of weeks later at a star-studded event in Carnegie Hall.
My last visit with him was in November of 2007, at age 92. When my friend, Bobby Lyons, and I arrived at the Iridium early, Les was having his usual dinner in the dressing room. He was always eating his dinner on a turned on the side audio monitor cabinet. I always wondered why they didn’t get him a small table in there. This time, when I arrived, Les responded and waved slowly. It was a little disconcerting to me, be we left to grab a bite before the show. When I returned, I happened to be in position to help him on to the stage. He ambled to his chair, picked up his guitar, and as soon as the introduction announcement was made and the lights came up, “It Was Showtime!” He was back! I got to sit in both sets that night! After the second show, he came back into the dressing room, collapsed on the couch and said, “Man I’m Tired!” I said, “Les! Are you OK? I was really quite concerned about you earlier”. He said, “Oh yea, I’m fine. I’ve just been putting in these 14 hour days”. I replied, “14 hour days! What are you doing?” He said, “I’m still working on these guitars”. “What are you doing to them?” I asked. “I’m still trying to get that sound right!” I was amazed! This is why he would jump out of bed every morning to keep “Chasing Sound”.
The amazing thing about Les, is that, with as many important and well-known people that he associated and rubbed shoulders with, he would always remember the guys, like me, who loved to play guitar. He would sign guitars when I would take them in, and he would always write something nice. “Keep picking” was a favorite, but the night he wrote, “Those Were Some Great Blues!” I was pretty well knocked out. He actually confessed to me that since he was more commercially oriented, he didn’t know much about the history of the Blues. He asked me to explain it to him. I sat in the dressing room of the Iridium one night and gave him my basic simple interpretation of the origin of the Blues. He sat there listening carefully, really soaking it in. I couldn’t believe that Les Paul was actually learning something from me!
During June of 2009, I attended one of Rusty Paul’s jams in New Jersey. My plan was to go into New York City on the Monday afterward to see Les. Rusty told me that Les hadn’t been able to make some shows in the last few weeks, and that he had been in and out of the hospital. He had even missed his 94th birthday gig on June 9. I was concerned about it, but Rusty said his Dad was doing better, and that he was itching to get back to work. If I knew anything at all about Les, I knew that was true. All he wanted to do was get back to the gig. He said that his Monday nights at the Iridium were just like celebrating New Year’s Eve every week. He proved to me many times that having a passion for something in life will keep one alive for a long time. For a guy like Les Paul, and with a life like he had, we can’t afford to mourn his loss as much as we need to celebrate his life. We need to “KEEP ON PICKING”!
Roger “Hurricane” Wilson – June 9, 2013
I’ll be celebrating my 60th birthday, God willing, on Friday & Saturday, July 26 & 27. All are invited.
Download the song, Sam The BBQ Man by Roger “Hurricane” Wilson here