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Freddie Roulette Click for Freddies slide show!

The slack key and steel guitar tradition of Hawaii has been adapted for the blues by Illinois-born and San Francisco-based guitarist Freddie Roulette. Known for his cool tone and intense, high-note, squeals, Roulette provides some of the blues' most unique sounds. In addition to recording as a soloist, Roulette has collaborated with bluesmen Earl Hooker and Charlie Musselwhite and guitar wizards Henry Kaiser and Steve Kimmock. His 1978 debut solo album, Sweet Funky Steel, was produced by former Canned Heat guitarist, Harvey Mandel. Roulette's lust of the steel guitar was sparked when he saw a girl playing the instrument at St. Mary's elementary school in Evanston, IL. Taking lessons in the seventh and eight grade, he soon mastered the instrument. Brought to San Francisco in the mid-'70s by Musselwhite, Roulette has continued to call the area "home." Performing mostly with obscure groups, including, Robert Leroy Jones and the Crossroads, Roulette supplements his income from music by managing a low-income apartment building in West Berkeley.

~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide

Click here for Lost Legends review May 2007 edition of Blues Art Journal has a great write-up on Freddie Roulette and The Lost Legends. Click here to read.
"This five track CD is almost 20 minutes long and presents five well-known and respected figures working regularly on today’s California blues scene. Earl Hooker’s ex-sparring partner lap steel guitarist Freddie Roulette is perhaps best-known, with the line-up completed by guitarist Chris Planas (who was brought up in Hawaii), harpman Eugene Huggins, bassist Michael Warren, and drummer/producer/promoter Michael Borbridge. Their collective musical experience ranges across Elvin Bishop, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, Sugar Pie De Santo, Harvey Mandel, Mitch Ryder and Frank Zappa – among many others! The CD is a tasty little offering, with vocals split between Warren (two), then Planas, Huggins and Roulette with a track apiece. Styles include funk-blues, straight blues, sixties Rhythm & Blues, and Freddie lending his curious but effective voice (which mirrors his steel playing) to Little Richard’s rocker ‘Lucille’. Instrumentally too, Roulette’s unique playing – managing to sound laid-back and forceful at the same time - is the most distinctive, but all these guys acquit themselves extremely well. Let’s hope more will be forthcoming…" Rating: 8 - Norman Darwen


Subject: Freddie Roulette's Write Up.....


Freddie Roulette's guitar gambols
By Jennifer Modenessi
CONTRA COSTA TIMES

Freddie Roulette may be a soft-spoken man, but his guitar speaks volumes.

Notes swell and glide, jump, strut and boogie as thin, tapered fingers pick out a blend of country-western twang, funky urban rhythms and tropical ululations. The sound tells you all you need to know about the Berkeley musician -- or at least as much as he'd like you to know.

In person, the 65-year-old renowned lap steel guitar player is remarkably humble -- you might even call him shy. But onstage, he comfortably shares the limelight with other well-known Bay Area musicians. In fact, Freddie Roulette and Friends, (Bassist Michael Warren and Drummer / Promoter Michael Borbridge) will be playing a spate of gigs in Pt. Richmond, Berkeley and San Francisco this month.

Roulette, who's been playing the lap steel since childhood, has lent his unique sound -- which draws on country-western, Hawaiian guitar, blues and funk -- to a bevy of well-known musicians, including Frank Zappa, John Lee Hooker and blues great Earl Hooker. Roulette prefers to talk about the good music coaxed out of the weathered wood body of his vintage mid-1940s lap steel guitar rather than who he's jammed with.

Q: When and how did you become interested in the lap steel guitar?

A In seventh or eighth grade in Evanston, Illinois. A girl in class had a six-string guitar -- a lap steel -- and I decided that I was going to learn to play the lap steel. And I did. My mother got me music lessons with a guy who was a Sonja Henie ice follies musician. He was the only steel guitar player I ever knew that played lap steel.

Q: Did you start playing blues or country-and-western right away?

A No. I went right into Chicago blues -- not the Delta blues. I'm not a Delta blues player -- I'm not from the Delta. I play inner-city blues, which is very close to R&B and funk. Also, I like Beatles stuff, all the rock 'n' roll stuff. I have such a broad perspective in music -- it's unusual in a steel guitar player. Most people wouldn't think of that.

Q: Was there anything in particular that influenced your taste?

A No. I was playing 1950s pop music. I was a kid -- I used to play hokey songs, but it wasn't the hokiness of the songs, it was all of the chord progressions that I was practicing. I learned to play pop music before I played blues. I was ahead of most of the blues musicians because I was coming from a different direction. I wasn't coming like an old blues cat playing blues and staying there. I was coming from another bag going into blues. I met Earl Hooker, all the great blues people of that era, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, I met all those people. Harvey Mandel came up with me, too -- he was a kid then, too.

Q: Why do you prefer the lap steel to other types of guitars?

A It's light and it covers what I want to do musically.

Q: And what is it that you do musically?

A I'm a combo player -- I'm not a solo guitar player, for one thing. I was always a slide man, I do rhythms, backups, enhancements.

Q: Why do you like to play parts?

A Because I was brought up in an urban city where rhythm guitar players are a dime a dozen, but not rhythm steel guitar players.

Q: So you found a niche?

A Yes. I have a unique ability to play rhythm, lead and background enhancement -- I can do all of that with just my lap steel. I also don't have to carry a whole lot of weight around!

Q: So what's it like when you're playing the lap steel -- what's the experience like for you?

A Actually, I don't really care as long as the music sounds good. Well, except for my own projects where I'll take the lead or I'll have somebody else take the lead and I do rhythm. We switch around. It's just like a regular formula.

Q: Do you write original compositions?

A I do, and they're ethereal -- very pretty. Ethereal rock, ethereal blues ... that's one heck of a combination. When you mix them together, it's an explosion of sorts ... a psychological explosion ... of the mind. People like to hear it.

Q: There's often a struggle musicians go through balancing their careers and personal lives. I'm curious what it's been like for you.

A When my daughter was born, I was an apartment manager over in Berkeley because I had acquired an apartment to bring my daughter up. I just arranged my personal life so I could still go out and do what I was doing already. I've done a lot of stuff, but I'm just a regular old cat. This is actually the only unique part of my life!

 




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