A note from the WebMaster: The JCGS recently received an e-mail from a long lost local classical guitarist named Dave Rogers. Now, all of us locals know who Dave Rogers is and we know that he is certainly not “long lost”. He is the classical guitarist, early instrument specialist, OSF Greenshow musician, SOU guitar instructor, etc. However, the old timers around these parts remember a time before Dave Rogers arrived here in Ashland. Back in those days, you see, there was this other classical guitarist named Dave Rogers who was something of a guitar playing lumberjack. He suffered an on-the-job injury to his wrist, as I recall, and was forced to take disability. He then turned to the guitar full-time. In addition to his guitar playing, he was a song-writer, singer and composer. Among his favorite song topics were songs of his experiences in the mountains and forests of southern Oregon and northern California (the state of Jefferson). He wrote a song about an encounter with Bigfoot and since then has come to be known as “Bigfoot Dave.”
There was a short period of time after the new Dave Rogers moved here that the original Dave Rogers was still in town. It is easy to imagine the confusion that ensued around the musical community with two classical guitar players named Dave Rogers living and working in Ashland. Before folks figured it out, you could hear comments such as, “Hey, did you hear that Bigfoot Dave has taken up the Rennaisance lute and is working for the Shakespeare festival?” And then, “Naah, that can’t be right…can it?” Or, “Hey, did you hear that the lutenist from the festival was singing lumber jack songs down at the local pub?”
Bigfoot Dave Rogers got his Bachelor of Arts degree in music performance on the guitar from SOU and then moved up to Eugene to enroll at the University of Oregon where he completed his masters degree in ethno-musicology. The topic of his masters thesis was the music of the 17th century, blind, itenerant, Irish harpist, Turlough O’Carolan. The thesis includes a number of Dave’s transcriptions for classical guitar of O’Carolan’s harp compositions. He now resides and works as a performing musician in and around Eugene.
The confusion between the two guitarists reared its head again recently when both Dave Rogerses showed up at the same gig in a Eugene coffeehouse. The Eugene Dave Rogers now likes to refer to himself as “Dave Rogers the elder” and, of course, the Ashland Dave Rogers has now become “Dave Rogers the younger”. Below, you will find a letter to the JCGS from Bigfoot Dave. I was given permission to post it to this site by the author.
From: David Rogers <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2003 11:26:04 -0800
Hello from David Rogers of Eugene
Thanks to Joe Thompson for turning me on to the Jefferson Classical Guitar website.
It’s good to see the classical guitar flourishing down in my old Ashland haunts. I continue to pursue my own wayward journey into musical eclecto-warp. I actually have a new CD out, called “Encounters on the Western Slopes”, and I sell copies of it here and there.
I perform at everything from jails to altzeimer’s units to nuthouse facilities to restaurants, and occasional recitals, mostly for pay, believe it or not. I average 2 -4 gigs a week, so I get paid for performing on a weekly basis, a very weakly basis in fact!! It was a treat to recently and accidentally share the bill with Ashland’s guitar virtuoso, David Rogers!!. How this happened: the booker of the Eugene venue “Cafe Paradiso” notified me that I was slated to play on a date, but he got me confused with the other David Rogers. But it turned out to be a fine, fun event anyhow.
I see a lot of familiar names on the Ashland events calendar. It’s good see old friends like Joe Thompson, Tim Church and Tom Reddick out exercising their fingers on our noble instrument. Some other names come to mind. How is Komac Tapp? Bo Leyden? Bill Leonhart?
I haven’t been playing in the Ashland area for awhile. The last venue someone arranged for me to play at down there was a little coffeehouse, where I told one Christian joke and alienated one half of the audience, and told a Buddhist joke and alienated the other half. Once I had the place to myself, I allowed the echoes of my own guitar playing to resound against the walls, with alternating arrangements of Irish harp music by O’Carolan, with Balkan Gypsy music arranged in the Spanish style. And a few rabble-rousing protest songs thrown in. I remember the second and last time I opened a show for the late steel string guitar legend, John Fahey. He said, “I guess I gotta let you open for me, you’re bigger than me. There are too many damned guitarists in the world, they oughtta shoot half of them!!” He was right, of course. But I suppose some of us are still hoping for an enlightenment to show the way for the nobility of music to rise above mean ego politics, and it can and it does. I attended Fahey’s memorial in Salem last year, and that experience came back to me when a disabled musician, a classical pianist with a masters from the U of O in ethnomusicology, showed up to one of my rest home venues in his wheelchair. He had been terribly busted up with a shattered elbow in an accident, and he said that my playing was an inspiration for him to rise above it and play on the stage again! That’s the kind of stuff that really sustains me!! Other earlier fun venues included performing for a 4th of July party with Linda Yeager, daughter of famous test pilot Chuck Yeager, (remember “The Right Stuff”) with a wonderful stunt pilot show after; and later that same afternoon, up the next gulch, with Ken Babbs and the surviving Merry Pranksters and a multitude of hip characters (sharing the stage with many fine music acts) , including Greg Kebkey, founder of Ashland’s Rogue Brewery, those were the days! (remember “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test”, of course). It was like wandering through the legacy of Tom Wolfe’s most famous books in one afternoon!
So to you David Rogers fans out there, I have one treat for each of you! A little short story called “Visions of Bigfoot on Mt. Pisgah” and the lyrics to one of my recent songs, “The Bane Attitude”. I have recently hooked up some Finale Guitar ’03 software, and I would like to trade classical guitar arrangements by email attachment, for any who might be interested (I have Norton Antivirus protection). I have “Maple Leaf Rag” , Planxty Irwin”, “Habanera”, “Diminushing”, and some Gypsy dances in the works. Let me know if you are interested.
P.S. Another Eugene classical guitarist, Craig Einhorn, told me he was to play at the Siskiyou Barn near Ashland. Does this place still book musicians occasionally? If so, let me know. Cheers to all, keep laughing, crying, composing and playing!
Bigfoot Dave Rogers
On episode 2 of the Blues series on PBS last week, the show opened with the NASA voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. On the spacecraft is a disk which contains words and images and sounds. Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night” is one of the songs on the disk. At one place at the end of the film, you see the legendary blues/spiritual singer (portrayed by a present day actor, lip-sync-ing the original recording) against a starry cosmos backdrop with his blind focusless eyes, twenties-style getup, and head bobbing around in spiritual reverie, singing “The Soul of a Man”.
I remember the late John Fahey, on the liner notes to one of his records, telling about being haunted by one of Blind Willie’s recordings, “Praise God I’m Satisfied” and then suddenly bursting into tears and just sobbing away.
Ken Babbs’ current website devotes a whole page to Blind Willie and Voyager 1. He quotes Don Groble from Chicago saying, “I LOVE Blind Willie Johnson’s stuff, it’s real spooky, and if the aliens get a hold of this stuff, they’re either gonna get real scared and destroy our planet, or spooked real good and we’ll never see’em.” Babbs also shows diagrams of the recording devices on the voyager spacecraft designed by Carl Sagan.
A Rolling Stone review once described Johnson’s voice as sounding like “the hellhound Robert Johnson feared”.
Interesting that a Blind Willie Johnson recording is placed along with a Bach fugue, a Beethoven symphony, and an Indian raga as representing the important human achievement to be launched into Galactic posterity. Maybe not surprising, though. His kind of rural solo blues/gospel/spiritual singing represents (to a lot of people) all feeling, the soul stripped bare of all pretension.
Reportedly, the voyager spacecraft is just now outside the orbit of Pluto and heading out into real outer space. Estimates are it will take many thousands of years for it to intercept with another heavenly system.
Blues carried through space. Baring the soul of the human race.