Roger “Hurricane” Wilson by John Shults
There’s a certain hesitancy that any individual takes on when booking new entertainment. There are pages full of bands and acts who can strum a few chords, play the intro to “Freebird,” and treat you like a steppingstone they are using until they “hit it big.” There’s no more fearful time in a pub owner or recreation director’s life than when they are watching that night’s opening act set up, wondering if this will be the night the house empties when the band starts to falter. Enter Roger “Hurricane” Wilson from Kennesaw, Georgia. With a solid resume, a polished skill set, and the manners and demeanor of a southern gentleman, Roger Wilson is simply what’s right with the music business these days.
Since the age of 9, the “Hurricane” has been perfecting the art of the blues, Americana, roots, country, and classic rock into a polished package that once heard makes the person who booked him breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Recently, Roger made a swing through the Northeast, playing at two resorts that see mainly an inner-city crowd from New York. Normally, music like Roger’s would have tough inner city teenagers running for the nearest exit. After the opening song, the crowd started to grow. After one set, toes were tapping and heads were nodding along to the beat. Children were dancing. Teenagers, normally off doing what teenagers do, sat together, talking, watching, and listening. Roger was able to expose them to a history and a music that they may have never been aware of previously. Despite what some would see as a huge and gaping cultural divide, Roger prevailed. “No one has to like you,” Roger stated. While he’s right about that, it certainly doesn’t hurt when people applaud when you’re finished playing.
Despite success with his eight albums and his years playing on the road, Roger takes the time to give a little girl some one on one conversation, and when she asks for his autograph, he seems as tickled to give her his signature as she is to get it. Roger sits at breakfast, chatting away with everyone at the table, volunteering to sit around the campfire with another aspiring guitarist later that evening- as long as he doesn’t mind listening to the Braves game in the background. Almost in spite of the time he spends with anyone he comes in contact with, Wilson has been able to produce eight solid albums. To hear him and meet him makes the fan wonder which he’s better at; relating to people or relating to his music. For any blues fan, “Live From The Eye Of The Storm,” released in 1996, has the raging, wailing heart of the blues beating in it. Quite simply, the tone Wilson is able to achieve in this album is the sound that makes teenagers across the world pick up a guitar in the first place. “The influences for Eye Of The Storm were from just many years of playing live, and were just trying to capture some of that in one place.” Wilson stated.
Duane Allman, Les Paul, and BB King were large influences Wilson’s sound and tone. Reading down the resume a bit more, he jammed with Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughn in 1980. In 2003, Roger became friends with the legendary Les Paul at one of his weekly New York City shows. He jammed with Les another 7 times or so, and they remained friends until Les passed away in August of 2009 at age 94. “After one show when he was 92, Les came back into the dressing room, collapsed on the couch and said, ‘Man I’m Tired!’” Wilson stated. “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 trying to get that sound right!’ I was amazed! This is why he would jump out of bed every morning….to keep chasing sound.”
Roger has been able to capture many sounds over the years, and well. Over the course of his eight albums, Roger has presented a varied group of music to his fans. Each album tells a story, some in folk, some in country, and some in the blues. “As any musician will tell you, each recording represents you at the time it was done,” Wilson stated. “The road and working regularly will make you mature whether you want to or not. The stuff I am recording live now, once I sort out the keepers, will be exactly what I would send to somebody to represent exactly what I do.
While Roger is on the road for about 9 months a year, he has never forgotten his adopted home town, Kennesaw. Each year, he flies home to perform at Kennesaw’s Big Shanty Festival in the spring and it’s Pigs and Peaches in the summer. Starting this year, he has also been a featured performer at the Taste of Marietta always held on the last Sunday in April. Roger flies homes to attend these local events , each if it takes a “red eye” from California as it did this summer for the Pigs and Peaches Festival.
While at the Pigs and Peaches Festival, he performed his new recording, Today in Kennesaw, which he wrote with his friend of over 25 years, Mike Straus, the Publisher of West Cobb Magazine. This new song traces the history of Kennesaw from the cival war days to today.
What’s so noticeable about Wilson is that he not only knows how to play the blues, but he also knows why they need to be played. Roger can convey that reason onto every member of the audience, and it’s the reason he is as genuine and authentic as musicians come these days. Wilson records on Bluestorm Records, and can be found on the web at www.hurricanewilson.com.
Editors Note: Roger will be playing a free concert on December 4 at the Daily Grind located in a small shopping center at Kennesaw Due West and Acworth Due West. He will be playing from 8-10pm and there is no cover charge, but they offer lots of great coffee drinks and dessets.
About the Author: John Shults is a free lance music write who writes for a number of music and blue magazines and online blogs.