Root Doctor had its humble beginnings in Lansing, Michigan's fertile open mic scene. Freddie Cunningham (lead vocals) and James Williams (bass, vocals) first played together as a pick-up band, but both instantly recognized their chemistry and Root Doctor was soon born.
Root Doctor continues to amaze audiences and wow critics. Playing a diverse mix of classic soul and R&B, alongside traditional blues and inspired original material. Root Doctor's Been A Long Time Coming (Big O, 2005), catapulted the band into the Top 25 on the Living Blues charts for three months and received critical acclaim from the blues press.
Lead guitarist Greg Nagy, considered an exceptionally soulful and creative blues player, has shared the bill and stage with such luminaries as John Mayall, Taj Mahal, Macy Gray, G.E. Smith, Eddie Clearwater, Larry McCray, Ronnie Earl, Teddy Morgan, and W.C. Clark.
A strong vocalist as well, Nagy fronted his own bands in the '90s throughout the Midwest. As inspiring as that scene was, Greg moved back to Michigan a few years ago to join Root Doctor.
Nagy's writing and production skills have been immensely important to Root Doctor's growth. It was only with his prodding and commitment that the band went into the studio in 2005 to record Been A Long Time Coming, its first ever studio record.
All About Jazz: How long has Root Doctor been together? How did the original members of Root Doctor come together?
Greg Nagy: Root Doctor started over 18 years ago when James Williams (bass) and Freddie Cunningham (vocals) met at an open mic in Lansing MI. They are the founding members and still in the band.
AAJ: Over the years Root Doctor has been through several member changes. Can you share how the band has evolved since its earliest inception, and how many members it has had?
GN:The band was a really fun party band early on, and quickly became a very popular bar band in Michigan. Scott Allman was the first guitarist and was (and still is) a blues radio disc jockey in Lansing. You can hear him on Sunday eves on WMMQ in Lansing. He continues to be very supportive of the band, even though he left about eight years ago.
AAJ: How did you come to play with Root Doctor? How long have you played with them?
GN: I am the third guitarist for Root Doctor. Considering that the band has been together for 18 years, I guess that isn't too bad. I've been in the band for three years. When I was asked to join I told them on one condition; the band releases a studio record.
We went in four months after I joined the band and did Been A Long Time Coming.
AAJ: What is your personal musical background?
GN : I am 45. I started playing when I was 14, but music has been a circuitous route for me. Eventually, I settled in in '93. I dropped out of a PhD program in Sociology to play music for a living then. I have fronted several different bands of my own, and worked as a sideman for groups such as Acme Jam, Roberta Bradley and Gypsy, and some others.
AAJ: Give us some background on each member of the band, something that can't be found on the Root Doctor website.
GN: Jim is wanted in three states. I'm joking of course. Man, oh I know, James Williams tells a great story of how he first realized his brother was "big-time" in the music world. He wasn't familiar with his brother's band, but his older brother Lamar invited him out to see his group. James was floored at how many people were at the concert, and at how crazy they were going-over the bands. That band was the Allman Brothers in 1973. James' brother was the bassist for the group during those years
Fred. What can I say about Fred...well he is probably one of the sweetest guys you'll ever meet. I've tried to piss him off on several occasions, but it ain't easy. But seriously, he is a very cool cat with no ego whatsoever. I did see him get after somebody once for messing with his mic (those things ain't cheap), but I would have likely done worse.
Rick Bole, our drummer, is leaving the band and music performance for personal reasons on the home front in just a few short weeks. We have a replacement who will also bring some unique gifts to the band (and he sings like a bird), but I will miss Rick. Aside from working with Duke Tumatoe for years, he has been courted by some heavies in the blues and rock world. John Fogerty loved Rick's playing. And for a while there Walter Trout was very much interested in Rick.
Me? I've been a college instructor, a Military Police officer, general's driver, door man in a large Flint nightclub in the early days, and all sorts of other things, but music is what keeps me going. That and my family, I feel very fortunate indeed.
AAJ: You guys cover the Roy Hytower tune "Root Doctor" on the group's latest CD, Change Our Ways (Big O, 2006). This one track, incidentally, is worth the price of admission, and you offer a full ten tracks on this CD. Is it from this tune that the band takes its name?
GN: Is Roy asking? I read somewhere that The Rolling Stones denied getting their name from that Muddy tune....what's the right answer here? [laughs]. Yes, I believe the band got their name from that song. Though James and Fred recall it differently at different times.