Lee Rocker: Road Tested, American Made
AAJ: How did you hook up with Alligator Records?
LR: I've known about Alligator since I'm a kid. They've always been on my radar screen because they're one of the few labels that I think really has an identity. When I was growing up I hit the record shops in New York and down in the Village because you could get good stuff, you wouldn't find anything good on Long Island. So, going into the city, shopping, just so many great blues records.
So I was always aware of it, that it was always the real deal stuff. So over the years, sort of, I've been in touch with them a few times, they called me about a few different projects that didn't happen. More recently, I was doing a festival in Spain that Koko Taylor was also on. Koko and I did a shoot for a Spanish newspaper, we hit town, a lot of the Alligator folks were there, and it sort of got us back in touch.
It seems like a great thing to try for both of us. I've been really happy, they're a great label. They're the first label, maybe ever, that can really say they know the lyrics to the third verse of the fourth song. It's cool that they're about music, they're not just counting beans somewhere.
AAJ: Speaking of this new record , that leadoff track needs to be cranked up and turned out loud!
LR: Yeah, "The Girl From Hell.
AAJ: A couple of your other favorites from this new record?
LR: "Runnin' From the Hounds is a track that I wrote a lot of years ago and went back to re-cut it, I cut it in 1985 the first time. Going into the record...it was a song I had always loved and wanted to do again, though it doesn't really fit what I was trying to do with this record. But it's a great vehicle for Brophy Dale, one of the guitar players in the band who is a fantastic slide player. I'm always looking at what all of the musicians I'm working with, what's in their arsenal, kind of. So I kind of leaned toward that, 'Ooh, this would be a nice way to do it.' So I think I'm real happy with that.
AAJ: That is the last song?
LR: Yes. It's the instrumental.
AAJ: I kept waiting for your bass solo and it finally showed up here in the last song. Why did you wait until the last song?
LR: Yeah, I'm not big on solos. I'm liable to do one or two a night. But that's a track I really had fun doing. It is a swing number. I guess it's a little snide in a way, the title, in terms of the whole commercial swing thing that came through a couple of years ago. A little Les Paul-like, I think, in terms of the harmony. Just a fun little number, it's great to do that one live. Jimmy Sage, the drummer, gets to play some really great stuff on that.
I'd say "Race Track Blues is more than a lot of things on this record more firmly kind of rooted in rockabilly. Everything's rooted in rockabilly, but what I do with it is, like we were saying, it's not a museum piece; you don't blow the dust off of it and recreate something. But this does have its roots firmly in that. I was at the horse races a couple of years ago, out in San Francisco at a race track, and I don't know how the hell I wound up at a race track, I'm not a race guy, but I went there and was just kind of amazed at the whole scene, just the sound, people kind of running around and stuff, and wrote down not a song but a couple of pages of stuff I had seen and thoughts...and lost it. I lost those pages. Then a couple of years later, I go, "Oh, shit, that's right!, and ended up putting it together into a song!
AAJ: You're a guy who could easily be described as someone who was born to the road. It seems to follow that you must have seen some pretty insane stuff. Could you share a funny moment or two from the road?
LR: Oh, man, there's so many...from either getting left or leaving someone at a truck stop when someone wasn't keeping track of who left the bus and who didn't, which happened a lot, especially before cell phones, to just the gig after the gig sometimes, when you would just kind of get together and play.
I remember one time we were on tour with Dave Edmunds and his band. Somehow after the gig we decided that we were going to set up in the hotel bar and do another gig. I just remember his keyboard player at the time, who's gonna remain nameless, so we were playing and he was playing piano and he had fallen asleep on the keyboard. So we decided that he was playing piano through osmosis. He was sounding great.
But there's a million things. It's a great life. I've been on the road for twenty-five, twenty-six years now.
AAJ: The new record also mentions a lot of cars?
LR: I love cars. I've had a couple of great cars over the years. I'm looking around for something nowa buddy of mine says he's got a '59 Cadillac to show me. I recently had a 1970 Chevelle Supersport with a 396, that was a lot of fun.
AAJ: When it eventually happens and you pass through those pearly gates, what's the car that's waiting for you in heaven? If you got only one?
LR: I would say a car I had a couple of years ago, which was a '59 Ford Skyliner. That's the car with the hardtop retractable roof. I had one that actually worked, which is really a rarity.