Text and Photos
by Dorothy L. Hill

Earl Hooker & Freddie Roulette at the 1968, "Club Alex", Chicago,
Foto: ctsy Willy Leiser, BLUESLIFE archive

Freddie Roulette has been dubbed as the most amazing lap steel guitarist in the world for good reason. His gentle demeanor obviously conceals a profound imagination that is revealed the minute he touches his ceramic slide to the strings.  Born in Evanston, Illinois, Roulette has been in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1969.  Prior to that time he was associated with Earl Hooker for many years in an alliance which began when a teenaged Roulette met up with Hooker in Chicago where they went slide to slide.

Roulette is now part of The Lost Legends band which includes Chris Planas on guitar and vocals, Michael Borbridge on drums, Michael Warren on bass and Eugene Huggins on harmonica and vocals. 
I had the pleasure of attending two shows recently which gave me a good perspective on the versatility of this group. 

Pier 23 has been a hot spot on the waterfront of San Francisco, California for many years and showcases live music on a regular basis. On March 18, 2007, The Lost Legends appeared in the intimate front room restaurant. 
The band was missing Eugene Huggins on this occasion. 

They opened up with a blues tune that Roulette enhanced with his harmonic palette of sounds. The sound system left a lot to be desired and Roulette’s vocals were muffled in this small setting so it was hard to catch the flavor of his heartfelt delivery on some of the tunes. 
Chris Planas contributed a memorable vocal delivery on “Another Mule Kicking In Your Stall” and his guitar skills were formidable. Michael Borbridge’s drumming was exuberant while providing framework to the melody. Michael Warren is one of the best electric bassists on the scene having cut his chops in the Rainforest Band with Merl Saunders and on this day proved he also can deliver some mean vocals. The band was cohesive and obviously took joy in working together. 
Even the oft overdone tune “The Thrill Is Gone” sounded fresh and exciting with Roulette at the wheel.

On April 4th the band kicked off at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, California and the full contingent was on board this night with the addition of Steve Lund sitting in on rhythm guitar and John Hall on percussion. There was excitement in the air since the band was expecting some special guests to be on hand. 

Roulette positioned himself at the end of stage right where he was barely visible to the audience which was a loss because his riveting facial expressions are part of the joy of his performance.

Eugene Huggins led it off on harmonica and vocals on “Scratch My Back” with Roulette stretching out a solo filled with screeches and sizzling modulation. The tune “C. C. Baby” featured Planas on vocals and guitar with Roulette spelling out an intense cornucopia of sounds. 

Roulette’s vocals on “The Outskirts of Town” were rich with emotion and enhanced with adventurous musical phrases on slide.  Warren contributed a commanding vocal taken on the funky tune “Dynamite” and a bass solo that was nothing short of superb while Roulette dug deep into the melody with flourishes and sizzling picking.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . THE LOST LEGENDS

One of the special guests, Lisa Kindred, joined the session. Although relatively unknown in the larger arena, Kindred is one of the best blues vocalists in the Bay Area and a favorite of the musicians. She kicked it off on “I Woke Up This Morning” with authoritative rhythmic control and seamless phrasing. Huggins gave a spirited harmonica workout embellishing Kindred’s vocals with controlled note bending and shakes and trills.

Closing out the first set, Roulette did his rendition of “Lucille” on vocals and lap steel. His vocals on this tune were snappy and his use of verse and instrumental response on this tune was captivating.

On the second set, guitarist Harvey Mandel joined the band. Mandel is heralded as an innovator in the electric-blues genre. The band did a high-energy take on “Let’s Work Together” featuring Huggins on vocals and Mandel on guitar. Warren’s vocal take on an old-school tune, “Deal,” was smooth and Mandel’s guitar solo contained a generous amount of distorted notes. At one point, Warren put so much energy into the bass solo that he broke a string - not so unheard of with guitar but not something I have seen before with a bass player!  The band’s delivery of “Baby Batter” was exquisite with Mandel’s deeply jazz rooted solo and Roulette lending his magic with a celestial approach.

The evening finished off with an all-out rendition of “Wade In The Water” which had everyone taking solos - Borbridge controlling the beat in a boundless display of drum wizardry, Warren dispensing an explosive interpretation, Roulette lavishing imaginative spontaneity on lap steel and Mandel working his guitar into a frenzy of psychedelic grooves.

Although the evening was highlighted by seasoned musicians whose performances were sensational, when Roulette is on stage his presence is infinite. His genius on lap steel guitar is incalculable and one would hope that recognition and fame would follow. 
But, it’s the blues, baby!

Dorothy L. Hill
note: other sites of Freddie Roulette >>>
FREDDIE ROULETTE, Master of Lap-Steel-Guitar Pt.1
FREDDIE ROULETTE, Master of creative Lap-Steel-Guitar Pt.2
FREDDIE ROULETTE, Exklusive Klänge Pt.3
Worldcopyright © 1998-2007 BluesArtStudio, Blues Life, USA, AUSTRIA