Roy Gaines is the greatest living blues guitarist that you probably don’t know anything about. Not only is Mr. Gaines a sizzling blues guitarist, he also possesses one of the most magnificent blues voices around. The real tragedy is that until very recently this supremely talented musician was almost forgotten by blues fans in the U.S.
Born in Houston in 1937, Roy started playing the guitar as a teenager and soon developed a reputation as an instrumental prodigy. By fourteen, he was actually being invited on stage to play with the legendary T-Bone Walker during the latter’s live gigs in Houston and became known as T-Bone Jr. By his early 20s, Roy was playing and recording with Roy Milton’s band in LA but returned to Houston to join the Duke / Peacock blues label as a full time session guitarist on such seminal blues recordings as Bobby Bland’s It’s My Life Baby and Junior Parker’s Driving Me Mad. He was also the featured guitarist on a whole bunch of singles recorded by Big Mama Thorton for the same label.
After going on the road with Joe Turner, Roy joined forces with the blues great, Chuck Willis. Roy stayed with Willis until the later passed away in the late 50’s. He then moved to NYC and recorded with Jimmy Rushing, as well as doing a jazz album with Coleman Hawkins on Prestige. Roy returned to LA and during the 60s became one of the city’s leading session guitarists, playing with the Crusaders, Earl Grant, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder as well as continuing his pure blues work with the likes of Bobby Bland, Albert King and Lightning Hopkins for the Jewel label.
photo: from booklet 'I Got The T-Bone Walker Blues'