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  • By Alan Richard


Updated: May 24, 2022

Something different was afoot one night in 1980 when Roy Roberts took the stage. The veteran R&B singer had toured for years on his own and played guitar for Solomon Burke, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding and other greats, but Roberts suddenly was facingtough times.

Disco had quickly become king, and 1960s Southern soul seemed suddenly passe’.

“I was playing about 300 nightclubs a year back then,” Roberts said. “Then, everybody within a month called and cancelled every gig.”

On that particular night, before an all-white audience in Burlington, North Carolina, the gifted, versatile musician and his all-Black band from nearby Greensboro had come to play country music.

For his first set, Roberts played only country songs. Then he switched to soul and funk for the second part of the show. People in the audience wanted him to cover by The Commodores and The Ohio Players. “Y’all know how to play something funky?” someone would ask.

“Man, we tore that club up,” said Roberts, now 80, in a series of conversations from his home in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Those people had one of the best times they could have ever had.”

Roy Roberts, at right, with Arthur 'Guitar Boogie' Smith

In trying his hand at country, Roberts was carrying on a tradition he hadn’t thought much about — until he spoke to his friend Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith in Charlotte.

A former textile-mill worker, Smith was a brilliant musician who helped set the stage for rock ‘n roll with his influential 1945 single Guitar Boogie.

Smith’s 1955 tune Feudin’ Banjos was later revived by Flatt & Scruggs as the bluegrass classic, Dueling Banjos.

A well-known radio show host at the time and record producer, Smith convinced Roberts to try his gifted hands at writing and recording some country songs, then taking them on the road.

“I said, ‘Man, you gotta be crazy,’” Roberts said. “And he laughed. He said, ‘I wouldn’t tell anybody to do that. You’re the type of guy, you could get along with the devil.’”

More than 40 years later, Roberts has finally put those songs out into the world, releasing them on an album called When Country Was Country: From Livingston to Nashville.

It’s an album of mostly love- and story-songs, crafted with an early 1980s-country sheen. Classic melodies that blend R&B and country sound with harder edges of steel guitar.

Roberts came up with some songs and took them to Smith’s studio (where James Brown also reputedly made Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag), where he recorded them with some crack studio musicians, including the blind pianist Don Ames and regular members of Roberts’ band.

Intended for an album to be called Country Star, the recordings never saw the light of day, except on a couple of 45s. Albums were pressed, but in such a short supply that collectors sometimes ask $500 for a rare copy.

“I’ve always loved country music,” Roberts said. “When I approach the songs, to me it’s just like natural singing—an old blues song. Old country music and blues are so much alike. To me, both of those are similar because the blues tells a story. Country music tells a story.”

Smith’s radio show was on 52 stations at the time, and he offered to give Roberts some airplay so he could get back on out on the road. “He said, ‘I’m gonna jump start you and get you going,” Roberts said.

“After that, my name went like wildfire.” He started booking gigs three months in advance.

Country star

At the time, Roberts was hoping to join the precious few high-profile Black artists singing mainstream country music, including the great Charley Pride, Big Al Downing and Stoney Edwards. Later, Roberts would become the bandleader for McClinton, who called himself as the Chocolate Cowboy.

But when his visits to record labels in Nashville didn’t lead anywhere and his first single couldn’t get traction on country radio, Roberts just kept touring, singing and selling the singles at his show to make a living.

His foray into country music lasted nearly a decade. Then he transitioned to the blues, playing electric guitar and crooning on his own self-produced albums and appearing at clubs and festivals in Europe and stateside, too.

“Country music and blues to me are about the same,” Roberts said. “It’s all a Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” he said, quoting the 1975 smash by B.J. Thomas, written by Larry Butler and Chips Moman and recorded at Moman’s American Sound Studios in Memphis.

Roberts decided to finally release the country songs after he got stuck at home during the pandemic.

He was “watching on TV about how now a bunch of young Blacks are getting into country music — and it’s not country music anymore. It made me say, ‘I’m gonna take ‘em back to when country was country.’”

On the 1980 single Country Star, intended to be the album’s title cut, Roberts sings his own story to a simple, catchy melody. The song blends smooth 1980s country-pop with a sincerity and hard-country edge that hearkens back to Hank Williams:

I was born in a town in Tennesseee

I was picking before I was 3

I used to pick my mama’s broom, while she ran me ‘cross the room

She couldn’t see what I wanted to be

I wanted to be a country star, pickin’ my guitar near and far

I wanted to sing me a country song, the country field is where I belong…

Now my uncle, he ran me from his house

He chased me, like chasin’ a mouse

Took my guitar off the floor and threw it out the door

He said, ‘That noise and you can’t stay here anymore’

He told me I would never play

I didn’t believe a thing he would say

I kept pickin’ my guitar in the backseat of my car

All I wanted was to be a country star…

On Goodbye Walls, Roberts tells a lover he’s had it with her in a song that’s his answer to Willie Nelson’s Hello Walls, a major hit in 1961 for Faron Young: “I’m gonna throw up my hands and say ‘goodbye walls,’” Roberts sings.

Strange looks

Before he recorded his country songs, Roberts decided to check out the country-western nightclub scene further. After all, touring was mostly how he earned his living.

“A friend of mine called me up one night and said, “Man, next weekend Ernest Tubb is gonna be appearing at this country-and-western club in Madison, North Carolina.’” The place could hold 500 or 600 people.

Roy Roberts with Ernest Tubb

“We get up to the door, and my buddy, he gets scared,” Roberts said. “I ain’t never been scared to go anywhere. I grew up around white people on my grandfather’s farm.”

“When we stepped through the door man, all eyes was on us,” he said. “I thought, ‘These people are going to think two things: Number one, we’re crazy as hell for being up in here. Or number two, we’re the ABC officers” there to enforce the state’s liquor laws.

Either way, they were mighty conspicuous. Then Roberts recognized the country band playing on stage. “I knew about three of the guys, and they knew me real well,” Roberts said.

During a break, the guys in the band asked Roberts if he’d like to sing a couple of songs. Roberts asked if they knew how to play an Elvis Presley classic and Don Gibson’s I Can’t Stop Loving You, which Ray Charles made perfect on his 1962 single.

“I did my imitation of Elvis doing Can’t Help Falling in Love and man, those people went wild up in there,” Roberts said. “Then Ernest Tubb was coming on, and they brought Ernest on and we hung around … and sure enough I got to meet him, take pictures with him. Ernest was a real nice, down-to-earth guy.”

Country beginnings

Born in Livingston, Tennessee, Roberts moved as a young child to a place in the country about six miles from Park City, Kentucky.

His maternal grandfather bought about 100 acres near the prehistoric Mammoth Cave and the modern-day national park, halfway between Nashville and Louisville.

Roberts came from a line of musicians on his father’s side. Although he never saw them, Roberts learned his paternal grandfather and his great uncles had played flat-top guitar, fiddles and banjos.

“I got a picture somewhere of them sitting on an old porch, just a pickin’ and a grinnin’,” he said with a laugh.

His grandfather built a service station with a little restaurant on one side, a small grocery on the other and a few tourist cottages out back. “He was the first one to have a TV in our town,” Roberts recalled.

People from the community would gather at the café’ to watch the only tube in town. “On Friday and Saturday nights… we’d all be jammed in there, Black and white. It was like going to the movies,” Roberts said. “Elvis Presley and Fats Domino and all of those guys would be on TV, and I just loved it to death.”

“During the daytime, if you had the radio on, you heard country music,” he said.

“We’d listen at night at John R. and those guys out of Nashville, Tennessee,” on radio station WLAC, the first R&B powerhouse radio station. “I’d hear songs that I’d like and I’d tell my granddad and he’d order the records for me.”

Those records, by Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf and others, would be sent from Randy’s Record Mart in downtown Nashville. Roberts would play them on the family’s Victrola.

“My mom, she played piano. She played the old boogie-woogie stuff and gospel.” His mother had learned to play from an uncle, and she taught a reluctant Roberts to play when he was 12. “I thought that was something little girls was supposed to be playing on. But after I seen Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis, (he realized) it ain’t for girls only after all.

“Then I saw Elvis and Chuck Berry playing the guitar,” he said. “I really wanted to learn how to play a guitar.”

Roberts got his first Sears Silvertone and “started trying to teach myself how to play a little bit, and I would take the sounds from the piano and tune my little guitar,” he said. “I had a little friend that lived across the field from us. He could play just a little bit. I’d pick up what I could pick up from him.”

The Woolworth store in downtown Greensboro, N.C., circa 1960, where students held sit-ins to protest inequality.

Roberts was 18 when he moved to Greensboro and stayed with his uncle, around the same time college students began sit-in protests at the Woolworth downtown.

Roberts' own real-life events would later serve as the inspiration for the song, Country Star. “Every song that I write has got a story behind it,” he said.

His uncle helped him land a job as dishwasher at the S&W Cafeteria, but Roberts soon found himself surrounded by way too many dirty plates, pots and pans. “It was just impossible for me to keep it up,” he said. “I just walked on out the back door.”

Next, his uncle found him work at a chicken processing plant, where his arduous task was to dredge the chickens out of cauldrons of ice water. It was miserable. “I went out the back door,” Roberts said.

His uncle was steamed — cruelly so — and kicked him out of the house. “It was the dead of winter, high snow everywhere around here,” he said. “I’m a dumb country boy. I slept in an old, abandoned truck that night and like to froze to death.”

The next day, Roberts found himself walking down Market Street, cold, hungry and alone. “I know I was looking bad, man.” That’s when a young man approached him, saying he’d never seen anyone look so down. “I told that boy what happened to me. He said, ‘Come on and go with me.’”

They walked a few blocks to the young man’s house, where he lived with his aunt, a retired schoolteacher. “Lord, child you come on in here,” she told him. “You’re going to stay here with us.”

And he did — until spring came and he could find another job. “They took me in. That was God working in my favor,” Roberts said. “I didn’t know hardly nobody here in town.”

Later, Roberts played Country Star for his uncle. “I made sure he heard it.”

The Thunderbirds with Roy Roberts, at right

Playing with legends

Roberts had made friends with several teenage neighbors in Greensboro. “I had never been in a nightclub,” he recalled. “One of the boys says, ‘Hey man, let’s go in the El Rocco Club.’”

The El Rocco was a regular stop for major touring R&B acts of the day.

“Jerry Butler was appearing there. The club was jam-packed, man. Everybody was having a ball up in there,” said Roberts, recalling the Carlotta Supper Club was another hot destination. “Jerry was coming off the stage and women was running all over him.”

The lesson wasn’t lost on Roberts. “I learned how to play real quick,” he said.

In 1962, a few months after seeing Butler’s show, Roberts and two other fellows started playing as the Tommy Whiteside Band at the Ponderosa and other spots around town. Then they formed a band called The Thunderbirds.

Guitar Kimber and the Untouchables, with Roberts second from right

“You couldn’t tell us nothin’,” Roberts said.

“One night this lady came in, Frances Alston. They called her Frankie. When we took a break, she called me over to her table,” he recalled. “Her stage name was Little Frankie—she said you’re too good to be in this band.”

She convinced Roberts to join her in Guitar Kimber and the Untouchables in 1963. “She was one of the singers in the band,” he said. The group had a booking agent and toured the East Coast, playing what some Carolinians call beach music. “I still call it soul music,” Roberts said.

He played with the group for seven or eight months, then got a letter in the mail. It was his draft notice. He was likely to be sent straight to Vietnam. “I’m thinking, I do not want to go to some foreign country fighting and killing people and might get killed myself,” he said. “I didn’t want no part of it.”

Ms. Alston offered to marry him so his service could be deferred, and Roberts took her up on the offer. “The woman could sing. She had the voice of Aretha Franklin or Patti LaBelle or Chaka Khan,” Roberts said.

Solomon Burke, at right, with singer Bobby Marchan (in drag) at Prout's Alhambra Club in New Orleans.

In 1963, the great Solomon Burke came to the El Rocco.

Some of Roberts’ friends, The Continentals from nearby Reidsville, North Carolina, were supposed to be Burke’s backing band that night.

Roberts dropped by, and a bass player struggling with some of the licks asked Roberts if he knew Burke’s songs.

“I said, ‘Yeah I know how to play every song Solomon ever recorded, man.’”

Roberts ended up playing bass in the show. “Solomon asked me, ‘What are you doing tonight?’ He wanted me to leave that night and go on the road with him.”

Roberts’ mother was crazy about Solomon Burke, so she approved when he hit the highway, joining about nine guys in the band, including a horn section. “I was out there with him for almost a year,” Roberts said.

Dayton days

At the time, Little Stevie Wonder had just released his first hit, Fingertips. “He was like 12 years old. They had him opening for shows for Solomon,” Roberts said. He and the guys backed Stevie for the show at the Wamplers' Arena in Dayton.

The stop in Dayton held special significance for Roberts.

“I didn’t really know my dad,” he said, but “I knew he lived in Dayton ‘cause one of my aunts had told me.” His father owned a tire company that recapped and supplied tires for the city government.

He asked Burke for a couple of days off to look for his father. “Solomon said, ‘Yeah man.’ He gave me the traveling money,” Roberts said.

His father was a big fellow, so he figured most people in the Black neighborhood would know him. He knocked on a lady’s door. “She said, ‘Lord, child, go up here to the corner and take a left and go up 5th street.”

Roberts soon found his father’s tire shop, where he met one of his uncles for the first time. Then his father showed up.

“I said, ‘It’s a damn shame. You’re my dad and you don’t even know who your own son.”

“Artie?” his father asked, using Roberts’ given name.

“That’s right,” Roberts said.

“I’ll be damned,” his father replied.

Roberts told him he’d be backing Solomon Burke in town that night. “He said, I’m gonna come out tonight and check y’all out. Then he wanted me to stay there in Dayton with him.”

After two more weeks on the road with Burke, he left the group and went back to Dayton and worked in his father’s tire shop. His father was impressed. “If I watch somebody do anything, then I can do it, too,” Roberts boasted.

“He said. ‘I’ll be damned.”

In Dayton, Roberts put together a band. Then he met Robert Ward and the Untouchables, some of whom would eventually become The Ohio Players, and Ward asked Roberts to join the band.

His father, a former U.S. Marine and Golden Glove boxer, didn’t approve. “He said, ‘Boy, as long as you pick that damn guitar, you ain’t gonna amount to anything,’” Roberts recalled. “He hurt my feelings so bad.”

“I said, ‘I’m gonna show him.’ So I left Dayton, came on back to North Carolina.”

Back in Carolina

Returning to Greensboro, Roberts put a band together called the Roy Roberts Experience and found a manager. For a short time, he joined the band of the young singer named Otis Redding.

Roberts estimates he played with Redding for two or three months at shows in Virginia and North Carolina. Groups like his “came to Greensboro because of the show clubs that we had here that was so hot,” Roberts said.

“I didn’t think he was going to ever be anything, He was just this big old country boy” who “only had that one record,” Roberts said, speaking of Redding’s first major hit, 1962’s These Arms of Mine. Redding would sing with “them big arms stretched across the stage.”

Artists also frequented Greensboro to visit radio station WEAL, an influential R&B outlet for that part of the South. “I didn’t run into Otis for a while, and all of a sudden his music blowed up man, and this dude was like a super star,” Roberts said, “highwater pants on and everything.”

Then of course, in 1967, Redding was killed along with six members of his band The Bar-Kays and their pilot.

The tragedy prompted Roberts to make his first recording, a tribute entitled The Legend of Otis Redding.

“A friend of mine owned a record store in town, Curt’s Record and Gift Shop. He said, ‘You ought to write a tribute to him. We put it out, and it’s real funny — the flip side, ‘Got to Have Your Love,’ I wrote it as a filler. Never thought it would have ever been anything. Do you know that song is still today a hit in England?”

Later, fans and record collectors in Europe would locate Roberts and in 2007 and invited him to perform the song in Wales, at a show that also featured Dee Sharp, Morris Chestnut and Prince Phillip Mitchell (who wrote Mel & Tim’s Starting All Over Again). The veteran performers were joined by younger R&B singer Meli’sa Morgan.

“All of us had an old song that they loved,” Roberts said. “Man, those people went crazy over that old stuff. They paid me big money and put me up for a week. Young people came up to me (and said), ‘Mr. Roberts I’m so glad to meet you.’”

Moments like that thrill Roberts. “It makes me feel happy, man, because I did something to touch other people. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Knock on wood

After releasing his tribute to Otis Redding, Roberts met soul singer Eddie Floyd, who’d just recorded his first single, Will You Wait for Me? “It was getting a lot of play in Greensboro,” Roberts said.

This was not long before his 1966 classic Knock on Wood for Stax Records in Memphis. “He wanted me to go out and work with him,” Roberts said.

The gig led to a lifelong friendship. “During that time, I’d go down to Memphis and hang out with Eddie Floyd and William Bell,” he said. “I learned the business and I was determined I wasn’t going to let nobody else take control of my music and myself as an artist.”

He even wrote some songs with Floyd that never made the light of day. “I didn’t do anything with them. I pulled all that stuff because Arthur Smith got me into doing the country sound.”

Roberts recorded another single, I’m Number One: I Want Your Crown, Mr. Brown,

as a rivalry song for James Brown. Roberts had gotten to know the legend on the club circuit but didn’t want to play in Brown’s band after seeing some of his friends slighted. “We can be friends in the street, but I can’t play with you,” he told Brown.

In fact, Roberts fact made several strong R&B singles that never hit the charts but have become popular among record collectors and featured on rare soul compilation albums.

One of the best was You Ain’t Miss It. Boasting one of the most killer guitar-and-bass grooves I’ve ever heard, the track was included on the Carolina Funk album compiled by researcher and radio host Jason Perlmutter. Roberts said he recorded it in “a little old studio here in Greensboro in a garage.”

The idea for the song came to Roberts while sitting in a restaurant with his manager at the time. A woman walked in and acted superior. “She ain’t ‘Miss it,’” he said to himself.

He also released I Know What to Do to Satisfy You, a horn-driven, beach music soul song on Tina Records. Roberts said his manager at the time did him wrong. “That guy, he beat me out of a bunch of money,” Roberts said.

After touring with Floyd for a while, Roberts started his own House of Ro-Ton record label in 1970s. “And so, from 1970 until today, I’ve been on my own, man,” he said. “Every time I sell one record, that’s my money.”

Some of his singles were released under his band’s name, The Roy Roberts Experience. “That was back in the early 70s,” he said. “We cut a bunch of stuff back then. Jimi Hendrix had got the Jim Hendrix Experience, so why can’t Roy Roberts have the Roy Roberts Experience?” he said.

A versatile instrumentalist, Roberts played the Hammond B-3 organ on a recording by a band called The Electric Express, made in Greensboro. It’s the Real Thing, Pt. I, an instrumental by a group called The Electric Express out of Greensboro, was picked up and distributed by Atlantic Records, hitting No. 15 on the Billboard R&B chart in August 1971. Roberts played the Hammond B3 organ on the track.

“It was funky, man,” Roberts said.

Fortunately, Roberts was able to dodge the killers that drove so many of his peers into poor health, early deaths, or getting involved in crime: booze, pills and heroin.

Roberts learned to play everything in the band, “because if I run into a guy that can halfway play, I can teach him to play (better). I’ve taught a lot of musicians how to play over the years.”

He never took a formal voice lesson, however. “Come natural, I reckon,” he said.

Country cool

In the 1980s, Roberts served as the bandleader for O.B. McClinton, one of the few prominent Black male country singers of the era.

McClinton also had R&B roots, of course. The Mississippi native wrote some of soul man James Carr's best songs, then became a house songwriter for Stax Records in Memphis. He finally recorded several country hits, including his convincing country version of Wilson Pickett's classic Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You that made the top 40 in 1972.

In the 1980s, Roberts led the band for O.B. McClinton, one of the few prominent Black country singers of the era, joining the great Charley Pride, Big Al Downing and Stoney Edwards.

“I went down to Nashville, and me and him hung out a little bit, and I started booking some gigs in North Carolina. My band, we backed him and everything,” Roberts said. “He introduced me around Nashville.”

They had a good run in the nightclubs. Then something changed. “Down east, down below Raleigh that night, we were playing in a big club, and he came out and it was just like he was sick or something,” Roberts recalled. “John Anderson was on that show, too,” and was too drunk to stand up on stage.

McClinton wasn’t quite himself that night. He decided to head back to Nashville that night and see his doctor. He could only get as far as an emergency room in Asheville, North Carolina, which patched him up for the trip home.

“’Roy, it’s all over for the Chocolate Cowboy,’” McClinton told Roberts over the phone. He had about a year to live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“I’m telling you I hated that, because he was a real nice guy,” Roberts said.

In all, Roberts’ country years lasted from around 1980 to 1989, until McClinton got sick and left this world. “On New Year’s Eve of 1989, I just turned to the band and I said, ‘Guys this is it. It’s time to take a break.’ I had never taken a break in the music business.”

“I came back to Greensboro and locked all my stuff up,” he said.

While taking some time off, in 1989 a DJ friend called to tell Roberts of a recording studio for sale in Danville, Virginia. “He said an old man had a recording studio that he wanted to sell,” Roberts said. “I checked it out and I liked the set up. I stayed over there for about three years.”

That DJ, Tom Wilson, was the studio engineer and stuck around as Roberts made some albums of his own and produced gospel and country records for others.

About three years into his studio work in Virginia, Roberts heard a Robert Cray song on the radio, possibly from Cray’s successful foray onto the pop and rock charts in the late 1980s with his classic album, Smoking Gun. “I said, ‘This cat’s out here making money on the road. So, I wrote me a couple of blues songs.”

He called in Wilson to engineer and cut a couple of blues songs. Then he contacted Ed Crawley, a friend in Nashville, who helped him get started on the blues circuit and with radio stations playing that style of music. “He gave me the little jump start on getting into the blues thing,” he said. “The rest is history.”

Blues on the road

Until the pandemic, Roberts spent years releasing his own blues albums and touring in Europe. The blues records, including 1998’s Deeper Shade of Blue, brought out some of Robert’s best performances as a singer, gritty and smooth in the same verse.

His first trip overseas was in the early 1990s after one of his blues albums took hold with European audiences. He took his road manager with him and “traveled just about every country in Europe on tour — clubs and festivals.”

Roy Roberts, at right, with Robert Cray

The promoter invited him back, but paying only $500 a gig, Roberts looked for other options. “I made more money selling my CDs than I was getting paid” for the gigs, Roberts said.

Another agent had seen Roberts play in Europe and called him about booking shows, and that deal worked out better. “So from ‘93 on up until — I’d have been in Europe last year for about four months touring … I’ve been going every year, or every other year,” Roberts said.

“It’s so different over there. They love the American music. It’s like the difference between day and night,” he said. “I’ve even seen little old kids be like 12 and 13 years old play guitars like George Benson or somebody.”

“They study the American music — like the boy who came (back) over with me. That boy is awesome on guitar and can play anything,” said Roberts, speaking of Danish musician Mark Van Mourik, who came to stay in Greensboro for a time and made two albums with Roberts producing.

Roberts is nothing but not prolific. These days, he’s also promoting a recent album of re-recordings of his music from across his career, Covering the Years.

Roberts has also backed his friend, Stax Records great William Bell, on a tour of Japan. Bell is the “nicest entertainer I’ve ever worked for,” Roberts said.

Roberts also produced soul albums for Floyd Miles (who led O.V. Wright’s band), Chick Willis (who played with Elmore James), and Barbara Carr, and he produced Eddie Floyd’s 2002 album, To the Bone. (Check out the killer title cut.)

Roberts even started work on a book with Boston-based blues writer Scott M. Bock, but the author died last year not long after a cancer diagnosis.

Back to country

All the songs for Roberts’ 2021 country album were from those sessions with Arthur Smith in Charlotte from 42 years ago, except for two newer cuts.

Harold Chilton had played in Roberts’ band over the years and written a lovely song for his wife, Can’t Find My Angel. Roberts decided to record it as a tribute, since Chilton’s wife passed away.

“If I can’t find my angel, I’ll never find myself,” Roberts sings in a softer, older voice, with steel guitar in the background. “Baby, I miss you so much.

“When I recorded it and let him hear it, he started crying and everything,” Roberts said. The country record’s other new song is a Roberts original, Lonely for You Tonight.

Roberts’ older country cuts from the 1980s are more lively: Written with Eddie Floyd, Don’t Come Running Back has a bright melody, with background harmony singers, steel guitar and Don Ames’s impressive piano playing.

“When it’s all over and he’s done with you, don’t you come running back, ‘cause I won’t want you,” Roberts sings.

Also written by Roberts and Floyd, Second Helpings is a bit of hard country that’d work as an R&B song, too. “I wanted a double portion of your love, second helpings of your kisses,” Roberts sings. “No matter how much you bring me, I’ll ask for second helpings one more time.”

Roberts shows his soul and Carolina “beach music” chops on May I Have This Dance, with a light salsa rhythm and polite lyric that recalls some of The Drifters’ R&B classics.

“Pardon me Miss, may I have this dance with you?” he sings, as a lovely, intricate steel guitar solo follows.

Another of my favorites is Roberts’ talking-in-your sleep song, You Keep Old Joe. Now, if it ain’t country, nothing is.

“I heard you whisper his name soft and low. I heard you say I love you Joe,” he sings. “We can’t go on living this way, so you take old Joe as of today… You take old Joe, that’s all I’ve got to say.”

Editor's note: Special thanks to Roy Roberts' publicist and promotions/social media manager Cassie J. Fox for her help and support on this story. A longtime radio personality, Fox is the creator and host of live and syndicated show, Soul of the Blues with Cassie J. Fox, on radio stations and online worldwide.

More about Roy Roberts: All of Roberts' albums are available on CD and for download, and you can hear samples of many songs, all on his website.

Roy Roberts singles discography:

The Legend of Otis Redding, 1968

I’m Number One (I Want Your Crown Mr. Brown), Boro Records

I Know What to Do to Satisfy You, 1969, Tina

So Much in Love 1975, Sugar

Country Star, 1980, House of Ro-ton

Don’t Come Running Back/Second Helping, 1981, House of Ro-ton

Daisy Mae and What Should I Do, E.C. International, 1990

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May 24, 2022

Roy Roberts has been a featured storyteller in the book, Bars, Blues, and Booze; Stories from th

e Drinkhouse, written by Emily D. Edwards and published by University of Mississippi Press. Available online, everywhere.


Doug Klesch
Doug Klesch
May 23, 2022

Great retrospective on a great man! Your readers may also like to know that Roy is featured in the documentary film (in progress) "Gate City Soul". You can watch the first three parts of the film for free here:

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