I discovered Rollo at one of my favourite nights Gaz’s Rockin Blues at The St Moritz Club on Wardour Street. Rollo is a natural frontman and knows how to keep his audience captivated. His voice echoes smoky vintage blues and his harmonica playing is simply breath taking. He looks like he could have just stepped out of a movie set. His style is very bohemian and totally unique. This is a man who knows how to turn heads. It was great to catch up with him at The Boogaloo in Highgate.
Rollo and his band started in The Midlands in 1998 it all began in the student town of De Montfort in Leicestershire. A perfect place for a band to play as students are their prodominite audience. Rollo tells me “When I was a teenager I met this American blues musician from Louisiana called Julius Dan Pleasaince Jnr who was a harmonica and blues singer. I literally discovered him busking on the street and started going to his gigs. He was steeped in it you know the blues and the culture and the tradition. He really took time to explain the songs he played. He would explain the cultural and social significance so you can imagine as a fifteen year old this was quite a jaw dropping thing. He was a huge influence. He would then take me to his place and explain who he listened too and play me records and he was just the biggest influence for me.”
We both share a love for Honey Boy Edwards who I luckily got to see at The 100 Club when I was seventeen. Rollo got to see Honey in Leicester and was blown away too. Honey was pure old school delta blues. He used a proper bottle neck for his slide guitar. I kind of imagined in my head both Julius and Honey jamming together. It’s lovely to hear the passion Rollo has for Julius and how he was not just a huge influence but his music mentor too.
Rollo then went on to say “So really from that I started a band as Julius went back to America. I started that straight away which lasted for five years and then went to Manchester to join another band and then flew to Spain where he gigged for two years. He returned back to England and created his current band which quickly led them to gigging in both Leicester and London over a fifteen year period. Rollo eventually moved into the big smoke and got together with other musicians and the rest is history! Rollo has always played blues and continues to stick by his guns. “Although its not very mainstream and it has always been quite underground and not really that profitable the music has an integrity. It talks about life, the human condition, workers, peoples music. It was a music that was born out of slavery. I’m of this music I’m not from it. I am a blues musician. I am a blues player. A Blues man is long in the past. What I’m doing is representing the music.”
Rollo is also an enthusiastic song writer and co writes with his band. They are continuously gigging and are planning to record this year. They’ve been saving up the pennies to do so. They as a band want to spread out more and we both agreed that the central London venue scene has been heavily effected what with the re-gentrification of London and the closure of some historical and famous music establishments. They will be performing this summer at Leicester’s King City Blues Festival which is the 18/19 August. So Rollo good luck with your album and thank you for being a charming man to interview. You are up there on the coolest dudes list!
Words Celine Hispiche
Photography Jeff Moh