Roger Williams was born to traveling musicians Gerry Lee and Curley Williams, who were on the road performing with Ray Bradley and His Tennessee Champions (Gerry on upright bass and vocals, and Curley on Dobro and vocals) in northern Maine. Gerry realized that being on the road constantly wouldn’t allow her the time to be the mom she wanted to be so she returned to her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Roger spent his formative years. She passed her passion on to Roger and from an early age he learned to sing the harmony parts to Gerry’s vast repertoire of old country songs.
In his early teens Roger developed an interest playing the Dobro and his father gave him some pointers to get him started. Within a year Roger was sitting in with The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover at the world-famous Hillbilly Ranch in Boston, Mass. Since then he has gone on to perform and record with many well-respected bluegrass and folk acts on the national and international circuit. Career highlights include twelve overseas tours with various artists and teaching workshops. Roger currently performs with Amy Gallatin & Stillwaters, which has a steady presence in Europe, UK, and Canada, as well as the eastern seaboard of the US.
“During one our first meetings to discuss the song selection for the CD, I casually mentioned to Ray that one of my favorite songs was an obscure song, Summer Fly, by an American songwriter Cheryl Wheeler. The version I am familiar with is by an Irish powerhouse vocalist, Maura O’Connell, which I am really drawn to by its use of mandolin and dobro. Ray knew the song well and had performed it with a number of vocalists. I was starting to understand Ray’s vast experience. So much for obscure songs! Ray was very enthusiastic and although I wasn’t confident that I could ‘pull it off’, I agreed to give it a try. The tempo is strong and the vocal phrasing requires the lung power of a Right Whale.
Then Ray told me a story about his friend Roger Williams and the assistance that his generosity played in helping Ray get started. As a young man, Roger invited Ray to come and live with his family to help him get a ‘start’ into the US market. Well, they’ve been good friends ever since and have shared many hours playing together.
Ray said that Roger would be ‘the one’ to play the dobro track to the song Summer Fly and it became obvious to me that to be given the good fortune of having two remarkable musicians – masters in the two instruments that I wanted to work with – was too good to pass up. It is amazing to hear these two friends, who obviously enjoy playing with each other, really bring this song to life. It would be such a gas to play this song ‘live’ and watch Roger and Ray play together again. Then again, we’d need to either clone Ray two more times or find another fiddle and guitar player!” – Janet Crawford
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