is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Squirrels' Roger BonDurant Has Worked With Some of the Best

Roger BonDurant
"The best advice I ever received was from Jimmy Stokley, lead singer of  The Exiles in the 70s & 80s, he told me ‘it doesn’t matter what you wear onstage as long as someone in the crowd doesn’t have the same thing on."  -- Roger BonDurant

If you’ve been listening to music in Lexington for any length of time, you know the name Roger BonDurant.  His smooth vocal delivery caresses a lyric like nobody's business, and his superb guitar work is simply some of the best the region has to offer.  For all of his many musical accomplishments, Roger is also recognized for having the longest running “house gig,” 26 years (!) at the Chevy Chase Inn (CCI), one of Lexington’s most endearing night spots.  
Stay tuned here for more profiles on members of The Squirrels!

I would also venture to guess there are not many artists whose biography includes playing with both mother and son legendary musicians, Lily May Ledford and JP Pennington.  His past musical credits include three years with National Heritage Award winner Ledford, founder of the original Coon Creek Girls -- and one year with Exile.  Roger was also chosen to play guitar with both Pennington and Les Taylor, former (and now reunited) Exile members, in their individual bands. 

BonDurant played with highly acclaimed Lily May Ledford, from whom Pete Seeger developed his original banjo style.  Experts in traditional banjo lauded Renfro Valley legend Lily May as one of the finest.

 He spent several years performing with popular local band, Homebrew and later performed as a duo with fellow Homebrew alum, Larry Cordle, who is now the leader of national bluegrass group, Lonesome Standard Time.  He has been a first call session guitarist at local recording studios for years with recording credits too numerous to list in one blog.

The Squirrels!

BonDurant considers his role in The Squirrels as a rhythm guitarist.  “I play some lead, but when you have soloists like JP, Steve or JD and Wanda, well, I would rather play rhythm and just listen to them play!  I think I like being in the middle of the sound rather than on the top or bottom.  I sing lead because I know the words to the western swing songs -- everyone in the band sings great, so we just take turns.”

Where does he see himself in 5 or 10 years?
  “At 60 years old, I think I have 10 to 15 more good years playing with The Squirrels, then I'll just sit around the house and play music and write songs.”

What was the first song I ever sang?
  “My first singing gig was when I was 3. We lived next to a gas station and I would stand on the bench in front and sing Davy Crockett for a nickel.  When I was 7, I mowed the yard all summer and my parents bought me a plastic cowboy guitar with a cord clamp on the neck. You could just push the chord button and just flail away…probably where I learned to love rhythm guitar!”

BonDurant is modest about his role as a charter member of the The Squirrels, saying, "I knew the words to swing songs, plus I owned a PA system.”   By watching him perform, it's clear he enjoys the entire play list of the band -- which includes a variety songs, everything from My Baby Thinks He's A Train to Every Breath You Take  -- "as well as the original songs the band has been writing.  Besides that, I like On The Street Where You Live.  Hey, everyone likes a good show tune!”

I asked him the same question I’ve asked the other members of The Squirrels, which four albums he’d choose if he were stranded on a deserted island.  Here are his favorites:

1.  Harry  Nilsson --
  "A little touch of schmilsson in the night."

2. Willie Nelson – Stardust

3.   Merle Haggard --  "As many as I could carry."

4.  Tommy Emmanuel and Frank Vignola, Just Between Frets -- "no rock and roll though."


BonDurant gives credit to a fellow classmate from childhood as his first inspiration. “Tom Bowermaster, in the 7th grade.  He brought his electric guitar to the class Christmas party and all the girls flocked around him. I was hooked!” 

Also among those who made a musical impression upon him were “James Taylor, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Freddy Powers and from everyone I played in a band with, I learned something from all of them,” he said.

He’s quick to credit a fellow band member, though, adding, “JP Pennington has to be Number 1, though.  I've been watching him since 1970. I always loved his style. He has taught me a lot.”

Jimmy Stokley

Roger says the best advice he ever received, however, came from Jimmy Stokley, lead singer of 
The Exiles in the 70s & 80s, “he told me ‘it doesn’t matter what you wear onstage as long as someone in the crowd doesn’t have the same thing on.’”

? Does Roger BonDurant have a secret talent?  "I don't think I have any talent that hasn't been exposed. I'm not as talented at golf as I think I am, but everybody who has played with me knows that!!"

As Squirrels bassist Bob Goff advised in an earlier post, The Squirrels "lite" will play CCI on March 19th, but you can catch Roger BonDurant at CCI this Friday, and again on Saturday, in a band he calls "The Sons of the Fridgidares (don’t ask) – this is a rock and roll cover band that plays at the CCI once a month.  Band members are Roger BonDurant, lead guitar vocal; Rex Hart, drums; Bob Goff, bass; Ron Crowder, harp vocal; Windell Zopie, keyboard; and Jim Gleason lead guitar.  Kick off is at 9:30!"

I'll be back soon with more of the goods on the rest of the members of The Squirrels, but in the meantime, feel free to take a scroll through KimmyVille and see what I've come up with so far.  This hillbilly jazz band that plays CCI every now and again is simply a joy to see and hear.  I hope you will check them out!

No comments: