By Robert Horn
|Photo by Todd Harrison|
|Photo by Blues Boss|
RC: My family was not really musical, but probably what I think got me into it was my brother started playing guitar. He’s four and a half years older than me… and so that is about the time when I started listening to rock and roll radio. It was in the mid 1960’s. My parents were into the big band sound which I didn’t really appreciate so much then. I think I was around nine years old I got a guitar… a $14 dollar acoustic guitar. I primarily taught myself by listening to the radio and was shown a few things. It was a fairly hard guitar to play so I took my time at it. By the time I was around 13 or 14 I got my first electric guitar and that really started to open things up. I started playing with bands in high school playing for after school parties and junior high dances.
RH: You probably listened to all the rock bands of the time, right?
RC: Yeah, I was certainly listening to all that was on the radio at the time and that’s when the British Invasion was going on, and then the American equivalent: The Byrds, The Beachboys, and I liked the Yardbirds a lot. Then later on when things started to change a little more with Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, and a little later on with Fleetwood Mack, Van Morrison, and all the usual suspects.
RH: You have a variety of musical interests, not just blues rock, right?
RH: What time period was that?
RH: So you were able to play music professionally most of that time?
RC: Yeah, I actually haven’t had a real full time job since I was about 21 years old.
RH: How did you do that?
RH: Were you on the road a lot in the 90’s.
RC: Yeah, a lot of flying.
RH: I can see the evolution toward blues.
RC: Yeah, in the 80s, I went back and looked at the early blues. I was kind of interested in mastering, or at least handling, jazz, so that was a big influence. You learn how people think, when you sit down and learn their souls, and what they are doing and why they are doing it. Later on I started realizing how really cool guys like Chuck Berry, T-Bone Walker, Freddy King, guys who were more simply players than the English guys that I gravitated to when I was younger. I learned why it was they had such influence.
RH: I first heard you over ten years ago at a Washington Blues Society meeting, and you were there as Rod Cook and Toast. How did that band come about?
RH: I was recently talking to Blues Boss, and he said two things: 1) He thinks you are the best guitar player in the region, and 2) Vicci would say that she is a better musician because of you. Rod interrupted me and asked of the Blues Boss: “What does he know?” He then joked about himself for a while, and told me Blues Boss suggested the idea of one of “Snake Oil”. Rod told about how he likes working with Snake Oil bandmates Mark Riley and Rob Moitoza.
|Photo by Blues Boss|
RH: What is next? Is there a new album in the works?
RC: I am thinking of doing a solo acoustic thing. I have been doing a lot of that lately. I have fragments of things written, and I have thought of doing an instrumental album.
RH: Your singing is ok too. Actually I think it is a lot better than “ok.”
RC: Nice of you to say that but I consider myself a guitar player who sings as opposed to a singer/guitar player. I have been writing some instrumentals but have had a lyric block lately. I have a few songs I have written that I am proud of and think are good songs.
RH: Do some songs come when you have decided you wanted to get one written or when a life experience hit you?
RC: Yeah, that’s more the way it has worked with me. Someone like Paul Simon may set aside a certain amount of time every day to work on lyrics for music.
RH: Two songs you do one after the other a lot are “I Ain’t The Fool I Used to Be” which sounds hurt and bitter, and it is followed by “I Want to Be In Love Tonight” which sounds like you are ready to try again. Where did those come from?
RC: “I Ain’t The Fool” was kind of a fictional song because I wanted to write that type of hurt blues song, and “I Want To Be In Love Tonight” was about a crush I had. I feel good about both of those songs, they aren’t trite.
|Photo by Blues Boss|
Who knows? We may see Rod more on the national stage where he belongs, even if he acts bashful when I told him that. We talked about his Best of the Blues Awards from the Washington Blues Society, too. Rod was nominated 24 times for a BB Award before receiving honors in the Best Acoustic Guitar category in 2004 and 2006, and that same year, he received the Best Electric guitar award. I’m guessing that Rod may have been overly modest about his count of nominations, too.
There are some nights when Rod plays acoustic, or electric, or slide (electric or acoustic) and you wonder if anyone can be better than that. He is a treasure to have in this region, and just maybe one of the best kept musical secrets of the great state of Washington.