Photo by Chad Edwards
If Robert Randolph was sent to teach us how to march, sacred steel counterpart Roosevelt Collier came to show us how to boogie.
Soft-spoken in voice and humble by nature, Roosevelt lets his unconventional lap steel guitar do the talking; and when he hits the stage, he’s got plenty of soul-shaking things to say.
Raised in the Sacred Steel tradition of the House of God Church in Miami, Florida, Roosevelt earned his touring credentials as the pedal steel frontman of The Lee Boys, a family band renowned for their funky blend of gospel and soul. Amidst a breakout year touring with the Lee Boys and as a solo performer, Roosevelt’s summer is highlighted by a series of jam sessions at the All Good Music Festival July 19-22 in Thornville, OH.
On Friday, Roosevelt plans to share his scorching slide guitar talents on stage with Galactic, ALO, the Wood Brothers andYonder Mountain String Band. He’ll turn up the heat on Saturday making appearances with The Allman Brothers Band, Tea Leaf Green, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, The Rex Jam, and Lettuce.
“All those guys are fans of the sacred steel from years ago,” says Roosevelt, specifically referring to Warren Haynes, Oteil Burbridge, and the rest of the Allman Brothers Band. “When I sit in with people, I think outside of my own box and allow myself to feed off of other players. Each musician is different, and on stage you can understand their plan and their individual voice. Then, together, we make something big happen.”
Popularized by players like Buddy Cage (New Riders of the Purple Sage) and Jerry Garcia himself, the pedal and lap steel guitar has earned legions of new aficionados as a direct result of Roosevelt’s influence. A favorite at festivals who manages to befriend musicians of all walks and styles, Roosevelt is poised to take many of the marquee shows at All Good to another level.
“There’s something about the feeling and spirit of the steel guitar that moves everybody,” says Roosevelt. “It takes everything up a notch because it has its own voice. But music is a family thing — everyone is part of the moment, bringing something new to the experience. It’s always fun to get up there and see what happens.”