So what would bring someone to call Roger Salloom "America's best unknown songwriter?"
Well first you need to get to know Roger a little better...
Roger Salloom was in the center of the 1960s San Francisco pyschedelic scene, playing the Fillmore with Santana, Van Morrison, BB King and Procul Harum. In the 1970s he moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting, then disappeared for 20 years to raise a family as a single parent and draw a syndicated cartoon.
Imagine Jack Kerouac, John Belushi, Lord Buckley, Lenny Bruce, The Diggers, and throw in Leadbelly, Jimmy Reed, Lonnie Johnson, Geoff Muldaur, Dan Penn...all rolled into one person, and you have a glimpse of this poet, singer-songwriter. Salloom performed with The Band, Steve Forbert, Doc Watson, John Prine, to name a few.
A cross between blues, roots, Americana, country, and soul, Salloom always speaks from his heart. He has a self-deprecating, humorous, everyman quality, mixed with a powerful sensitivity and depth of character.
There is a story here. A story so intriguing that it enticed an award-winning filmmaker
to make a film about the subject. So Glad I Made It, the Saga of Roger Salloom, America's Best Unknown Songwriter, won 6 awards, was on the 2006 Grammy ballot, and received rave reviews acrossthe U.S.
But even a movie doesn't tell the whole story...
Roger Salloom began his music career by listening and learning. As a 13 year-old banjo and guitar playing novice whose influences were Pete Seeger, Jelly Roll Morton, Sonny Boy Williamson, Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers.
Leaving his hometown of Worcester in 1966, Roger landed in Bloomington at Indiana University taking on those early influences and new found music mentors such as Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.
While in Bloomington, Roger formed Salloom, Sinclair and Mother Bear. Moving to San Francisco in 1967, the band performed in venues such as The Carousel, The Fillmore and The Avalon Ballrooms with alongside contemporaries, Santana, Procol Harum and BB King.
When Chess Records founder, Marshall Chess, sought to broaden the labels blues roster and R&B base, they found their entry into the psychedelic scene by signing Salloom, Sinclair and Mother Bear.
When Mother Bear went into extended hibernation, Roger and co-leader Robin Sinclair found further success in Nashville with Area Code 615. Roger created an extended family of artist peers while in Nashville that included Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell and Richard Dobbins.
After another songwriting stint in California working with Creedence Clearwater Revival manager, Jake Rohrer, and CCR bassist Stu Cooke, Roger returned to Massachusetts in 1980.
Settling in Northampton, MA, Roger continued songwriting, recording (Yellow Plum Records) and playing with artists such as The Band, John Prine, Jonathan Edwards, Jerry Jeff Walker, The BoDeans, Joan Armatrading and Leon Russell. Over the course of the years, Roger has shared the bill with artists such as Van Morrison, Santana, Cheech and Chong, Doc Watson, NRBQ, Maria Muldaur, Jonathan Edwards, Paul Butterfield and many others.
Some of his major influences include Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, two step jazz, Beatles, Stones, Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Garland Jeffreys, Hank Williams, Jimmy Reed, Leadbelly, CCR, most musicians in New Orleans.
While in Northampton, Roger has performed each year at the largest outdoor free concert in Western Massachusetts. Originally for 23 years at The Pines Theatre this show currently calls the Northampton Academy home.
Chris Sautter, winner at the New York International Independent Film Festival for best political documentary (The King of Steeltown), completed a film in 2006 about Roger titled, "So Glad I Made It, The Saga of Roger Salloom, America's Best Unknown Songwriter." The film has screened to rave reviews for NARAS in New York at the Tribeca Cinema, the Belcourt Cinema in Nashville, TN, & at various theaters including The Academy of Music, Northampton, MA, The Regent Theater, Arlington MA, The Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis IN, among others and has won the numerous awards and rave reviews.
“So Glad I Made It” was named "Best Documentary" at Spudfest Music & Film Festival in Teton Valley/Jackson Hole Wyoming . It also won the Providence Award at the prestigious Rhode Island International Film Festival and received Honorable Mention for Best Documentary at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival in Las Vegas. Grammy Magazine also chose the film as one of the top 12 in the last 10 years as noteworthy for the Academy members to view.
But the only real answer is in the music.
Listen closely and you will begin to understand...
IN an review of the Chris Sautter film about Roger, Tim Miller, film critic of the Cape Cod Times, who gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars and titled his review, The Price of Integrity, quoted Roger and wrote:
"Describing the work of someone who was successful at writing hit songs for other people, Salloom says of the tunes, 'They’re terrible, very formulaic, clichéd. And people like that. If you’re superficial enough to want to record them, there are a lot of superficial people who want to listen to them.'
Salloom says his firmness about musical integrity held him back in the cutthroat world of music.
“I thought I had a core, and I refused to pollute that core. And I paid a price for that. I also sometimes would just as rather do something very, very different rather than get more fame. There are people who will climb over anybody’s body to get what they want, and I won’t do that. If I paid a price, fine.'”
There were times when Salloom got in his own way. You might think that record-label executives would be more relaxed than most businessmen, but it turns out they don’t like it when you take off your shoes at a meeting, fall asleep at a luncheon or express your contempt for the industry.
“I definitely walked away from things a lot,” says Salloom. “I walked away on a moment’s notice. I was a real bonehead.”
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