Sad to hear that guitarist Roy Gaines passed away last week. He was one of those guys that should have been much better known. His older brother was saxophonist Grady Gaines, who played with Little Richard’s Upsetters. Roy came up as a teenage guitar prodigy, and soon found himself touring with Roy Milton and Chuck Willis in the 1950s, and Ray Charles in the 1960s. He made a bunch of records under his own name that varied from jazz to soul to R&B, and one crazy rock ‘n’ roll record in particular that many of you will be familiar with: ”Skippy Is a Sissy,” released on RCA in 1958. That record is like a steamroller—it punches you in the face when you drop the needle on it, and it kicks you in the ass when it hits the trail-off groove. What a great record!
Roy kept playing and in the last fifteen years or so was a fairly regular performer on the blues circuit around Los Angeles. I met him a few times on random occasions, and he really fancied himself a sophisticated purveyor of contemporary blues and R&B—which was fine, but I really wanted to hear him do “Skippy Is a Sissy,” “Gainesville,” or “Worried About You Baby.” He wasn’t very receptive when I started foaming at the mouth about his old records from the 1950s.
The opportunity finally came for me to play with Roy at the last Ponderosa Stomp. We were going to do “Skippy Is a Sissy” and all his great ones. It was going to be amazing! Unfortunately this was the year that the second day of the Stomp got canceled because of a hurricane warning (it was dumb; the hurricane never came, but it was too late to continue with the show), so I never got to perform with Roy. We didn’t even get to rehearse! I will always regret that. I got to meet him in the hotel and exchange numbers and that was it. A real disappointment.
I had hoped to find another opportunity to get Roy out to do those songs, but it wasn’t to be. Roy Gaines, the last of the original Texas/California great electric blues guitarists, passed away last week. RIP, Mr. Gaines. All of us vintage weirdos will blast “Skippy Is a Sissy” tonight in your honor.