dwight yoakam

Dave Roe in the studio.

Photo courtesy of Dave Roe

The death of Nashville’s Dave Roe is a reminder of the important connections we can make within the music we love, right where we live.

Last month the sound of hearts breaking reverberated across Nashville—from corporate offices to studios to indie venues—as word spread of the death of Dave Roe. Dave, who was featured on PGs September cover, was an extraordinary artist, loved for his playing and his personality. He could be endearingly grumpy, but also had a marvelous sense of humor. And his generosity and welcoming nature were almost as well-known throughout Music City as his live and studio performances with Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, Loretta Lynn, Carrie Underwood, Tony Joe White, Early James, Bonnie Prince Billy, Marcus King, T Bone Burnett, Brandy Clark, Dan Auerbach, Chrissie Hynde, Sturgill Simpson, CeeLo Green, Brian Setzer, Faith Hill, John Mellencamp, Kurt Vile, Bahamas, and so many others. As we said on our cover: “You don't know Dave Roe, but you’ve heard him play.”

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Photo by Anthony Scarlati

How this storied player’s self-taught, nose-to-the-grindstone journey brought on one success after the next, and soon blossomed into an illustrious, historic career.

David Rorick, better known as Dave Roe, still isn’t sure how he got here. It’s been about 43 years since he left Hawaii and moved to Nashville to work as a bassist. He didn’t have any training or remarkable expertise—just enthusiasm, a work ethic, and a love for the open road. Over the next four decades, Roe parlayed those qualities into a legendary career, playing with some of the world’s greatest folk, Americana, blues, and country music stars.

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Self-proclaimed hillbilly-bluegrass flatpicker Yoakam favors the acoustic guitar, and his weapon of choice is a Gibson J-200.

The hillbilly rocker riffs on songwriting, reckless recording, and the integrity of musical imperfection.

“This all comes full circle.” Dwight Yoakam was on a storyteller’s roll too good to interrupt, and he knew it. But he also hadn’t forgotten that he was answering a question about the high-energy sound of his new album. For 10 minutes, he riffed on Buck Owens, the evolution of country rock, and why he chose to self-produce after years of collaborating with legendary guitarist/producer Pete Anderson. Yet in the end, Yoakam brought it home, closing the circle by explaining what all of this had to do with his current touring and recording band, and how they brought sonic power to his new album, Second Hand Heart.

Actually, “full circle” is a good way to describe Yoakam, circa 2015. Long before the term “Americana” was in the musical lexicon, he was blending rootsy sounds that resonated with the traditionalists in cowboy boots while it won over a healthy chunk of rockers (or maybe it was the other way around). Nearly 30 years ago, the honky-tonk energy of his debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. brought lean muscle to a country music scene that was pudgy around the middle.

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