Interview: David Rorick of Tom Moffatt-approved band Roy & Roe

“Tom Moffatt came downstairs and heard some of our music and really liked it—so he said, “Hey, let me put it out” and he put it out.” Bassist Dave Rorick recalls how one of Hawaii’s biggest record producers and radio personalities published his debut album Roy & Roe with fellow musician Ed Roy.

When I first saw the cover of the self-titled album by Roy & Roe online a while back, the silhouetted profiles of two men who were presumably Roy and Roe haunted me with a curiosity that didn’t leave me until I finally came upon a physical copy in Kailua just last year. After stopping by Hungry Ear Records to chat with one of the co-owners, I hopped across the street to grab lunch at Whole Foods, then made my way through the used vinyl records at the thrift store. Which is where I found Roy & Roe.

I immersed myself in the original music written by Ed Roy and David “Roe” Rorick, and I wondered about the story behind the photo insert as well as the handwritten note from “The Management” on the back cover. So, I decided to look these guys up and ask about their story.

Part one of my interview with Roy & Roe features bassist Dave Rorick, who now lives in Nashville and makes a living as a session musician. (Part two will feature pianist/drummer/recording engineer Ed Roy).

Roy-&-Roe---Bluewater-Records

Where did you grow up in Hawaii?

Ewa Beach and Makakilo. Local haole.

Were both you and Ed born and raised? 

No, Ed is from the East Coast somewhere.

How did you get into playing music?

I started out in the early 70s playing rock and roll music back during the free concert days—the hippie days. I graduated high school in ’69 and I was in a bunch of bands, some of them hit it pretty big. I was in Alto & The Fleas, that’s probably way before your time. We even got to where we were doing opening slots at the HIC (Hawaii International Center). We opened for Grand Funk Railroad and a bunch of other big bands.

Then I moved to Maui and I got into the country rock scene over there, like the hippie country stuff. And then I moved back to Honolulu and got totally into the funk thing. I was really involved in the disco scene, I played with a lot of the Leeward side guys who were in the Mopp Topps and groups like that. I was in a group called Breaking Point which was like half the Mopp Topps and half the Kalihi Phantoms—and I was like the white guy in the band.

Some of those guys are still operating over there, like John Rapoza. I think he had a stroke but is doing better now. Hemingway Jasmin plays over there with Danny Couch. There’s a couple guys that are still active over there, I get in touch with them every once in a while.

Any other names you can think of?

Well, I played in Waikiki in the 1970s. I was in another really popular funk band there called Monkey Pie in ’75. And then in Breaking Point, we got to where we were opening up at big concerts. And then in ’76 I played almost the whole year with the Beamer Brothers at the Prowl (?) Lounge—I don’t even know if it’s still there but it’s in the Sheraton, the Waikiki Sheraton. It may not even exist anymore.

Then I started playing more rock and roll stuff, which is when we put that record together (Roy & Roe). Do you remember the name of that studio where we recorded that? I’m drawing a blank.

I know it was engineered at Audio Media. 

That was it, Audio Media [Recording]. Ed was the engineer there.

I’ve come across other records with Ed’s name and “Audio Media” are connected. 

And what the connection was we put a little band together, then one thing led to another and we started writing songs together and we did that record.

We did it at Audio Media because Ed worked there. And [Tom] Moffatt‘s office was upstairs. And —not the KPOI office, but the Bluewater office—was that the label? Bluewater?

Yeah, it was Bluewater.

So he [Moffatt] came downstairs and was talking to Dunbar Wakeyama, who was the guy that owned the studio, and he heard some of our stuff and really liked it—so he said, “Hey, let me put it out” and he put it out.

Wow! That’s cool. I’m actually, I was born in 1987 so a lot of this is foreign to me. I just have a really strong interest and passion for this music and the stories—

—I think it’s cool that you do it because people nowadays don’t realize it but in the mid to late sixties all the way up through probably the 1980s when I moved away there was a heavy rock and roll scene there, and a heavy original music scene—pop rock and rock and roll. I’ve come back to Hawaii a few times since then and there didn’t seem like there was much going on anymore in that regard, you know?

Can you tell me more about that era, the energy and the music scene?

It was very, very hippie, I do remember that, until disco hit and then we all started growing afros and playing funk music. But it was still very powerful, there was a big band scene, and I know it has to do with the demise of the club scene over there. What I saw the last time I was in Hawaii was a lot of duos and singles. Am I right about that?

I think you’re right about that, it’s very different.

Right on Kalakaua [Avenue] back in the 70s there were a hundred clubs. I mean, just a hundred of them, and they’re all gone now.

Yeah, definitely very different now. So how did you and Ed meet? 

I don’t remember how we met, but I think I ended up doing a session there [at Audio Media] for somebody and we had similar interests so we put the band together. That was about it. He might remember more than me.

On the back of the Roy & Roe album there’s a handwritten note about country music, something about you guys playing rock—a scrawl at the top of the back cover. 

That was a note that the club owner gave us at one of the military clubs because Roy & Roe doubled as a country band so we could work. That was the closest thing you could be to “being on the road” in Hawaii was to get in a van and drive up to Schofield, you know? It was hilarious. But every once in a while we’d stick in a rock song and they’d get pissed off.

That thing that’s written on the back of the album is actually a note that one of the club owners sent up.

I’ve always wondered about that. 

Roy & Roe album - back cover

Have you heard of the Emerson Brothers? Well, Ken’s in that picture with the burning sneakers—Ken did that picture.

He played on the album too?

Yeah. Ken and his brother Phil were classmates at Campbell High School.

I’ve looked at that picture many times and wonder who the guys are. I recognize John Rapoza just from his afro. 

The guy with the helmet on is Chris Bovard, he became the preeminent rock and roll guitarist in Hawaii in the 1980s. He played at that Lava Club—I can’t remember the name of that club down there. Anyways, he moved down to Pittsburgh and became one of the top blues guitarists in the Northeast now.

What was the idea behind the picture and the burning shoes? It seems kind of darkly comical. 

It was just some weird thing we put together. That photographer was Robert Knight. He became one of the biggest photographers in the world.

That photo was his idea, we went down some alley way near Hotel Street and took that.

In fact, the guy in the picture that’s wearing shorts and has the glasses, he owns Pacific Sound Studio over there and he is Don Tiki. That’s his band. He played in our band with us.

Roy & Roe - album photo insert

So there’s a lot of history behind that photo, a lot of guys went places and—you ended up playing with Johnny Cash?

When I moved here, my first big gig was with Jerry Reed, the really great Nashville guitar player and movie star guy. I’ve played with twelve major country acts like Johnny Cash, and my last road gig was with Dwight Yoakam for four years. And now I just do sessions for a living.

So were you always heavily into the country music scene?

I was influenced in that direction from my mother. She was from North Carolina, she loved all that stuff and I just had an infinity for it. Every now and then I would quit what I was doing downtown and put a country band together and play on the military base, just cause I love country music.

When I decided to leave Hawaii because I kind of topped out over there, I just had to pick a place to go and I felt like Nashville would be a nicer place to live than LA. And I was absolutely right. It was a good move for me.

You felt like it was your time to leave Hawaii, like you had reached your max level? 

Yeah, I felt like I had topped out, like I’d end up playing lounge music if I didn’t get out of there because I’m was a writer and I wanted to play in bands. It was time for me to go. I just couldn’t see myself living in LA. Because of my country background it really paid off for me, which is ironic because I play more rockabilly and rock ’n’ roll stuff now more than country music.

It seems like Hawaii at that time was a place of synergy, a place for all these artists to come together and create something. It felt really explosive, but at the same time kind of restricting—do you fell that way?

Yes and no. I think it was starting to be that way. I think the economy and—you probably remember the Japanese came in and started buying all the hotels up… and once again, the importance of all those clubs [doing away with live acts] can’t be underestimated. I think that’s a phenomenon everywhere, there just was no place to play anymore. All the DUI laws and all that stuff started changing. (Note: Hawaii’s legal drinking age in clubs during the time was 18, I believe…)

The other thing I can say is this: when I started working in the Audio Media studio I fell in love with studio work. I loved it. And that’s all I do now, everyday, play on people’s records and demos. I love playing sessions. I could be doing Cat Stevens’ new record.

I’ve created a niche for myself with the upright bass, playing the roots upright bass thing. That’s sort of what I’m known for.

My first sessions in Hawaii were with the Beamer Brothers. I played on a record called “Thank You Mayor”, it was about Mayor Frank Fasi. Of course, they broke up later on and that went away.

Going back to the Roy & Roe LP, how did the album do when it was released? What was the response?

Not much, really. We were just playing where we could play and all of the sudden we had an album out. We sold all the first run, then [the album’s executive producer] Tom Moffatt didn’t seem like he was that interested in going any further with it, so it just kind of dissipated. The whole thing kind of fell apart.

Do you ever come back to visit Hawaii?

I came back in ’89 and played with Jerry Reed, and with country star Dottie West in ’82. And my best friend that I grew up with passed away in ’86 so I came back for that. And I came back in 2010 to go to Honolulu and Kauai for my honeymoon.

That must’ve been a good feeling.

I was a good feeling. It was a trip driving out to Ewa Beach though because now it’s all built up. It was all cane fields out there when I was growing up.

Did you record any other albums or singles with Ed Roy or anybody else while you were living here? Or was it mostly live gigs and performances?

It was mostly gigs and a few sessions, but I did do one thing. If you know about this period of time then you know about the Home Grown records, do you remember those?

I do, yeah. 

There was one record that had a really heavyweight, murderous, mafia kind of guy named John Kalani Lincoln. Interesting thing was, I started to get into recording and I know for a fact that I was the first guy to have a 4-track home studio. I lived over in Hawaii Kai at the time. I remembered I looked online and—not online, shit, it wasn’t even online—I looked in a magazine and found out what the Beatles were using back in the day, so I hunted one down and got it.

John Kalani Lincoln found out I had a tape recorder. He was intense, he came up to my face one day after a gig and said, “Hey, I gon make a record man and yo gon make em wit me.” I went, “yeah, sure okay.”

He wrote the song. It was about the Britsh and it had the state motto, Ua Mau ke Ea…, and that was part of the lyrics. But everything on that record was me. All the instruments, all the background vocals, everything. And it got on that Home Grown record. That was probably ’78 or ’79.

Any other comments or anything you’d like to add to our interview?

No, other than thank you because you got my mind going about stuff that I haven’t thought of in a hundred years. [laughs]

Read Part Two with Ed Roy here.

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