Farewell to Roger Tillison, an enormously talented singer/songwriter and a lifelong buddy of my dear Uncle John Padgett, who took these wonderful photos of him sometime in the 1980s. Roger died Monday at the age of 72.
Born in Oklahoma, Roger made his way to L.A. in the mid-60s and Woodstock in the early 70s before heading back to his home state. He played and recorded with the esteemed likes of Leon Russell, J.J. Cale and Jesse Ed Davis; he co-wrote "(You Don't Have to) Paint Me a Picture" for Gary Lewis and the Playboys; his songs were covered by Cale ("Let's Go to Tahiti," "One Step Ahead of the Blues"), Davis ("Rock & Roll Gypsies," also recorded by Hearts and Flowers, Vinegar Joe and the Scruggs Brothers), the Kingsmen ("Just Before the Break of Day"), the Soul Survivors ("Hung Up On Losing") and even Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra ("Spanish Lights"); and his 1971 solo LP "Roger Tillison's Album" — which featured then-obscure songs by Bob Dylan ("Down in the Flood") and The Band ("Get Up Jake") — is rightly considered a classic of early 70s Americana.
But my favorite song of Roger's will always be "Ain't It Hard," which he recorded in 1965 as one-half of the folk duo Gypsy Trips, and which was tough enough to warrant covers by the Electric Prunes and the Chesterfield Kings.
Rest in Peace, Roger; you will be missed, but your music lives on.