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Newsletter: 2012 Volume 20 Nos 1 & 2 


Rodgers Brothers    Hank Rodgers

John York We were saddened to learn of the passing of steel guitarist, Hank Rodgers, when just a very short while ago we said farewell to his brother, fiddler, Frankie.  The Rodgers brothers were the heart and soul of our showcases over these past 20 years;   unless otherwise booked they never said ‘no’ when asked to participate.  If Hank was on stage, Frankie was always close by with his fiddle doing what they did so well… playing music that entertained us all.    A loss of not only two gifted musicians, but two fine gentlemen and they’ll be missed.

                                                                                                           John York

The following musicians/friends express their feelings in this Tribute to Steel Guitarist, Hank Rodgers.

Elmer Tippe In the early ‘60s I was very aware of the Rodgers brothers and their incredible talent as musicians.  I watched them perform on the Gaby Haas show on TV in Edmonton and I have many of their great albums.

The first time I sat and talked to Hank was in 1965 when I was playing at the Commercial Drive Legion in Vancouver.  Hank was in the audience and while on a break he asked me to sit with him as he wanted to talk.  He said, “We are looking for a lead singer for next summer to travel with us to play the Rodeos and Fairs for C.F.C.W. in Alberta.”

So, after some brief correspondence, I decided to do it.   We started in May of 1966 and it was great working with Hank, Frankie and Shirley (Frankie’s wife who sang and played rhythm) from May to August. It was a hoot…and I found out what good musicians were all about.

Then Hank and Charlane moved to the coast and I needed a steel player so Hank joined the band and worked with the Supercountry Band for 15 years.

Hank was the epitome of a great sideman and friend and later, when Frankie came back from Australia he joined our band.   So, once again the Rodgers brothers were back together for a while. After we retired, we remained good friends and got together often.

Now the Rodgers Brothers in Heaven are doing once again what they loved to do best…music.

R.I.P. my friends.                                                                                         Elmer Tippe

Len Knudsen
In Hank’s passing we lost not only a fine gentleman but also one of our Canadian music industry’s finest, for he and his brother Frankie, whom we lost in 2009, were considered to be a major force on the Country and Western Swing music scene here in Canada.

Their presentation of the music they grew up with and were raised on could never be mistaken for anything but true ‘tradition’ in the simplest terms and so many of us here today have, and will continue to enjoy their expression of the true style of an era of music so often skewed and misrepresented by so many in today’s current culture of Country music.

Hank stood by his commitment and claims as a true music performer of the traditional style and would not bend or waiver to anything or anybody regarding acceptance of any change or thoughts to alter his views about the music he so loved and grew up with.

My first meeting with Hank was in 1953 in Edmonton where I had gone in an attempt to pursue one of the many dreams we all seem to want to fulfill as an aspiring young musician eager to play and to perform what was considered at that time Western music.

Edmonton was a major hub for anyone intent on earning a living playing music and the demand was such that many musicians were able to fulfill their dreams by being able to earn a living playing fulltime on a nightly basis both locally and with touring road shows and bands as well as live radio work on CFRN, Edmonton.

Both Hank and his brother Frankie had already begun to build a reputation of being two of the most dedicated and respected musicians in the area and their music and talents were continuously in demand.

Over the years they traveled far and wide entertaining and playing their music for countless numbers, in the hundreds of thousands if not more, through personal appearances and their recordings as the “Rodgers Bros.”

They had basically built an institution in their endeavors to entertain and play the music they had so much feeling for.  

For Hank and his brother Frankie… they leave us with a music legacy that will forever be etched in our memory and cherished for many, many years to come.

 For Hank…may he again join his brother and the many others who have preceded him and await him to take his place on that stage “up on high.”                 

                                                                                                                                       Len Knutson

Danny Slaght
I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Hank Rodgers.   I had the good fortune to have worked with Hank for about 11 years.   We spent 10 of those years with Elmer Tipped and Super country and they were some of my most enjoyable years as a musician.

Hank was an excellent steel guitarist as well as a good Spanish guitarist.   I always enjoyed working out instrumentals with him. I will miss Hank very much and I’m sure he and Frankie are playing up a storm together again.

                                                                                                                                       Denny Slaght
George Lake
I met Hank Rodgers back in the early ‘50s when he played regular standard electric guitar (not steel). We were both into Western Swing at the time.   The two of us wore out a Pee Wee King album endeavoring to copy the steel and guitar Western Swing arrangements playing in close harmony.  (Swing tunes such as, Seven Come Eleven).  I had just bought a Fender Custom triple-8-steel and Hank had built his own electric solid body guitar.   Of course, Frankie was also part of the equation playing top-notch fiddle.   We played many gigs together at the old Rainbow and Star land Ballrooms on Whyte Avenue, here in Edmonton.  During those early years CHED (now a talk-radio station) employed Dick “Old Dad” Taylor, a superb guitarist, as their music director.   Those were the days of ‘live’ radio which often featured Hank and Frankie, plus many others including myself, doing live radio shows.

Hank later became interested in the steel guitar and I offered to teach him the basics.   He was a natural on steel, (non-pedal), and eventually aimed his musical interest from regular guitar to concentrate on the steel.   In later years he moved towards the pedal steel.

While we remained friends over the years, our musical careers eventually went in different directions.  Hank stayed with Western Swing while my musical interest moved toward Hawaiian and Jazz (bass).

Playing with Hank was always a fun experience…he never lost his cool, was always a gentleman to the core as well as being a fine musician. 

My last encounter with my friend Hank was at a Jeff Bradshaw’s steel bash in Caroline, AB, in 2009 where we both took to the stage performing the style of music each of us knew best.

Hank Rodgers became one of Canada’s top pedal steel players as well as retaining his exceptional ability on regular guitar.   Hank and Frankie will be sorely missed and always remembered.

                                                                                                                        George “Keoki” Lake
Kat and Tony
We got to know Hank Rodgers through the Western Swing Music Society, and enjoyed playing music with him each time we had the opportunity to do so.

Our favourite memory is perhaps when he joined our band as the featured steel guitarist when we played the Vancouver Steel Guitar Festival.  He was a very creative and lyrical steel guitarist, who could bring a song to life.   He would provide strong support to the tune, then, when given the nod for a solo, he would shine, whether he had never ever heard the tune before or knew it well.

Hank was very kind to us and always open, friendly and easy going.

We will miss him and the musical community will miss him too.

                                                                                                                                       Kat Wahamaa and Tony Rees 
Howie James
I was sorry to hear of the passing of steel guitarist, Hank Rodgers.   He was a real fine musician with a great ear and ever so easy to work with.

It is sad that the brothers passed away in such a short space of time...and they left us far too soon.

Their contribution to the music world will not be forgotten.

                                                                                                                                       Howie James
Mike Higgins
Hank Rodgers was always the perfect gentleman and a find musician who was devoted to his brother Frankie.  Hank would come over to my place on occasion and jam with other Western musicians.   Once a year he also held a get together at his town house where many singers and musicians would jam.

The Rodgers Brothers will be missed by many friends, musicians and fans.

A celebration of Hank’s life was held in May at the Cloverdale Legion with many friends and musicians in attendance.

                                                                                                                                       Mike Higgins