Born in Caldwell County, Roger Hicks is a master finger-style guitar picker heavily influenced first by family, by Piedmont style blues players around Lenoir, and by classic country players such as Chet Atkins. When he was about five years old, he started showing interest in a guitar his aunt owned. “I always wanted to play something,” Roger says. As a teenager, he bought his first guitar for six dollars, and he went to the African-American section of Lenoir to find other guitar players. “They showed me the feeling of music and kind of set my style,” says Roger. Lon Davis was perhaps the most influential of those musicians.
Roger is primarily a guitar player, but he also plays piano, banjo, and most other instruments with strings. He developed retinitis as a teenager and had lost much of his vision by the time he was twenty. By the time he was forty, he was totally blind. He acquired unique fingering positions, learning by ear rather than by watching someone play. “It’s a little harder to learn when you can’t see,” he says. He worked for years as a piano tuner in factories around Lenoir, Morganton, and Marion.
When Roger retired in 1980, he started playing in country bands. “We’d start on Friday evening going to all the dance places between here (Lenoir) and Wilkesboro and beyond,” he remembers. “We’d come back a lot of times on Sunday… Monday morning sometimes. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
Roger Hicks is also a potter who learned later in life from his wife’s family, traditional potters Glenn and Lula Bolick. He started by creating small animal figures in clay. Then he began to work with a wheel. He specializes in jugs, particularly larger pieces, face jugs, and other creative pieces.
As a musician, Roger Hicks performs most often with Lindy Johnson, but he also plays with several other friends. He played gospel music with the Shuffler Family Band and recorded on four of their albums on Rebel Records. “I guess I’m on fifteen or twenty albums somewhere,” says Roger. He started his own recordings in the 1980s. These include two traditional albums, a gospel album, and a Christmas album. He continues to work on producing recordings and making pottery.
Roger Hicks is available for musical performances as a duo, or with a full band. He also exhibits his pottery at shows and festivals.