WHEELING - Guitar master Roger Hoard of St. Clairsville says he keeps a guitar next to his chair at home so he can continue to practice and hone his craft.
Hoard is best known for his association with Jamboree USA and Jamboree In The Hills that extended more than 30 years. Today he continues to play solo, and to share his talents with aspiring guitarists.
"When I was a kid, they said I was influenced by Elvis Presley after seeing him play guitar on the Ed Sullivan Show," Hoard said. "That's giving away my age though. ... I always wanted to play the guitar - was always drawn to the guitar."
Photo by Joselyn King
Roger Hoard showcases his guitar playing skills in the acoustic room at CA House Music in St. Clairsville.
Hoard, now 59, said he first started taking guitar lessons when he was 11 and growing up in Akron, Ohio. He was born in Sutton, W.Va, but later moved to Akron with his father, Earl, who worked for Goodyear Aerospace, and mother, Lillian, a waitress.
Hoard and his younger brother, Don, played in "little kids bands" around Akron, Hoard said, and always had the support of their parents.
"They would drive us to shows and help us load and unload gear," he said. "We would rehearse at the house, and my mom would sew up stage clothing for us - sparkly jackets and stuff.
"My dad was really good about knowing what people really liked in a show - what songs to play where, what songs to feature. Always closing a show with a hymn - he always had a really good sense of that."
Don Hoard also has continued his career in music as a singer and drummer, and most recently played with the Jamboree USA show at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack.
The Hoard brothers made their first appearance on the Jamboree USA stage as teenagers in 1968.
"We were invited to perform again in November 1971, and the day we were scheduled to perform the guitar player in the staff band quit," Hoard explained. "I played the staff band that night, then joined the Jamboree staff band."
He was 17 at that time, and the staff band then was called "The Wheelers."
But Hoard continued to improve his craft. While in Wheeling, he began taking guitar lessons with Nels Leonard at the former West Liberty State College. Hoard credits this experience with greatly improving his guitar-playing abilities.
Hoard stayed with the Jamboree staff band until 1976, when he decided to move to Pittsburgh. He would soon go to California, before returning to the local area in 1980.
Hoard said he was playing with Jim Stafford's band in California (best known for the song "Spiders and Snakes") when a musician friend contacted him and told him of the "six night a week house band gig" back in Wheeling.
"My father was ill then, and I thought it might be a good idea to get back closer to here," Hoard continued.
He rejoined the Jamboree staff band - now called "1170" - in 1983, and stayed there until the Jamboree closed in 2004.
As a member of the Jamboree staff band, Hoard backed up such artists as Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Pride and Freddie Fender and many others over the years. He even played a show with one of his idols, country guitar great Chet Atkins.
He has toured with B.E. Taylor's band and formed the Fabulous Bender Boys - which recently disbanded.
Hoard said he now plays mostly solo, but does often combine for shows with other local musicians.
He continues his day job as co-manager of C.A. House music, and Hoard noted he has been with the company "for more than 30 years."
Hoard also has provided many students with guitar lessons over the years - one of them being local native and country music singer and guitarist Brad Paisley. Paisley now is among the most respected guitarists and musicians in the music business, and he mentioned Hoard's influence on him in his recent biography.
"He was very dedicated to playing guitar and writing songs," Hoard said of the young Paisley. "I think once he got to Belmont University and the whole Nashville thing (he got better.)
"He was a great guitar player when he left town. And then a couple of years later, he was like an amazing guitar player. Being in that city with that competition, you either prosper or not."
Hoard admitted he once considered moving to Nashville when he was younger.
"I got into getting married and raising a family," he said. "I probably should have gone to Nashville rather than California, but hindsight is always better."