Detroit’s Rolling Blue: retro 70s blues-rock feel for today’s generation

Rolling Blue of Detroit

By Chyrisse Tabone, Journalist, Tampa, and Scott Whiteman, Photographer, Detroit


John Juco and Brianna Ray
John Juco and Brianna Ray

Rock At Night is always on a quest to discover new music with a retro feel instead of the mundane, pop, auto-tuned bunk heard on Top 40 radio.  I discovered a blues-rock band out of the Detroit-metro area with three strong, well-written songs posted on ReverbNation that gave me hope in young bands again.  I was actually disappointed there were only three songs posted. I was craving more of their 70s classic rock sound featuring a solid drum beat, driving bass lines, infectious rifts, and raspy, growling vocals reminiscent of perhaps Black Oak Arkansas, Mountain (think “Mississippi Queen”) or even a more subdued Led-Zeppelin.  One of the songs “All the More Reason” starts out sounding modern like Raconteurs but later melds into a more traditional blues-rock sound which I might have listened to sitting in the back seat of my Mom’s Buick Riviera.  Bring on the halter tops and cut-off jeans shorts because Rolling Blue is Rock At Night’s featured Band of the Month!

Members: Joe Worrall (Vocalist/Guitar), John Juco (Bass), Brianna Ray (Drums)
Genre: American Blues/Rock
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

I recently spoke to Joe “Joey” Worral (Vocals/Guitar) and Brianna “Bri” Ray (Drums) about  the history of the band, their musical influences, Bri’s experience as a female drummer, and later had a philosophical discussion about pop or mainstream music today.
I found it interesting that Joey and Bri had only been performed together as a band since last Summer because the recordings sounded tight and precise.   Joey explained, “Me and the bassist John played together in high school but were not serious until recently.  I met up with Bri years later. [We figured] with a drummer we could start doing stuff.”

Joey took some guitar lessons but basically plunged into guitar playing by teaching himself and later began to write original music.  I wondered why there were only three songs posted on ReverbNation but he said, “We have nine songs we play live but haven’t recorded yet.  We should have an EP coming out within the next two months.”

Brianna Ray
Brianna Ray

Ahh…being a female drummer

Being a female drummer and understanding the scrutiny, I wanted to dig into the topic with Bri.  She has been playing the drums since about 6th grade and participated in class band, jazz band, and marching band .  She said, “I’ve been playing drum sets since about 7th grade….about nine years now.”  She continued saying that her favorite drummers are John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, Ringo Star, and Rick Allen (“Def Leppard”).




Joe Worrall
Joe Worrall

 You can’t go wrong with classic
When asked to describe Rolling Blue’s style of music, Joey noted, “I would say it’s more of a White Stripes/Black Keys kind of sound.”  He further added, “I’ve been trying to get into the blues more so I bought a glass slide to incorporate into future songs.”   Joey and Bri’s influence definitely runs into old blues and classic rock, which I found to be refreshing in the age of uber-synth music and electronic drum beats. They cited their influences as Muddy Waters, “Big Mama” Thornton, Ray Charles, Otis Redding as well as British Invasion bands such as The Who, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles.



The kids today

On the Millennial Generation, Joey explained, “They don’t realize the only reason a song is catchy is because the person says the same thing eight times in a row.”  He later posed the rhetorical question, “How long can you listen to it before you realize it’s all the same? Everybody in my graduating class…they all love that stuff.”

I commented on how the mainstream music appears to be formulaic and even the voices appear engineered to sound the same.  Bri replied, “We thought we were the only ones that think this way.” Joey agreed saying, “The music today is very repetitive.”

Joey posed a possible explanation, “People are getting lazy. It’s not about standards. People are worried about money. It’s disgusting to me. It’s gross. We just love to play!” Joey explained how they try to create music for themselves, are into the whole artistic endeavor, and are not caught up in the “rock star” fantasy. They are thrilled to be playing and entertaining people , noting “Life isn’t about money. It’s about finding something. I want to be part of something.”

For this reason, he seems to be drawn to classic rock.  Joe pondered, “I guess that is why I am interested in music like Led Zeppelin. It’s real music to me. There’s more than just a chorus. There’s more to it than a bass drum. “ His voice loudens and I could hear his passion as he explained, “There’s so much more feeling. It’s like there’s life! It’s proof there is a God!”

Joey further clarified his opinion, “It’s getting to the point…it’s up to the people. With the way social media works, everything is being downloaded. I feel the record companies are losing touch with what really matters—the music. What they are actually selling—the music.  They are so worried about the money they are making from selling it [so they figure] let’s just keep cranking it out…cutting and pasting.”



Brianna Ray and John Juco
Brianna Ray and John Juco

The writing process and more…

Since every band and songwriter approaches music differently, I wondered how Rolling Blue initiated the process.  Joey explained, “For me, I pretty much start the process. Sometimes I’ll write the lyrics and will sing a melody or….I’ll play the guitar and make a really cool riff or….I make a first verse and write the guitar. It’s a stepping stone process.”  He continued explaining about the type or theme of the music, “I really enjoy writing about anything that involves a good time or even some kind of philosophy. I don’t want to be like a band that sings about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. I like to go a little deeper. I like to have a hidden message but also have something that is relatable to everybody.”

After Joey creates a basic or draft song, John and Bri write or create their parts which meld into the basic structure.  Joey said, “I do things really old-fashioned. Me and John have been playing with each other a long time. We look at each other’s fingers. [Bri] will play something a little funky or playful and I’ll say ‘try that harder.’”

Joe Worrall and John Juco
Joe Worrall and John Juco

There is a video of Joey on Facebook playing and singing solo using an acoustic guitar.  I wondered if the band had acoustic songs in their repertoire.  Joey explained, “Everything I write is on acoustic. I have my acoustic guitar in my dining room and I start playing that. I really enjoy the acoustic guitar, actually.” Although we both agreed on the difficulty of thick, wound strings, he commented, “The electric feels easier to bend the strings, hit the right notes.”

The topic of learning to play an instrument versus computer sampling arose again during the interview.  Joey pointed out, “For me to play the guitar (and I’m not trying to sound cocky [but] I think of myself as a decent guitarist) it took me years and years to stand behind a guitar and play [in public].” He explained that some of the “people” are “mixing something that somebody else created [like me].”

Joey clarified further,  “I don’t  want to say I want to be a rock star or what? Nobody has seen a real musician-musician today. You know what I mean? Everybody is so into pop, electronic, dub step. To me, you are talking about a person who downloaded a program to their computer and messed with tones that didn’t even make it!”

And onto the future

“What is something that Rolling Blue wants to people to know?” I asked.  After a brief pause, Bri chimed in, “I think one of our messages is we are trying to keep the 60s and 70s alive.

That they are!  Listen to their three songs on ReverbNation. Pay attention, record companies, this is a band to snag.




Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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