Ric Harris

While pursuing a goal, a person may find himself in a new location. An article in Guitar Player about the Old Town School of Folk Music inspired Ric Harris to leave North Carolina and make his way to Chicago. After attending the Music Institute, Ric formed his own jazz group and appeared in the Chicago area until 1991. Ric returned to the music scene with a vision inspired by Gary Moore, Dickey Betts, and Tommy Castro. 

The jam sessions around Chicago helped Ric to redevelop his playing, finding the work of new artists, such as Mark May, Matt Schofield, and Coco Montoya, more compelling. Ric considered the blues as something defined by more than improvisation. Inspired by the works of the Allman Brothers Band, Ric views the solo as a part of the song, not the focus of it.

As a solo artist, Ric released his first CD, Open For Business, in January of 2019. Building on that production, Ric Harris and The Heat Merchants was started in 2021. With Cary Roberts on bass and Jim Semmelroth on drums, the band is taking Rockford by storm. Enjoy what you hear and let Ric know what you think. 


Cary Roberts



Serving up a savory blend of Blues, Roots, Rock, and Soul, Cary lays down a deep groove.  His playing is seasoned in Chicago Blues, Southern Soul, and the sounds of Stax, Motown, and Muscle Shoals – but with an eye to the future. 

Originally from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Cary honed his craft playing Blues-Rock and Funk along with lessons in jazz theory and bass.  He counts Tommy Cogbill, James Jamerson, and Bernard Odum as early influences. Catch him cookin’ up something good with the Heat Merchants at a club near you.

Jim Semmelroth

Studied music and live sound engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1980-1984 

Relocated to Nashville TN 1985 

Live house sound engineer Exit Inn, Elliston Square. 

T. Graham Brown 

Jason and The Scorchers 

Drummed for: 

Hostage Flamingos - Carbondale IL 

Gus Papalas - Carbondale IL 

Rick McCoy Jazz Quartet - Carbondale IL 

Later That Evening - Nashville TN 

Rico - Nashville TN 

Midnight Hour - Rockford IL 

River City Band - Rockford IL 

Common Ground - Rockford IL

Ric Harris and The Heat Merchants - Rockford IL