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Duke Robillard Profile

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Blues guitarist Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard

Photo by Al Pereira, courtesy Stony Plain Records

Duke Robillard Profile:

Born: October 4, 1948 in Woonsocket RI

Guitarist Duke Robillard is one of the few contemporary instrumentalists conversant in both blues and jazz, not to mention rockabilly and roots rock. Although Robillard began playing professionally in the mid-1960s, he continues to dazzle audiences with his stunning technique and great tone, playing upwards of 250 shows annually. Robillard has received numerous Blues Award nominations as "Best Blues Guitarist," winning in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004. Acclaimed as a musician, bandleader, producer, and songwriter, Robillard is the consummate blues artist.

Roomful of Blues

Robillard formed Roomful of Blues in 1967 with pianist Al Copley, the band quickly evolving from a conventional blues-rock outfit into a jump blues band when Robillard added two sax players in 1970. The band landed a residency at the Knickerbocker Cafe in Westerly, Rhode Island, knocking out nightly sets of their own infectious tunes and backing touring blues artists like Big Joe Turner and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.

Leaving Roomful of Blues after 12 years, Robillard first played with rockabilly artist Robert Gordon before hooking up with the Legendary Blues Band. Comprised of former members of Muddy Waters' band, Robillard performed on the Legendary Blues Band's 1983 Red Hot 'n' Blue album.

Prolific Solo Years

The guitarist launched his solo career with Duke Robillard & the Pleasure Kings, the band releasing its self-titled debut album in 1984. The band would subsequently record and tour throughout the 1980s, with Robillard releasing the occasional jazz-oriented solo album during that time. In 1990, Robillard became a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, playing with the T-Birds for a couple of years while continuing his solo career.

Robillard has released nearly two-dozen albums since 1984, venturing into barrelhouse and jump blues styles, jazz, and even world music. He has recorded with jazz legend Herb Ellis, and in 2004 he released New Guitar Summit with fellow guitarists J. Geils and Gerry Beaudoin. An in-demand session player, the guitarist has lent his skills to recordings by Pinetop Perkins, Jimmy Weatherspoon, and Bob Dylan; as a producer, he has worked on albums from Ronnie Earl, John Hammond, and others.

Recommended Albums: Living With The Blues is the best collection of the guitarist's blues work, while After Hours Swing Session showcases Robillard's hot jazz licks.

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