Bobby G - Playin' the Blues
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Bobby G - Playin' the Blues

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BY ART LEVY, Staff Writer

A few people sat waiting in the dark on a Tuesday night, drinking their beer and smoking their cigarettes. They watched the band set up behind the pool tables, and then they watched Bobby Gilbert (a/k/a Bobby G) strap on his guitar and get ready to play.

Gilbert, 40, has wanted to be a rock star since he was a child. Along the way, he had his successes and his failures, but the bottom line is he's still trying. He has a blues band now, called The Bobby G Band, and they play festivals and night clubs throughout Southwest Florida and, on nights like this, they play bars. They began their first set at Sidelines Bar & Grill in Bradenton with a blues classic by B. B. King.

"The thrill is gone," Gilbert sang, but deep down, he knows this really isn't true.

After more than 30 years of performing and being in so many bands he can't remember all the names, Gilbert still gets excited about getting up on stage and playing his guitar. "Every single time I make music, it's cool," he said. "The bad nights are even cool."

In this way, Gilbert is no different from Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle, who -- as original members of the band The Who -- continue playing rock 'n roll long after most figured they would. The Who, currently on a tour of the United States, is scheduled to perform at Tampa's Ice Palace. And another veteran band, the Rolling Stones, announced Friday that they would begin a U.S. tour, probably in September. Gilbert likes the idea of that because Townsend, Daltrey, and Entwistle are even older than he is. So re Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts of the Stones.

"Those guys are in their 50s," Gilbert said. "That's cool. I'm happy for them that they still want to be making music, but they don't inspire me or anything like that. I'd be making my music, anyway." This has always been Gilbert's dream. As a teenager, playing in rock bands, he decided that this is what he wanted to do the rest of his life. Even back then, the thought of being a middle-aged man playing music appealed to him. It still does.

"I knew I'd be doing this one way or another," he said. "I just didn't know if I'd be lucky enough to make a living at it." Gilbert actually decided to be a rock star when he was 5. "I saw The Beatles on TV," he said. "People were screaming and they were playing. I thought that was great, so that's what I wanted, too."

Growing up in Detroit, Gilbert started his first band when he was 10. "I remember playing little pre-teen parties and stuff," he said. "It was pretty strange. It was more like everybody getting up and banging on their instruments. Nobody had a style or anything." All through school, Gilbert was in a band. Eventually, he went to college and got a degree in psychology, but all he wanted was to make his living as a musician.

During the early 1970's, he recorded and toured with a rock band called Frijid Pink. That was probably the highlight of his career. He said the band traveled the world and performed in big venues. That ended, though, and he moved to Sarasota in 1977. During the hard times, he worked day jobs to survive, but he never gave up on his music. He did construction for a while, and poured concrete. For a time, he worked 14-hour days selling real estate and still played in a band at night. For the past 14 years, though, his music career has gone well enough to pay the bills without any help from a day job. All in all, he has no complaints.

"It's not like a regular job where you really have to work hard," he said. "What more could you ask for, to get paid to play? It's something you can do all your life." And that's just what he plans to do. "Look at B.B. King," he said. "The guy is 71 and he's playing 300 dates a year, so I can't see anybody being too old to play music."

- Sarasota Herald-Times


The Southern Fried Blues Society, an affiliate member of The Blues Foundation serving the Smokey Mountain Region, is sponsoring a series of blues concert events during Fall 2008 as part of its initial fund raising and membership drive.

Electric metal blues artist, Bobby G, will perform at the PlayItForward BluesFest at The Garage at Biltmore in Asheville, NC on Sept. 26 and at the Oct. 11th Neph's BluesFest in Waynesville, NC along with other featured blues acts from the Smokey Mountain region.

For more information, please visit: www.southernfriedblues.org


- The Southern Fried Blues Society


Long-time blues radio show host, CB Roy, is planning to interview Bobby G on an upcoming show in July 2008. Date:TBA - "Mostly Blues" Radio Show


2005 indie release Smokey Mountain Blues (all original solo CD) is sold out at 32,000 copies. CD tracks still available online at CDBaby or through Bobby's personal myspace webpage.

Approximately 50% were sold in the Netherlands and Belgium as a result of the 2007 micro-tour there to tout the release. The remainder went to Bobby G fans in the USA, many of whom reside in Bradenton-Sarasota area and the Smokey Mountains in Western NC.

Bobby G is currently recording his next -- as yet, unnamed solo CD, scheduled for release by Spring 2009. - Bobby G Band


It’s funny how people who excel in a particular endeavor, be it athletic or artistic, often make the extraordinary look easy. Whether it is Tiger Woods chipping in from 30 yards out or the late painter Bob Ross making a large pine tree appear on a canvas with just a few brush strokes (“I think we’ll let this little guy live right over here”), the seeming ease with which the truly talented perform often belies the magnificent achievements that result.

Bobby Gilbert, a.k.a. Bobby G., is just this sort of blues guitarist.

Gilbert’s sound, with its intricate chord progressions and frenetic pace, brings to mind guitar originals such as Carlos Santana and J.J. Cale. Heady company indeed, but it is the seemingly relaxed manner in which Gilbert delivers such a high-energy blues sound that impresses most.

Gilbert does not display the extreme face contortions or over-wrought arm motions that some other guitarists indulge in. He plays with an efficiency and ease of motion that almost seems at odds with the torrent of notes screaming out of the amp, and can only be the product of decades of experience. If you ignore his fingers gliding smoothly up and down the fret board and look only at his face, you could almost forget he is the man actually playing.

Gilbert’s stage presence is understated as well. One will not find pyrotechnics, choreographed dancers or elaborate costumes (Gilbert usually performs in a pair of sneakers, blue jeans and an open button-up shirt over a T shirt).

At a Bobby G. show there isn’t even a band as the percussion, bass, brass and other instruments that accompany Gilbert’s searing blues guitar are recorded beforehand by Gilbert and reproduced by a small, gray box called a sequencer. The show is all about Bobby G. and his guitar and that is more than enough.

Gilbert comes by his talent honestly, having started playing guitar in the 1960s as a child growing up in Arkansas.

“I was 11 or 12 when I started. I had a cousin who played guitar and he was the one who really got me into it. He was quite a bit older than I and was playing all that 60s rocker stuff like The Venturas. He showed me some stuff and I took lessons for a couple of weeks, but the instructor was giving me stuff that I didn’t want to learn, so I wound up teaching myself. I got a two-speed tape recorder and I would slow down songs and listen to the guitar parts and play along,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert continued to learn how to play and eventually formed a touring band called Outer Drive while he attended college in Michigan in the early 1970s. Gilbert’s hobby would soon become a profession that would place him in the company of some of the biggest names in rock and blues.

“I met the manager for the band Frijid Pink, who had a big hit with their cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (the single reached number seven on the charts) and started playing in their band. I stayed with them for four years and basically got to tour the world. I finished college too and got a degree in psychology. I’ve never used it,” said Gilbert.

Indeed, Gilbert has managed to support himself as a professional musician ever since, and in the years that followed his tour with Frijid Pink, has appeared and toured with such musical greats as B.B. King and Buddy Guy. He also performed at AC/DC lead singer Bryan Johnson’s 50th birthday party. True to his understated playing style, Gilbert remains modest about his success as a musician.

“Some people will tell you you’re good and this or that. I’m not going to say I’m great or better than anyone else. I’m just lucky. I’d rather be lucky than good,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert now resides near Bethel in Haywood County and continues to tour the country as a solo act as well as play shows locally. His first solo album titled Smokey Mountain Blues is lyrically simple and adheres strictly to the conventional blues paradigm (lost love, lost friends, regret, etc.) ----- a showcase for Gilbert’s impressive talent as a world-class blues guitarist. - Greg Sessoms, The Smokey Mtn. News


Bobby G. has pretty much seen it all during his 30 odd years in the music business. One of his earliest claims to fame is when he moved to Michigan and joined the rock band Frijid Pink, which scored a massive hit with their heavier-than-metal version of "The House of the Rising Sun", which was a hit for the British blues band The Animals in the mid-60s.

"I think The Animals version sold about 800,000 copies, and ours sold ten million. To me, that song destroyed Frijid Pink as a band. That’s all anyone wanted to hear, and we had a lot of other great songs." [said Gilbert].

Bobby G. has knocked around quite a bit since those heady days touring as guitarist with The Pink. He was voted top guitarist (in the Tampa Bay area) and recently relocated to the Waynesville area, the base of Cold Mountain, to be precise. He says his time is taken up with recording and playing music as a solo act.

"It sounds like a seven-piece band with drums and horns and everything, but it is just me and my guitar, a computer sequencer and a microphone. I try to do my own thing. It's all originals. I play all the regular instruments on it, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. I wanted it to have a raw sound, no special effects, no slick production", he said.

In Florida, Bobby G. had been working with a strong three-piece band -- Eddie E. on bass, and Gary Guzzardo, previously with the Marshall Tucker Band, on drums. Now that he's in Western North Carolina, he says he's thinking about putting another three-piece together, one that appreciates his passion for Chicago-style house-rockin' rhythm and blues.

"I really like that electric blues Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and Buddy Guy. I have done shows with B.B. King and James Peterson (he is like 65 and still does it). I just love to play, and have been fortunate enough to have had made a great living at it. I am the best kept secret." - The Guide (by Chuck Waters)


Discography

Smokey Mountain Blues CD - (all originals) - solo indie release, 2005. Hard copy sell out at 32,000 copies.

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Bio

One of the best kept secrets in the funk and metal Blues world, Bobby G is most often compared to other world class guitarists like Joe Satriani or Carlos Santana -- but his revolutionary electric style is definitely his own.

He grew up playing 60's rock -- like The Venturas -- and soon began a love affair with the blues greats -- Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf --during his Detroit days. He toured and recorded with the 70's rock band -- Frijid Pink -- until they disbanded, and then moved on tour the U.S. with Outer Drive. Since then he's played with B. B. King, James Peterson, blues legend Diamond Teeth Mary, Nazareth, Pat Travers and Les Dudek, The Outfield, the James Gang and so many small bands, he can't remember them all.

For more than 12 years, his original Bobby G Band [with bassist Eddie E. and drummer Gary Guzzardo a veteran of Marshall Tucker Band] was renown on Florida's Suncoast for their house rockin' blues that earned not only 'best of best' accolades from fans, but made them a sought after crowd pleaser by almost every blues club and festival in the Tampa-Sarasota-Bradenton area. Their indie release "You Play it Your Way, I'll Play it Mine" was a sell out.

Bobby has appeared as a soloist at prestigious blues venues such as the Five O'Clock Club, Classic Wax, House of Blues (N.O.), Sarasota Blues Festival, and others. His first indie solo CD -- Smokey Mountain Blues - has sold out at 32,000 copies in less than 2 years.

Always an innovator, Bobby still pushes the envelope with intricate chord progressions - now combined with Tim Allen's passionate blues harp and Dave Todd on percussion as the new Bobby G Band. Together, this incredibly talented trio delivers heart-racing Chicago-style Roadhouse Blues that leaves audiences wide-eyed and askin' for more.

For more information about Bobby G and his band, visit: http://www.bobbyguitar.com