2018-05-10 / Front Page

Bluesmen Join Forces

By Mark Gorman


Duke Robillard, founder of Roomful of Blues, will play at Newport Elks Lodge with local bluesman James Montgomery on Saturday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets at Elks Lodge or at brownpapertickets.com. Duke Robillard, founder of Roomful of Blues, will play at Newport Elks Lodge with local bluesman James Montgomery on Saturday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets at Elks Lodge or at brownpapertickets.com. For a small state, Rhode Island has a huge stable of world-class musicians. Recently, Newport This Week had the opportunity to sit down with one of the best, the incomparable blues guitarist Duke Robillard.

Robillard has two Grammy nominations, countless Blues Music Awards and even his own signature guitar sold by Eastwood Guitars. BB King called him “one of the great players.”

After founding the iconic Roomful of Blues in 1967 with pianist Al Copley, Robillard traveled the world with them for 12 years, defining the prototypical jump blues band. After stints with rockabilly legend Robert Gordon and with Muddy Waters’ sidemen in The Legendary Blues Band, he replaced the great Jimmy Vaughan in The Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1990, and he has gone on to tour and record with a Who’s Who of legendary musicians.


Legendary Blues artist James Montgomery will team up with Duke Robillard at Newport's Elk Lodge. Legendary Blues artist James Montgomery will team up with Duke Robillard at Newport's Elk Lodge. Next week, Robillard is teaming with fellow Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame inductee James Montgomery for a show at the Newport Elks Lodge. “I believe I met James around 1969. He is a great guy, great performer and has a beautiful spirit,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun [playing with James], and it’s not often I get to play harmonica, so that’s always a treat. I’m really looking forward to our show in Newport. It will be a blast.”

We asked Robillard about memorable folks he’s played with and if there are still some on his bucket list he’s yet to collaborate with. “I’ve been lucky to have played with many of the masters like BB King, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jay McShann, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and many more,” he said. “They were all memorable in many ways, as you can imagine. All the people on my bucket list, I’ve either played with or they’re dead.”

Robillard has been prolific in his recording career, releasing 35 albums in four decades. And he’s not yet finished recording. “I’m currently working on three different CDs,” he said. “They were all started at three different times. One is a live CD and one is an album of songs I admired in my teenage years that aren’t blues and had an effect on me. And one is a blues CD that I recorded 15 years ago and am going to add a few more songs to. After those come out it will be 2020. That could possibly be my last album, but most likely not.”

Another facet of this talented artist is his love of photography. As he travels the world, he always brings his camera. And he finds photography quite similar to music. “In photography, you capture the moment. To me, that’s exactly like recording music,” he said. He also displays and sells his photography.

“We’re excited about the music series that James, who happens to be an Elk, and Robert Howard, are putting together,” Elks spokesperson Joe Kaiser said. “This show will benefit our Elks charities, specifically veterans in our community, and we’re thrilled to have musicians of the caliber of Duke and James stepping up to play for us. This could be a sellout.”

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