Duke Robillard and Sugar Ray & The Bluetones
Saturday, September 3, 2022 • 7:30 PM
Day Of Show
Whether it’s a song, a style, an idiom or an image, Duke Robillard will render it with mastery, power, nuance, and an unerring grasp of its essence. Born Michael John Robillard on October 4, 1948, in Woonsocket, R.I., Duke has carved out one of blues’ most illustrious legacies, while also trodding some lofty related territories as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, bandleader, studio sideman, producer, label operator and educator. After showing an early affinity for music and guitar, he founded Roomful Of Blues with pianist Al Copley in Westerly, R.I., in 1967. By adding horns, Roomful announced itself emphatically as the prototypical jump blues band, and became a New England legend and a fixture beyond, as did Duke himself.
His unsurpassed mastery of the guitar style of T-Bone Walker (later crystallized memorably in his 2004 release “Blue Mood” was deservedly heralded, but his breadth was also head-turning – from swing, standards and ballads to rockers, gutbucket Chicago blues and rockabilly. Duke went from 12 years with Roomful to a stint with rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon and then to the first iteration of the Legendary Blues Band, composed primarily of then-recent Muddy Waters sidemen.
The Duke Robillard Band debuted in 1981, re-emerging as The Pleasure Kings with their eponymous 1984 album on Rounder. It and its sequel, “Too Hot To Handle” burnished Duke’s songwriting portfolio; the 1987 jazz outing “Swing” (with saxophonist Scott Hamilton) underscored his versatility and remains a highlight. Continuing his solo career, Duke replaced Jimmie Vaughan with The Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1990. He cut his own much-awaited straight blues album “Duke’s Blues” in 1993. Duke’s prolificity has included producing albums by Billy Boy Arnold, Joe Louis Walker, Rosco Gordon, Jimmy Witherspoon, Otis Clay, Bryan Lee as well as recording two collaborations with Herb Ellis, a pairing with his successor in Roomful, Ronnie Earl, a seat in the New Guitar Summit with J. Geils and Gerry Beaudoin, additional studio credits with Bob Dylan (the well-regarded 1997 “Time Out Of Mind”), Ruth Brown, Johnny Adams, Pinetop Perkins, Snooky Pryor, Al Copley and touring with Tom Waits in 2006. Duke’s resume is decorated with Grammy nominations, Handy Awards and Blues Music Awards, and other honors for his artistry, recordings, and productions within the United States and internationally. His latest album is They Called It Rhythm And Blues.
SUGAR RAY AND THE BLUETONES
Sugar Ray has been on over sixty recordings with the likes of Roomful of Blues, J. Geils, Michelle Willson, Otis Grand, Pinetop Perkins, and he is a featured vocalist on the two critically acclaimed Knickerbocker All-Stars recordings. Three-time Grammy nominated Sugar Ray Norcia has received a total of twenty-two Blues Music Award nominations including winning two Blues Music Awards in 2014. In 2016, Sugar Ray and his band The Bluetones released a CD on Severn Records called “Seeing Is Believing”. For that CD, Sugar Ray was nominated for an unprecedented seven 2017 Blues Music Awards including Traditional Blues Male Artist and B.B. King Entertainer of the year. In 2012 Sugar Ray and the Bluetones were inducted into Rhode Island’s Music Hall of Fame. Sugar Ray Norcia has been the driving force behind the Bluetones since its inception and he is considered one of this generation’s most powerful blues vocalist, harmonica players and songwriters.
Bassist “Mudcat” Ward toured and recorded with J. Geils, Jimmy Rogers, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, and Rockabilly Legend Sleepy LaBeef. His recording with Hubert Sumlin also included Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Levon Helm, part of Ward’s over fifty recordings. Drummer Neil Gouvin has been with Sugar Ray since they were in Jr. High School together. He has also been featured on a CD with John Hammond Jr. called Found True Love (Virgin) that was nominated for a Grammy, and has made multiple recordings with Otis Grand, Joe Houston, and others.