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Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard - Blues Guitarist

Inspired by blues legends like T-Bone Walker, Charlie Patton and Big Joe Turner, Duke's guitar work has seamlessly spanned the worlds of jazz, blues, and swing since he founded the renowned big band, Roomful of Blues, in 1967. Since 1980, Duke has recorded over a dozen acclaimed solo albums and toured the world both with his own band and as a featured accompanist. Called "one of the great players" by the legendary B.B. King, Duke's upbeat live performance, accented by a swinging horn section, is a tasteful display of a wide variety of blues styles.

Duke had his first band in high school - he was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island - and he was fascinated from the beginning by the ways in which jazz, swing, and the blues were linked. In 1967, he formed Roomful of Blues, and the band was tight enough and tough enough to accompany two of its heroes, Big Joe Turner and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson on record and in live appearances.

Always ahead of his time, Duke's first band pre-dated the renewed interest in jump blues by more than a decade - and almost 20 years later, in 1986, when he recorded with jazz sax master Scott Hamilton, he recorded a collection of classic big band tunes from the '30s and '40s, thus skillfully pre-dating the neo-Swing craze of the mid '90s.

Roomful of Blues - which still continues, a quarter of a century later - gave Duke his first exposure to a wide public, and when he left after a dozen years, he played briefly with rockabilly king Robert Gordon, then cut two albums with the Legendary Blues Band (a sterling collection of former members of Muddy Waters' band). He led his own band until 1990, and then replaced Jimmy Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

In 1993, as he was about to sign a world-wide recording deal with Virgin/Pointblank, he met Holger Petersen, head of the Canadian independent label Stony Plain, at a folk festival in Winnipeg. In conversation, he mentioned he wanted to record a complete album of blues, without the R&B and jazz influences of his work to date.

Petersen was interested; Virgin gave the go-ahead, and the resulting album, “Duke's Blues,” earned rave reviews. It was so successful, in fact, that Virgin soon licensed the record from Stony Plain and released it around the world.

In the years since his relationship with Stony Plain, he has been astonishingly fruitful. As a solo artist, he has released ten records with the label - including his "all-blues" outing “Living With the Blues,” released in early 2002.

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