|Roomful of Blues|
Performing at the 2012 Rawa Blues Festival
|Origin||Westerly, Rhode Island, United States|
|Genres||Blues, jump blues, boogie-woogie, R&B, swing revival, jazz rock, jazz blues|
|Labels||Alligator, Bullseye Blues, Black Top, Varrick Records, Muse, Mango, Island|
Roomful of Blues is an American blues and swing revival big band based in Rhode Island. With a recording career that spans over 50 years, they have toured worldwide and recorded many albums. Roomful of Blues, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Swagger, sway and swing with energy and precision". Since 1967, the group's blend of swing, rock and roll, jump blues, boogie-woogie and soul has earned it five Grammy Award nominations and many other accolades, including seven Blues Music Awards (with a victory as Blues Band Of The Year in 2005). Billboard called the band "a tour de force of horn-fried blues...Roomful is so tight and so right." The Down Beat International Critics Poll has twice selected Roomful of Blues as Best Blues Band.
Roomful of Blues is currently an eight-piece unit led by guitarist Chris Vachon and featuring long-time tenor and alto sax player Rich Lataille. In 2010, singer Phil Pemberton took over the vocal duties, replacing Dave Howard. Recent members are trumpeter Doug Woolverton, bassist John Turner and drummer Chris Rivelli, joining long-time member baritone and tenor saxophonist Mark Earley. Keyboardist Travis Colby left the band at the end of 2012 to continue his music career in a different direction and Rusty Scott is now on keyboards. Over the years there have been at least 48 Roomful of Blues members.
Roomful of Blues was born in Westerly, Rhode Island in 1967 when guitarist Duke Robillard and pianist Al Copley started a band that played tough, no-holds-barred Chicago blues. They soon began exploring the swinging, jumping blues, R&B and jazz of the 1940s and 1950s, and added a horn section (including Rich Lataille) in 1970. They established a devoted fan base in New England. In 1974, they performed with Count Basie, and a few years later songwriter Doc Pomus helped them land their first record deal, and produced their debut with co-producer Joel Dorn. In 1977, Roomful of Blues' self-titled debut album on Island Records (reissued on Hyena Records as The First Album) brought them to national attention.
Founding member Duke Robillard left the band in 1980, and guitarist Ronnie Earl replaced him. Singer Lou Ann Barton joined the band at this time, sharing vocals with sax man Greg Piccolo. By now the band was touring nationally, attracting bigger and bigger crowds. Roomful recorded the Hot Little Mama for their own Blue Flame label and two successful albums for the Varrick label during the 1980s. In 1994, they released Dance All Night, their first featuring guitarist Chris Vachon (who joined the band in 1990) and harpist/vocalist Sugar Ray Norcia. Their 1995 album, the Grammy-nominated Turn It On! Turn It Up!, a mix of big band swing and rock and roll, brought the band its greatest radio and sales success to date. Roomful of Blues joined Chicago-based Alligator Records with the Grammy-nominated That's Right! in 2003, followed by Standing Room Only in 2005, Raisin' A Ruckus in 2008, Hook, Line and Sinker in 2011 and 45 Live! in 2013.Down Beat described Standing Room Only as "bold, brassy and highly danceable jump blues with contemporary energy and sophistication...swings with a vengeance."
In addition to their band recordings, Roomful of Blues often backed musicians like Jimmy Witherspoon, Jimmy McCracklin, Roy Brown, Joe Turner, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and Earl King -- stars of the 1940s and 1950s jump blues scene. Roomful recorded albums with Turner, Vinson and King during the 1980s, and all three recordings received Grammy nominations. They played with rocker Pat Benatar on her 1991 album True Love. The Roomful Horns backed many other artists as well, including Canadian star Colin James on his double platinum album (in Canada), Colin James and the Little Big Band, and Stevie Ray Vaughan on his 1984 Live At Carnegie Hall album on Epic.
Over the years Roomful of Blues has played countless gigs and many major festivals, including The San Francisco Blues Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival, The Beale Street Music Festival, Blues On The Fox, Illinois Blues Festival, Kansas City Blues Festival, Monterey Blues Festival, Santa Cruz Blues Festival, and overseas at The North Sea Jazz Festival, The Stockholm Jazz Festival, The Montreux Jazz Festival, Notodden Festival and the Belgian Rhythm & Blues Festival. They have gigged with blues stars ranging from B.B. King, Otis Rush and Stevie Ray Vaughan to rockers Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana. The band has toured virtually non-stop, hitting cities from coast to coast, and traveling abroad to Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey and Russia.
Throughout four decades of continuous touring and recording, the band's line-up has experienced many changes. It is said that more than 50 musicians have played in the band. Some of them have achieved a successful solo career. Of note, Porky Cohen, whose career began in the 1940s and included playing in the bands of Charlie Barnet, Artie Shaw, Lucky Millinder, Tommy Dorsey and others, was in the band. Rich Lataille, alto and tenor saxophone, is the only remaining member from the original line-up.