Sunday, July 19, 1998

Sherman Robertson ~ 1998

Sherman Robinson is part zydeco, part swamp blues, part electric blues and part classic rhythm & blues. His guitar playing style is extremely rhythm-based, but at the same time, he plays some extraordinary slide guitar and in the course of one of his typical three hour shows, he'll play a lot of great solos. Robertson's rhythmic playing is no doubt an outgrowth of his several years on the road in the 1980s with the king of zydeco, Clifton Chenier. He also served tenures with Rockin' Dopsie and Terrance Simien & the Mallet Playboys before deciding he wanted to venture out with his own high energy blues style several years ago.

Robertson drew his first inspiration from a TV performance by Hank Williams, the country singer known in bayou country for his composition, "Jambalaya.'' He was 13 when he first saw Williams perform and that experience changed his life. Robertson heard the blues coming out of the country legend, and his interest in playing guitar was piqued. Robertson's father bought him an old Stella guitar for $12 and the younger Robertson began playing the songs of Freddie King and Floyd London, often playing until his hands bled and often falling asleep with the instrument nestled beside him.

Growing up in Houston, just down the street from Don Robey's famed Duke/Peacock Records studios, Robertson had the chance to befriend many of the great musicians who stopped in there to make records. By 17, he was honing his craft with a local blues band and playing in the bars in his Fifth Ward neighborhood in Houston. In 1982, when Robertson's band was playing at the Crosstown Blues Festival, zydeco legend Chenier heard him play. Chenier told his bus driver to "get that guitar player," and a long alliance with Chenier's band was forged.

Robertson moved to Louisiana with Chenier's band and learned a lot from the accordionist about how to read an audience. Later, Robertson worked with singer-songwriter Paul Simon during recording sessions for his Graceland album, and also had the chance to sit in with all of his heroes, Albert Collins and B.B. King and Lightnin' Hopkins among them. In 1987 and 1988, after Chenier's passing, Robertson hooked up with accordionist Terrance Simien, and furthered his musical education, particularly with the overseas dates that band performed in Egypt and Africa. After all those years of playing zydeco, Robertson yearned to get back to more basic forms of blues, and in the early '90s, after two and a half years with the Mallet Playboys, he assembled his own band that would later take much of the blues festival circuit by storm. A few years and hundreds of shows later, critics were saying Robertson would inherit the seats left open by people like Albert King and Albert Collins. ~ Allmusic

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