“Franc Robert sweats and sways onstage, his nimble fingers dancing along his guitar neck as he moans and howls the blues. It’s still early on a Friday night, but already about 25 blues fans have gathered around the stage in Buckingham Blues Bar. They sip beer as they bob their heads to Robert’s high-energy tunes about love, heartbreak and his “lemon-headed” ex-wife. “This next song fits this bar so perfectly,” says the grinning, ponytailed bluesman from Port Saint Richey. “It’s called ‘Groovin’ on the Outskirts of Town.’”
— Charles Runnells, Ft. Myers News-Press
“Overall, this Florida musician knows his blues, and isn’t afraid to show you. Listeners will be able to get a full dose of blues styles with a stripped-down sound that gives a raw and powerful thread that binds the album together.”
— Matt Marshall, AmericanBluesScene.com
“He belted out first-rate Delta style Floridian blues, number after number in his unique voice. Franc has been playing for decades. Franc rocked the house. “
— Luis G., Art Taco Blog
Finally getting some of the recognition after 30+ years in the blues trenches, Franc Robert’s “Mulligan Stew” (on Blue Chihuahua Records) has been receiving press accolades and extensive airplay all over the USA and on the internet, winning fans wherever he plays his brand of stripped-down delta drenched blues. 2012 has certainly been a year to remember, playing concerts and festivals all over Florida with an album that truly shows what he is capable of, singing, playing and writing his own style of blues.
“It all started with hearing Clapton”. Certainly those words have been heard before from many musicians over the years, but it’s rare for one to grow far beyond the seed that germinated one afternoon in 1980. And for Franc Robert, that seed has grown into a life-long love affair with the blues. “I just became obsessive about playing guitar, to the point it drove both my parents crazy, being locked away in my room, tiny amp blasting out what I was playing. Eventually, my mother stopped calling it noise and started calling it music… one of the better days of my life!” Soon after starting to play, Franc joined a series of bands through high school (like so many others) constantly honing his chops, but none of them really went anywhere, nor did they satisfy his love for the blues.
Fast-forward to 1984, and a move to Montreal, Canada, to join his father in his commercial illustration business. Almost immediately, Franc gravitated towards the small but close-knit blues community, which then centered around The Rising Sun, a small club known for having big name performers playing there on weekends. “It was a great time back then-saw Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Dutch Mason, Willie Dixon play there. There was the Jazz Fest going at the time as well, with the blues stage just down the block from the Rising Sun”. Franc started showing up at the Blue Monday Jam sessions, eventually hosting the jams himself from time to time. “You’d never know who would show up-Dutch Mason made it down, Jeff Golub sat in on my guitar one night, local harp legend Jim Zeller would come down, lots of touring bands would show up. The place was really well known across Canada, and the best players made a point of stopping in when they could.” Being around so many talented musicians inspired Franc even further, and eventually he was leading several of his own bands around town, working by day with his father and playing all night.
Moving to Tampa Bay, Florida in 1990, Franc fell right into the blues scene-and fell right back out. “It was good because I caught on with a band immediately-I showed up at a jam the first night I got there, on a Monday, and was gigging with a band by Friday! It was fun while it lasted, but I needed to feed my kids, so I had to quit playing for awhile.” Franc finally returned to the blues scene in 1996, but blues music was not often heard on the north side of Tampa Bay back then. “Myself and Donny Kuryliew (of Lazy Boy And The Rockers) were the only guys in our neck of the woods who wanted to really play blues-everyone else wanted to do Lynyrd Skynyrd!” It took awhile, but Back Alley Blues Band, led by Franc, won over converts up and down the Nature Coast of Florida, playing a mixture of Chicago and Texas blues, with some swamp music thrown in for good measure. BABB became a fixture on the scene, eventually opening up concerts for Charlie Musselwhite, Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers, Tinsley Ellis, Sean Carney Band, Pat Travers, LeRoy Parnell, “Sauce Boss” Bill Wharton, and many others. They also released a CD “Boxcar Tourists” in 2006 to positive reviews and local airplay.
Franc formed the Boxcar Tourists specifically for the 2010 release of 49×61, recruiting Trent Sholl on bass and Remi Sawyer on drums. This combination made its first appearance in August, 2010, and recorded “Why Do I Never Win” on the Mind Balm Records label. Remi left the band in March 2011, replaced by returning Back Alley Blues Band drummer Dave Simmons. This combination is the basis of the “Mulligan Stew” record, released in 2012 to incredible reviews and international airplay, appearing on the Roots Music Report Blues chart for 3 months, reaching #22!
“Put it all together and what emerges is a collection of nitty gritty, gut wrenching, hard core, deep south blues, evoking images of smoke-filled bars along the Louisiana bayous and Mississippi deltas, or just about anywhere around the Tampa Bay music scene.”
— Rick Crandall, www.MusicTampaBay.com
Dave Simmons-Drums & Percussion
Franc’s running buddy for the last 10 years, David hails from Virginia, where he played in the Home Cooking Band. Moving to Florida in the late 1970s, David continued playing in many bands, including The Stingrays, Cool Corporate Cats, Tom Bell, Take It Back, Back Alley Blues Band and Delta Aces.
Florida born and raised bass player Larry Powell grew up in a musical family with both his mom and sister playing piano and his brother on drums. He played tuba in school bands and picked up the electric bass at thirteen to play in local teen bands.
After high school he played in local bands with great stars like national recording artist Mike Pinara of the “Blues Image” and later the “Iron Butterfly”.
Later he played with show bands like “Me and the Other Guys” that was a spring board for national recording artist Kent Lavoie of “Lobo” fame (Me and You and a Dog Named Boo) .
Following that was a long stint with local national recording artists “the Impacs” which played many festival events backing up many big stars including Chuck Berry.