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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Lemon Headed Girl - Franc Robert and the Boxcar Tourists

“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 magazine 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’ backing people 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 all 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 release of 49×61, recruiting Trent Sholl on bass and Remi Sawyer on drums. This combination is making its first appearance in August, 2010, and will be getting very busy for the rest of the year.
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