Guitarist Robert Allen Jr. strolls through the crowd
during a Jan. 22 concert at the Terrace Bay Inn
sponsored by Blues for a Cause.
By STEVE SEYMOUR
Milwaukee's acclaimed Robert Allen Jr. commanded the attention of blues fans during an appearance at the Terrace Bay Inn in Gladstone on Jan. 22. The show was part of the Winter Blues series sponsored by Wendy Pepin's Blues for a Cause.
All profits from the event go to the spay/neuter/adoption fund for pets at the Delta County Animal Shelter, Pepin said.
Hundreds of fans from around the Upper Peninsula packed the venue.
Keeping the dance floor filled most of the evening, the bluesman tore through three dozen songs.
With his Gibson Epiphone ES-335 guitar named "Blondie," Robert captured the audience from the beginning, with his guitar tone adding an authentic blues feeling to the band's repertoire.
the bands propulsive rhythm provided a supportive background for the songs which included original material, blues standards, and a number of rock classics.
The program opened with "Sweet Home Chicago," composed and first performed by Robert Johnson. Countless bands have performed the early bluesman's masterpiece.
Making a strong presence with his black hat and sunglasses, Robert and his cohorts put their own mark on the song, serving notice they were going to boogie all night!!
The band added some rhythm and blues to the mix with Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" and "Hound Dog." Although Elvis Presley had a gigantic pop hit with "Hound Dog" in 1956, the song was actually a No. 1 R&B smash for Big Mama Thornton three years before. Composed by the songwriting team of Leiber & Stoller, "Hound Dog" ended the band's first set.
During the second set, Allen paired "Shake Your Money Maker" with "Who Do You Love" to great effect.
A sharp burst of drums from Braun started Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love."
"Shake Your Money Maker" has been recorded by Fleetwood Mac, George Thorogood and the Black Crowes, among other blues and rock acts. "Who Do You Love" made the lower reaches of the pop chart when released by the Lansing-area garage band the Woolies in 1967.
Both blues standards were included on "Three of a Kind Beats Everything" a compact disc Robert released in 2007. That album was recorded live at Mustang Shelly's Roadhouse on March 3 of that year.
The blues shuffle "Baby What You Want Me to Do," also slotted well into the band's program. Robert's guitar reflected the passion the he felt for the original, composed and recorded by Jimmy Reed in 1959.
Robert fired up the torch with some fierce guitar work on Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy" to the delight of the audience. Vaughan, lead guitarist with Double Trouble, died in a helicopter crash after a concert at Wisconsin's Alpine Valley on Aug. 27, 1990.
Robert then followed with a dynamite take on Willie Dixon's "She's Dangerous," about the troubles a shapely girlfriend can bring. Louis Jordan's "Let The Good Times Roll" followed.
"Big Boss Man," another number recorded by Jimmy Reed, featuring some committed vocals ended the second set.
Third set highlights included a wild version of the Jerry Lee Lewis classic "Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On," and an intriguing version of "Roadhouse Blues" in which Robert seemed to channel the spirit of Jim Morrison, lead singer for the Doors.
The two rock selections were followed by Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Gangster of Love" and "So Long," the closing track on Robert's "Burn It Up" CD from 2001.
Robert Allen Jr. is a striking virtuoso on the electric six-string, he impressed the crowd, but that shouldn't have come as a surprise.
Born into a family of musicians, Robert was attracted to the guitar at young age. He got his first guitar at 14 and has been playing ever since. By his late teens he was touring nationally with blues bands. He traveled with iconic Chicago bluesman Sam Lay in 1997 and discovered Jimmy Rogers. He also traveled to Mississippi and met blues legends like James Cotton, Buddy Guy and Robert Jr. Lockwood.
Robert has played many notable shows, but one of the most memorable was opening for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band during the Harley Davidson's 105th anniversary celebration in Milwaukee.
Robert earned a WAMI in 2001 as Wisconsin's Best Blues Band.
While all those accolades are deserved, it's great shows like the one they gave last weekend that earn the Robert Allen Jr. Band their enviable reputation.