Just as it would take a very large room to hold the nearly 50 members who have passed through the ranks of Roomful of Blues, a bigger word than “blues” is needed to describe the sheer volume of genre-hopping mastered by this Westerly, Rhode Island, based band (revolving collective, really) over the past forty-plus years. Founded in 1967 by guitarist Duke Robillard and pianist Al Copley as a blues-rock outfit, the group’s repertoire quickly expanded to include swing, jump-blues, early rock and roll and soul. The band’s ever-evolving line-up has allowed new aspects of the band to come to the fore over the years; after Robillard left in 1980 (he’d later turn up with, among others, the Fabulous Thunderbirds), replaced by Ronnie Earl, the band released a handful of Grammy-nominated albums with 1940s/1950s jump-band stars like Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson (in 1982), Big Joe Turner (1983’s Blues Train) and Earl King (1986’s Glazed), illustrating their place in the music continuum and bringing the songs of these greats to a new audience. Earl left in ’87, but the band rolls on – led, since 1996, by guitarist Chris Vachon – touring constantly and welcoming new members into its legendary ranks.
The band celebrated its 45th anniversary in July 2013 by releasing 45 Live, a three-night concert/blowout recorded live at The Ocean Mist in Matunuck, Rhode Island in March 2013.
(by Stephen Haag)