Blues musician Terry Robb’s musical journey all started with a gifted acoustic guitar. The Portland, Oregon-based musician, who makes a musical living as a solo performer and session player, came of age when guitar lessons weren’t a common thing. It was a time where kids were more apt to take piano or horn lessons over the guitar.
Robb will perform Saturday at 11th Street Station, opening up the final iAM MUSIC Concert Series for 2019.
“My uncle was a swing guitar player in Los Angeles, and he was playing for Lawrence Welk,” Robb said. “He gave me my first guitar. Not everybody was playing guitar back then. This was mid ’60s – it was kind of a stroke of luck that there was somebody in the family that made a living playing the guitar.”
Reared in a household with records aplenty and parents interested in music, Robb’s lessons didn’t come in the traditional sense where you hire a teacher and learn technique and scales – he was playing by ear, either from listening to records or tracking down blues musicians he dug. At that time, it was the best method of learning.
“I didn’t take guitar lessons, I think I had like one or two. Back then, they weren’t really teaching stuff that you wanted to know. There weren’t any tab books out or anything , so I would go hear people or have people show me things,” he said. “My parents were really big music fans. my dad took me to see Louis Armstrong, and he took me to see The Beatles. We would go see the symphony, so there was a lot of enjoyment of music in my household, and a lot of talking about music. I think that was my education more than anything.”
It was also a time where the early blues musicians, people making music in the 1940s and ’50s, were enjoying a resurgence. Despite enjoying an array of music, from rock and folk to jazz, Robb gravitated toward the blues. It’s what stuck.
“There was a lot of blues music around and a lot of the old blues guys were being rediscovered, and a lot of people were interested in this music,” he said. “I got interested in it, and my style of playing is blues-oriented because the technique I learned was blues technique, but I play all kinds of different stuff. But it always comes off as sounding bluesy.”
Robb’s career has been loaded with session work, solo releases and production duties, including a relationship with folkie and finger-picking guitar wiz John Fahey. When Robb was young, he met Fahey and the two bonded over the music of William Moore and Charlie Patton, and soon after, Robb was producing his music.
Robb’s latest release is “Confessin’ My Dues,” an acoustic record that features both solo cuts as well as songs recorded with his trio. Robb is a stellar guitar player, walking a line between old-school acoustic blues, finger-picking jazz and rock ’n’ roll. The solo cuts on the record are an apt representation of his live show; his aim was to record something big.
“I wanted it to sound kind of like how I sound live, so I gave it a live sound,”he said. “I wanted to make it sound like when people listen live. So, there’s some ambiance so it wasn’t dead sounding, and it wasn’t too quiet. When I play live, it’s kind of big.”
In addition to Robb, the iAM Music Concert Series will feature Stillhouse Junkies, Head for the Hills, Space Between Shadows and Let Them Roar.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.