Roomful Of Blues

Roomful of Blues

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Roomful of Blues

Roomful of Blues is an American blues and swing revival big band based in Rhode Island. With a recording career that spans over 40 years, they have toured worldwide and recorded many albums. Roomful of Blues, according to The Chicago Sun-Times, "Swagger, sway and swing with energy and precision".[1] Since 1967, the groups blend of swing, rock and roll, jump blues, boogie-woogie and soul has earned it five Grammy Award nominations and many other accolades, including seven Blues Music Awards (with a victory as Blues Band Of The Year in 2005). Billboard called the band "a tour de force of horn-fried bluesRoomful is so tight and so right."[2] The Down Beat International Critics Poll has twice selected Roomful of Blues as Best Blues Band.

Roomful of Blues is currently an eight-piece unit led by guitarist Chris Vachon and featuring long-time tenor and alto sax player Rich Lataille. In 2010, singer Phil Pemberton took over the vocal duties, replacing Dave Howard. Recently members are trumpeter Doug Woolverton, bassist John Turner and drummer Ephraim Lowell, joining long-time member baritone and tenor saxophonist Mark Earley. Keyboardist Travis Colby left the band at the end of 2012 to continue his music career in a different direction. Over the years there have been at least 48 Roomful of Blues members.[3]


Roomful of Blues was born in Westerly, Rhode Island in 1967 when guitarist Duke Robillard and pianist Al Copley started a band that played tough, no-holds-barred Chicago blues.[4] They soon began exploring the swinging, jumping blues, R&B and jazz of the 1940s and 1950s, and added a horn section (including Rich Lataille) in 1970. They established a devoted fan base in New England. In 1974, they performed with Count Basie, and a few years later songwriter Doc Pomus helped them land their first record deal, and produced their debut with co-producer Joel Dorn. In 1977, Roomful of Blues self-titled debut album on Island Records (reissued on Hyena Records as The First Album) brought them to national attention.

Founding member Duke Robillard left the band in 1980, and guitarist Ronnie Earl replaced him. Singer Lou Ann Barton joined the band at this time, sharing vocals with sax man Greg Piccolo.[5] By now the band was touring nationally, attracting bigger and bigger crowds. Roomful recorded the Hot Little Mama for their own Blue Flame label and two successful albums for the Varrick label during the 1980s. In 1994, they released Dance All Night, their first featuring guitarist Chris Vachon (who joined the band in 1990) and harpist/vocalist Sugar Ray Norcia. Their 1995 album, the Grammy-nominated Turn It On! Turn It Up!, a mix of big band swing and rock and roll, brought the band its greatest radio and sales success to date. Roomful of Blues joined Chicago-based Alligator Records with the Grammy-nominated Thats Right! in 2003, followed by Standing Room Only in 2005 and Raisin A Ruckus in 2008.[5] Down Beat described Standing Room Only as bold, brassy and highly danceable jump blues with contemporary energy and sophistication...swings with a vengeance.[6]

In addition to their band recordings, Roomful of Blues often backed musicians like Jimmy Witherspoon, Jimmy McCracklin, Roy Brown, Joe Turner, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson and Earl King stars of the 1940s and 1950s jump blues scene. Roomful recorded albums with Turner, Vinson and King during the 1980s, and all three recordings received Grammy nominations. They played with rocker Pat Benatar on her 1991 album True Love. The Roomful Horns backed many other artists as well, including Canadian star Colin James on his double platinum album (in Canada), Colin James and the Little Big Band, and Stevie Ray Vaughan on his 1984 Live At Carnegie Hall album on Epic.[5]

Over the years Roomful of Blues has played countless gigs and many major festivals, including The San Francisco Blues Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival, The Beale Street Music Festival, Blues On The Fox, Illinois Blues Festival, Kansas City Blues Festival, Monterey Blues Festival, Santa Cruz Blues Festival, and overseas at The North Sea Jazz Festival, The Stockholm Jazz Festival, The Montreux Jazz Festival, Notodden Festival and the Belgian Rhythm & Blues Festival. They have gigged with blues stars ranging from B.B. King, Otis Rush and Stevie Ray Vaughan to rockers Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana. The band has toured virtually non-stop, hitting cities from coast to coast, and traveling abroad to Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey and Russia.


Throughout four decades of continuous touring and recording, the band's line-up has experienced many changes. It is said that more than 50 musicians have been playing in the band. Some of them have achieved a successful solo career. Of note, Porky Cohen, whose career began in the 1940s and included playing in the bands of Charlie Barnet, Artie Shaw, Lucky Millinder, Tommy Dorsey and others, was in the band. Rich Lataille, alto and tenor saxophone, is the only remaining member from the original line-up.

Current members

  • Rich Lataille - Tenor and Alto saxophone
  • Chris Vachon - guitar
  • Phil Pemberton - vocals
  • John Turner - Upright bass and Bass guitar
  • Chris Rivelli - Drums
  • Doug Woolverton - Trumpet
  • Mark Earley - Baritone saxophone and Tenor saxophone
  • Rusty Scott - Piano and Hammond B3 organ

Former members

Listed alphabetically. This is a partial list.
  • Travis Colby - Piano and B3 Organ
  • Marty Ballou - bass
  • Lou Ann Barton - vocal
  • Al Basile - trumpet and cornet
  • Junior Brantley - keyboards
  • Fran Christina - drums
  • Ephraim Lowell - drums
  • Porky Cohen - trombone
  • Al Copley - piano
  • Jason Corbiere - drums
  • Forest Doran - bass
  • Mark DuFresne - vocals and harp
  • Ronnie Earl - guitar
  • Bob Enos - trumpet (deceased)
  • Ken "Doc" Grace - bass
  • Brad Hallen - bass
  • Dave Howard - vocals
  • Preston Hubbard - bass
  • Doug "Mr. Low" James - baritone saxophone
  • Fred Jackson - trumpet
  • Tommy K. - guitar
  • Ron Levy - piano and organ
  • Kevin May - baritone sax
  • Matt McCabe - piano
  • Rory McLeod - bass
  • Danny Motta - trumpet
  • Sugar Ray Norcia - vocal and harp
  • Mac Odom - vocal
  • Edward Parnigoni Jr - bass
  • Larry Peduzzi - bass
  • Greg Piccolo - vocal and tenor sax
  • Carl Querfurth - trombone and producer
  • Duke Robillard - vocal and guitar
  • John Rossi - drums
  • Curtis Salgado - vocal
  • Mark Stevens - piano and Hammond B-3
  • Hank Walther - piano and Hammond B-3
  • Albert Weisman - piano and Hammond B-3
  • Jimmy Wimpfheimer - bass
  • John Wolf - trombone, bass trombone
  • Mike Warner - drums


Studio albums

  • 1978 Roomful of Blues (Island Records, reissued on Hyena Records in 2003 as The First Album)
  • 1979 Let's Have a Party (Mango)
  • 1980 Hot Little Mama (Varrick)
  • 1982 Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson & A Roomful of Blues (Muse)
  • 1983 Blues Train (with Big Joe Turner & Dr John) (Muse Records)
  • 1984 Dressed Up to Get Messed Up (Varrick)
  • 1986 Glazed (with Earl King) (Black Top)
  • 1991 True Love (with Pat Benetar) Jump Blues assisted by BB King, Neil Giraldo and many more (Chrysalis)
  • 1994 Dance All Night (Bullseye Blues)
  • 1995 Turn It On! Turn It Up! (Bullseye Blues)
  • 1995 Rhythm & Bones (with Porky Cohen) (Bullseye Blues)
  • 1997 Roomful of Christmas (Bullseye Blues)
  • 1997 Under One Roof (Bullseye Blues)
  • 1998 There Goes The Neighborhood (Bullseye Blues)
  • 2001 Watch You When You Go (Bullseye Blues)
  • 2003 That's Right! (Alligator Records)
  • 2005 Standing Room Only (Alligator Records)
  • 2008 Raisin' a Ruckus (Alligator Records)
  • 2011 Hook, Line & Sinker (Alligator Records)

Live albums

  • 1987 Live at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel (Varrick)
  • 2002 Live at Wolf Trap (currently out of print)
  • 2013 45 Live - recorded live at the Ocean Mist (Alligator Records)

Compilation albums

  • 1999 Swingin' & Jumpin' (1970's recordings)(32 Jazz Records)
  • 2000 The Blues Will Make You Happy (1981-1998 songs) (Rounder Records)


  1. Wisser, Jeff. Chicago Sun-Times, March 23, 2003
  2. Van Vleck, Phillip. [ Billboard], January 22, 2005
  3. Roomful of Blues Band Members
  4. Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray, p. 163, Dubai: Carlton Books Limited.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Huey, Steve. All Music Guide, [Roomful of Blues at All Music Guide Roomful of Blues Biography]
  6. Hadley, Frank John. Downbeat magazine, June 2005

External links

  • Official website
  • Roomful of Blues at All Music Guide
  • Roomful of Blues at MySpace
  • Roomful of Blues at Yahoo! Music
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This page was last modified 17.05.2014 05:40:42

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