Virtuoso acoustic blues guitarist Terry Robb is beginning his tour to promote his new album, “Confessin’ My Dues,” and will give a solo concert at the Peninsula Arts Center in Long Beach, Wash., at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2.
Earlier that day, he will lead a workshop from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on fingerstyle acoustic guitar, teaching participants to play blues, ragtime and slide.
Robb has won countless awards. Living Blues Magazine called him “one of the finest acoustic guitarists on the international scene.”
“Everybody likes to see him. His concerts always sell out, and so it’s kind of a slam dunk for us.,” said Bill Svendsen, owner of the Peninsula Art Center. “We just say, ‘Terry Robb is coming,’ and it fills up.”
Coast Weekend spoke with Terry Robb in anticipation of his trip to the peninsula. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Coast Weekend: Is it practice alone that helps you maintain your level of proficiency?
Terry Robb: Absolutely. That and also being open to all kinds of music and ideas and not having any prejudices (toward) any types of music. Prejudice meaning like, ‘Oh I don’t care (for) that style of music.’ But if you don’t care for a particular style of music, you can still learn something from it. There is only good or bad music; categories are just for marketing.
CW: Do you identify with a certain genre mostly, or do you just like to keep that open?
TR: I just like to keep it open. My stuff has a blues feel to it because the guitar technique I learned was the blues guitar technique. So if I play the acoustic guitar with some other people, we’ll play some Bossa nova or some jazz riffs. Now I’m not a jazz musician, but I’ll play jazz songs. When I play a jazz song or a pop song — say, a Beatles song — it’s going to have a bluesy sound to it because that’s the technique I play.
CW: Was music a big part of your upbringing?
TR: Yes, it was. My uncle was a guitar player who was associated with Lawrence Webb. My father was a very good piano player. My grandfather was a classical piano player. My parents loved music. They were jazz fanatics and my father took me to see all kinds of music. He took me to see the Beatles, Louis Armstrong and the symphony. I had this variety of music going on and we liked it all.
CW: Was (your dad) happy when you decided to pursue music as a career.
TR: Oh absolutely. He encouraged it 100 percent. In fact, he was in insurance and he told me, “Just don’t do what I do. Do what you do. Don’t try to be like anyone else ... because you are a musician and you need to do that.”
My mother was equally as encouraging. She used to play jazz records for me and tell me what to listen for. Like, ‘Listen to how they recorded the bass.’ It was really a great education. I was 8, 9 years old when this was happening. She collected records when she was a poor girl up in Canada and they used to go out jitterbugging and that sort of thing. When I use to play around clubs my parents would come see me and they got to be known by everybody. I think people use to come see me just so they could hang out with my parents, really. My mother is Italian so all my friends used to want to come over to my house, not to see me but to be fed by (my) mother.
CW: When did you feel like you were an established musician?
TR: I graduated from college in ‘78 so the day after that. I just started playing full time. I hooked up with a guy named Ramblin’ Rex who was a good friend of Frank Zappa’s. Rex was like a roadhouse blues guy who played country blues who traveled and played at all these juke joints — he was really the character that a lot of people mythologize about now. I learned a lot from him and that is how I got out there. I was young, like 22, and when I was 24 I started producing John Fahey.
CW: What a fascinating person!
TR: To say the least! He was one of my best friends. He and I were really, really close. John was a real innovator. He created a new genre, an art form. He was the first solo steel string guitar player. Everybody is saying he played steel string, but he made it an art form and out of that it’s become a whole school of guitar players.
CW: How do you feel like you fit into the legacy of Americana and American Primitive music? What do you want your legacy to be?
TR: All I know is that I have this space of playing blues guitar, and whatever I listen to I like to incorporate into it, because I think it’s fun and interesting and out of that comes me, and I enjoy it, and if somebody else enjoys it, that’s great, and if they don’t enjoy it, there is always somebody else they can listen to.
CW: What do you think the real spirit is of that style of music?
TR: I guess just getting people to be moved and have a good time and be touched. You kind of minister through your music, I really believe that. I’m a Catholic Christian so I really feel this is a gift that needs to be shared.