|by Sam King, Journal Review • March 20, 2007|
Blues musician Tad Robinson has seen the best of both worlds. Growing up in Manhattan, he saw corn for the first time when he flew west to attend college at Indiana University. After earning a degree, Robinson packed his bags and headed back to the big city life in Chicago, but when it came time to raise his children, he wound up in Greencastle, where he currently lives.
Robinson will make the 30-mile trip to Crawfordsville March 23 for the Experience Indiana Artists Series at Wabash College, sponsored by a grant from Lilly Endowment. His band will perform a concert 8 p.m. in Salter Concert Hall — three days after the release of his fourth album "New Point of View."
"It’s my record release concert," Robinson said. "The way it worked is I’m an Indiana musician and I live in Greencastle. I checked the bill for Indiana music and I was approved by Wabash. It’s kind of a coincidence."
After leaving Bloomington in 1982, Robinson’s stay in the windy city gave him a start in the business.
"I cut my teeth in the blues clubs of Chicago," he said.
His band spent each Wednesday for two years in Rosa’s Lounge, one of the better-known Chicago blues lounges. He also spent time on stage at Buddy Guy’s Legends, B.L.U.E.S., the Wise Fools Pub and performed at the Chicago Blues Festival.
Robinson’s Chicago ties also landed songs of his in motion picture films "Under Siege," "A Perfect Murder" and "The Guardian." It was in Chicago he met Andrew Davis, a film director who’s always been faithful to his Chicago friends and crew. When making movies, Davis often will ask friends if they have any interest in participating in the film in some way.
The career in Chicago wasn’t without setbacks. Living on a shoestring, Robinson didn’t even own a car. Nonetheless, Robinson worked to sell himself as a legitimate artist. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t.
"If you can’t stand rejection, you’re in the wrong business because a lot of doors are going to close in your face," he said. "As a freelancer, you have to sell yourself. Maybe you have to be willing to take a loss to get ahead."
Many times, the band landed gigs as the opening act for mainstream blues artists. Those early experiences, Robinson said, helped serve as an apprenticeship in the music industry.
But, as in most cases, family came first.
Robinson wanted his children to be raised in a quiet environment close to family. Thus he moved to Greencastle to be closer to his wife’s side of the family. As a Greencastle resident, Robinson has had the chance to do several shows at DePauw University, as well as guest lecture at music history classes.
"We have a quiet place to raise our kids, but we also have the dimension that you get from living in a college town," Robinson said.
Along the way, Robinson has made his name known in music. His personal Web site has a quote from one of Chicago’s finest blues musicians, Otis Clay, saying, "When Tad Robinson dies, he’s going to soul heaven...a place reserved for very few people."
After recording two albums with legendary Delmark Records, Robinson made his own record with guitarist Alex Schultz before releasing his new album on the Severn Records label. An avid traveler, Robinson has made several stops throughout Europe to perform.
In 2004, Robinson received two W.C. Handy Blues Award nominations, the highlight of his career. The awards recognize the best blues recordings and performances of the year and is the highest honor for a blues artist.
"That’s a big feather in a blues artist’s cap," Robinson said of being nominated.
In addition to the concert at Wabash, Robinson will conduct a workshop 4:15 p.m. the same day in Salter Hall. He and his band members will share insight from careers as musicians in Indiana. Open discussion and questioning will be allowed. The workshop and concert are free and open to the public. Robinson will also have special guest Jonny Moeller on hand for the fans.
"Jonny is a real real killer guitar player," Robinson said. "He is kind of our secret weapon."