Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Quick Riff with the Poughkeepsie Kid

Robb Bower with a rented Takamine (Joey Kulkin photo)

BENNINGTON -- Robb Bower didn't have his '57 Tele because it was stolen years ago. He didn't have his custom Stratacaster because he's come to Bennington many times to visit his parents and the guitars he brought never made it back to paradise in one piece.

So he walked into Fiddlehead at Four Corners with a Takamine that he rented at the music store up the street. He plans to pick the acoustic 6-string this week at his parents' house. His parents are Chuck and Rose Tobias, 88 and 85, and they're from Poughkeepsie, New York. Robb said they moved to Bennington 30 years ago after visiting friends and falling in love with this sleepy ol' shire. He visits mom and dad a lot because, well, they're 88 and 85.

Robb was on the phone with his sweetie when he asked me to take this glass-heart necklace out of the case so he could pay for it.

Robb bought a thick novel on Main Street and was carrying a gift bag full of goodies, so he's supporting local business which is always cool.

"What's that on your back?" I asked.


One thing led to another and come to find out Robb Bower came to Bennington this week from San Diego by way of upstate New York.

"For years I was the 'Poughkeepsie Kid'," he said. "I spent a lot of time playing with Bill Graham at the Fillmore East."

Every year Robb puts on two music festivals near San Diego, one for blues and the other for country. The Blues Bash celebrated its 14th year this summer -- and next year's 15th anniversary will be on the 15th of June. He said "It's going to be the best of all the years."

Robb worked on booking Charlie Daniels and Marshall Tucker and Kenny Wayne Shepherd then stopped when he got into page 15 of the contractual stuff and saw that the minimum asking price is in the neighborhood of $25,000. Honky Tonk don't come cheap, son.

The Julian Country Jam just celebrated its second party three months ago.

I asked Robb which guitar player influenced him most. He kind of did the hand-on-chin thing and looked up to think.

Alvin Lee & 10 Years After was his first answer. Clapton, too. More thinking ...

" ... but probably Stevie Ray Vaughan."


"His guitar phrasing. It's how he bunches his notes together," Robb said of the blues god who died in 1990. "The notes you don't play are as important as the notes you do play."

Robb Bower -- owner of 14 guitars and 9 amps -- is 60 years old.

He loved that '57 Tele before someone jacked it at a show. A custom shop foreman heard the story and built him the Strat. It's home in San Diego.

I asked for a quick riff. The Poughkeepsie Kid pulled out the Takamine and picked this: