Just a Tad Jewish

American blues singer/harmonica player Tad Robinson has a link to the People of the Book.

Tad Robinson 248  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tad Robinson 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is an old tenet that suggests if you are going to be a blues artist, it can help to have some suffering in your personal or cultural baggage. Sort of along the lines of, "you don't have to be Jewish but…" While American blues singer/harmonica player Tad Robinson doesn't seem to have had too much distress in his formative years, he does have a link to the People of the Book. "My Jewish maternal grandmother and her family ran away from Russia when she was 3-years-old," says Robinson, who arrives to play with local blues king Ronnie Peterson. "But, I grew up in a secular home. There wasn't anything really Jewish in the family except, maybe, some of the cooking." Robinson was thrilled to have been here on his last, and only, Israeli foray to date. "I was in Tel Aviv for the Black & Blues Festival back in 2000. It was around Passover and I really got into the vibe of the whole thing. This time I'm really looking forward to being in Jerusalem too. I reckon that will be a whole different kind of experience." Now happily ensconced in Greencastle, Indiana, 52-year-old Robinson grew up in Manhattan listening to the pop and rock sounds of the sixties. Although he heard and liked the music of the so-called "British invasion," it was more of the blues and soul vibes that really set his young heart aflame. "Yeah, I heard the music on the transistor, and on the streets - the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Animals. My older brother had lots of 45s and he'd play the singles for me. He was like my own DJ. But I really dug guts like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, all those Motown artists. I really preferred, say Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes to the Dave Clark Five. I naturally gravitated to the pantheon of the blues, soul and gospel, and that sort of shaped my own approach to singing." After high school, Robinson relocated to the Midwest, where he studied music at Indiana University. "I wanted to get a grounding in the art form," he says. "I did composition and music theory and that kind of thing." He also chose a good part of the world to get his academic qualification. "I paid my blues dues in Chicago, which is really close by. I actually lived in Chicago for 10 years, in the eighties, and there was a really good blues scene there back then." Over the last 30 years, Robinson has shared bandstands with some of the blues and soul greats - the likes of blues singer/harmonica player Junior Wells, R&B and soul headliner Otis Clay and stellar vocalist Etta James, and he's performed at blues titan Buddy Guy's Chicago club. "It has been a real education for me to be in and around the place," he says. "The soul and blues flavors of Chicago are very inspiring." To date, Robinson has put out three albums under his own name, as well as over a dozen with artists like guitarist Alex Schultz, and top bluesmen Taj Mahal and Otis Rush. A fourth Robinson CD is currently in the works. "We'll be going into the studio soon after I get back from Israel," he says. "I'm sure I'll absorb lots of sounds and vibes from Israel and they might find their way into the new record." Tad Robinson and the Ronnie Peterson band are touring Israel from Jan. 7 to 17. For specific show dates and information visit ronniepeterson.com