The DiBlanco Story – Part I, The European Days

Born in the small town of Tuttlingen near Stuttgart, Germany Robert DiBlanco was exposed to music at an early age. His mother was an active dancer, his dad played drums and his uncle is a versatile accordion player. Both his uncle’s sons were singers and one of them was responsible for the first taste of what would become Robert’s priority instrument later on …..the electric bass guitar.

After a short stint with piano lessons Robert went on to play the drums in his school band and played his first public show in September 1977. Shortly after that Robert switched his main instrument again and started playing the bass guitar. Starting out practicing through his parent’s hifi stereo system Robert got really interested in playing the bass. Listening to old jazz records as well as rock records provided Robert with a very open minded attitude towards music and enabled him to learn the importance of variety and versatility. The ability to play both drums and bass enabled Robert to get an insider’s look into the chemistry of rhythm section work. Up to this day Robert enjoys playing the drums every once in a while or whenever it is needed at a recording session.

Through his school days Robert started playing in rock bands like THE TIGERS, PRIVATEER as well as Top 40 bands like THE FELLOWS in the area of Gersfeld-Hettenhausen in Germany. This trend continued through the years with several projects like the APROPOS-SHOWBAND – a band that played for the German President and other high ranking officials of the German Government as well as the high society of the business world. Considered one of the best show bands in the back-then capital of Germany (Bonn) APROPOS stayed very busy and Robert had plenty of time to hone his craft.

In 1987 a meeting with band prospects and some studio work gave Robert his first taste of country music. Shortly after that Robert started studying the art of country bass playing. He got involved in several country band projects like NASHVILLE MUSIC COMPANY, NASHVILLE STUDIO BAND, LONGHORN and The LONGHORN Band. The latter was a project which lasted more than 10 years in almost the same lineup, combining the talents of some of the most talented country music musicians in Europe.

The LONGHORN Band recorded a CD in 1994 which saw Robert not only playing bass and singing lead- & background vocals but also co-producing the record. On top of that Robert signed responsible for the cover-design and layout as well as being the owner/president of the record label Touchdown Records which released the album.

The LONGHORN Band was nominated for the coveted BAND OF THE YEAR Award of the German American Country Music Federation (GACMF) in 1994. They also earned numerous nominations for NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR, BAND OF THE YEAR, MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR (guitarrist Joe Anslik) and FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR (Helen Billasch) at the award shows of the Country Circle, Germany’s leading publication for all things country.

During his stints with LONGHORN and The LONGHORN Band Robert earned a reputation as one of the top bass players in Germany and as a result got hired for several studio sessions. A little known fact is that LONGHORN was the studio band recording the first album “Movie” for Germany’s female country singer DAGMAR. Throughout their 10 years of existence The LONGHORN Band was fortunate enough to play with the creme de la creme of european and international artists such as country guitar royalty Albert Lee, Texas Honky Tonkers The Derailers as well as German top acts Truck Stop, Tom Astor, Jill Morris and Western Union.

In 1996 Robert DiBlanco and fellow bandmember Joe Anslik were featured on the european release of the product catalogue of Ernie Ball® Music Man®, Robert ‘s picture gracing the page together with the likes of Keith Richards (Rolling Stones). Up to this day Robert continues to use his arsenal of MusicMan® basses to get the right sound.

After getting offers to play for TOM ASTOR (Germany’s most successful country singer) and others and over 10 years of country music in Germany Robert and his wife decided to move to Houston, TX in March 1997 to pursue their goal of making the best country music they possibly can.

The DiBlanco Story – Part II, The American

After over 10 years of country music in Germany Robert and his wife decided to move to Houston, TX in March 1997 to pursue their goal of making the best country music they possibly can.

One of the first attempt in their new home in Texas was a band project called TEXMANIA which unfortunately never really took off. After that they both spent about a year with a project called JOLLY ROGER BAND. While working with the JOLLY ROGER BAND Robert also got involved in a band called THE STRINGBENDERS (which up to this day sometimes appears on Robert’s busy schedule). THE STRINGBENDERS lineup was made up of two local songwriters / guitar players and a drummer who were regulars in the local open mike scene, leading to the introduction of Robert to the infamous Wednesday Night Redneck Jam at Blanco’s Bar and Grill hosted by none other than Joe “Old Fud” Parsons (by now an institution in the Texas Music scene).

Robert met MARK ZEUS at Blanco’s Bar and Grill through the River Oaks Redneck Wednesday jam sessions and soon joined his THUNDERBOLTZ project to record and perform live. Soon after that (at another Wednesday night at Blanco’s Bar and Grill) Robert met drummer Rod Robert who jammed with the THUNDERBOLTZ that night. Rod Robert told Robert about one of the other projects he was involved in and soon scheduled a meeting between Robert and the rest of the CLAY FARMER BAND.

After joining the CLAY FARMER BAND Robert had a chance to work with some of the best musicians in the Houston, TX area. Drummer Rod Robert and DiBlanco quickly became known as one of the tightest rhythm sections in the Texas music scene. Adding guitar slinger Paul Burnett and talented keyboard player/fiddler Jason Ellsworth into the mix elevated the status of the CLAY FARMER BAND to red-hot! In 2000 the CLAY FARMER BAND released their sophomore album “Clay Farmer” which was being hailed as one of the best independant albums and earned rave reviews all over Texas. Soon after the release of the album, Jason Ellsworth decided to leave and was replaced with another “monster on the keys” by the name of Randy Wall. Paul Burnett was later replaced with Sebastian Ayus and the CLAY FARMER BAND went on to play high-profile shows like the Hideout at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for 2 years in a row as well as sharing the stage with a who-is-who in Texas Music: Charlie Robinson, Bruce Robinson, Kelly Willis, Cory Morrow, Roger Creager, Davin James, Jesse Dayton, John Evans, Max Stalling, Kevin Fowler, Cross Canadian Ragweed and the Great Divide.

In late 2003 the CLAY FARMER BAND went back to the studio and recorded their second album “Another Day” which was released in early 2005. By then drummer Rod Robert decided to dedicate his time to his other project “The FAB 5” and was replaced with Joe DeLeon (former drummer for Doug Supernaw and the Tearjerkers). DiBlanco reportedly feels very fortunate to call Rod Robert and Joe DeLeon his “partners in crime” . “Playing with high caliber drummers like Rod and Joe makes my life so much easier and so much more fun. A good show starts with a tight rhythm section and these two guys provide rock-solid grooves on anything from waltzes to shuffles to train beats. Drummers like that don’t come along too often and I am the lucky guy working with the Best-of-the-Best every night. WOW!”

Robert started 2004 with some studio projects including a few sessions with his buddies drummer Joe DeLeon and keyboardist Randy Wall for several Houston artists. He was also seen working live with established acts like KEVIN BLACK (yes, he is Clint Black’s brother) and KIM CARSON as well as newcomers AMANDA WILLIAMS and SETH JOHNSON. While working these shows Robert found two more partners in crime in drummer Paul Chris and Walter Cross. “Naturally as a bass player I am looking at the drummer first and I feel very fortunate to be able to work with guys like Joe, Rod, Paul and Walter – it makes it easier to get people to move when the rhythm section on stage is groovin” says DiBlanco.

The year 2005 started with a big bang when CLAY FARMER BAND‘s second album “Another Day” was released in early January. Not only was Robert the bass player and harmony vocals singer on all the tracks but he also signed responsible for co-producing the record with his partner Clay. This marks the second time Robert has taken on co-producing duties, following the release of “Restless …” album released by The LONGHORN Band in Germany (for more information visit the ‘The European Days’ section).

In September of 2005, DiBlanco was asked to join the band of Texas artist TODD FRITSCH and gladly accepted the invitation. TODD FRITSCH released his self titled album earlier that year and has had tremendous success all over the world with his single releases “I Got Mexico”, “Small Town Radio”, “Bob Wills Song” and “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”.

At the end of 2005, DiBlanco also worked together with Warner Brothers recording artist RICK TREVINO for a couple of shows.

In February of 2006 DiBlanco was part of the band that recorded the much anticipated CLAY FARMER LIVE double-album.

The year 2007 saw DiBlanco travel the world with TODD FRITSCH, playing to sell-out crowds in the US as well as France on his ongoing tour, opening for country music legends such as Marty Stuart and Ronnie Milsap as well as headlining their own shows. DiBlanco also celebrated 30 years in the music business, starting as a 13 year-old on the drums at a school concert in Messstetten, Germany.
The year ended with a very successful Christmas Armed Forces Tour through Puerto Rico, Curacao and Guantanamo Bay (Cuba).

2008 saw DiBlanco continuing his work with TODD FRITSCH, playing the Houston Astrodome again during the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and starting a new project called the ARMADILLO PLAYBOYS, the house band for Goode Company’s Armadillo Palace in Houston, TX. which are featured regularly at Ladies’ Night every WED night.

In 2009 DiBlanco started to work with country singers DIXIE TRAHAN and COOPER WADE on a regular basis. He also continued to work with TODD FRITSCH on another successful year of touring the United States.

2010 saw DiBlanco sign up as a staff bass player for THE FOUNDRY Church in Houston, TX where he plays every Sunday morning for two church services at either one of their two locations.

DiBlanco started to work on implementing his own recording studio (focused on recording top quality bass tracks) in late 2009 and 2010 saw the opening of THE BASS LAB. DiBlanco was also added to the studio roster of HILLTRAX STUDIOS and has already worked on several projects throughout the year.

DiBlanco also started to work more frequently with Texas artists SAM MOORE and SHANE BARNHILL.

The year 2010 ended with sessions for COOPER WADE’s record which was released in early 2011.

In early 2011 DiBlanco went back into the studio and recorded a record with up-and-coming singer/songwriter BRI BAGWELL after her successful participation on CMT’s “Next Superstar” show. This promises to be a really good one ….

He also was responsible for the bass work on SHANE BARNHILL’s sophomore album and ABBY GOUGH‘s first album release which were hit the scene that same year. Christian artist JON DAMRON also featured DiBlanco on bass and harmony vocals on his latest album.

2012 saw recording sessions for albums by JUNIOR GORDON, DON VICKERS and SUSAN HICKMAN on DiBlanco’s busy schedule. Christian Artist LARRY VIRNAU also relied on DiBlanco’s bass work for his studio recordings.

The addition of DiBlanco to the staff at R/R STUDIO in Lake Jackson promises more work and exciting projects for the future.

In 2012 Robert DiBlanco, guitarist Ronnie Dobbs, fiddle player Todd Parsons and drummer Joe DeLeon started their own project called COWBOY STEEL. This new lineup immediately signed up to be the backing band for SHANE BARNHILL and added DARWIN MACON in May of 2012.

In 2013 DiBlanco did recording sessions for new albums by SHANE BARNHILL, DARWIN MACON and a special Glen Campbell Tribute by ANITA CAMPBELL, NEIL AUSTIN IMBER, ABBY GOUGH and BRYAN SHAYNE also returned to the studio with DiBlanco’s bass support.

2014 continued a strong relationship and recording sessions for local artists SHANE BARNHILL and DARWIN MACON. DiBlanco also took part in several recording sessions for multiple artists and projects slated to be released in 2014/2015 as well as recording sessions for JUNIOR GORDON’s album (“Watered Down”) which is slated to be released in 2016.

2015 saw the release of new albums by DARWIN MACON (“Long Time Coming”) and  SHANE BARNHILL (“Country Lovin’ “). The year ended with 7 songs DiBLanco contributed to on bass in the Top 200 of the Texas Regional Radio Report (TRRR) charts for the year 2015.

On a sad note, 2015 also marked the end of DiBlanco’s 13-year partnership with drummer extraordinaire Joe DeLeon, as he succumbed to cancer at the end of October.

“It still seems unreal, but I had to accept the fact that my brother Joe will not be able to perform with me anymore. He will always be with me though and I am grateful for the many years of great music, friendship and support. I know we’ll see each other again ….. just not yet.”

 

Much more to come …. for sure ….. stay tuned ……..

DiBlanco celebrates 30 years in the music business

Robert DiBlanco celebrated 30 years of playing live on September 27th 2007 with a bunch of his closest friends at the Lone Star Club in Humble, TX. The surprise party was organized by Amy Floyd and featured appearances of Texas singer-songwriter Clay Farmer, Todd Fritsch band fiddle player Lee Mounger and his wife Ava, Frank Puryear Jr., friends Simon and Courtney Lee as well as representatives of the Humble Music Center.

The band that night consisted of guitar slinger Big John Mills, drummer Joe DeLeon, singer/songwriter Mark Zeus, Robert DiBlanco and keyboardist Drew Balog.

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One of the party’s highlights was the cake featuring a picture of Robert’s first public live performance on September 27th 1977 behind the drums at his school in Messstetten, Germany.

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Another highlight were the commemorative laminates celebrating the event, proudly displayed here by Clay Farmer and Robert DiBlanco

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“I was completely blindsided by this party – had no idea it was coming. I showed up to work at this open-mike jam in Humble and all of a sudden, a bunch of my buddies were there, a cake and all that cool stuff,” says DiBlanco of the event. “Thanks to everybody that showed up, called me, texted me and so forth for making this a very special night. The biggest thanks have to go to Amy Floyd who put all of this together and certainly made it a night to remember. Thanks for the cake (it went straight to my hips) and I especially love the laminates – what a cool idea. I am also looking forward to filling the new music scrapbook with more memories.”