Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard

Born Michael John Robillard on October 4, 1948 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Duke Robillard’s first guitar influences were Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Duane Eddy and Link Wray and he didn’t start playing the genre for which he’s best known until he was in his late teens. “It was a few years after I was playing in high school bands that I discovered the blues,” he says.

Since then, he’s proven himself to be far more than just an incredibly gifted guitarist and consummate bluesman. With a versatility covering everything from Chicago blues, R&B standards and straight-out rockers to New Orleans jazz, country and rockabilly, Robillard is an exceptional vocalist, songwriter, sideman, bandleader, producer and deejay in addition to being a label owner, teacher and avid collector of rare 78-rpm records. “That’s something I’ve been doing since the ’70s,” he says, “Talking about my 78s is a story in itself.”


In 1967, he and pianist Al Copley founded Roomful of Blues and Robillard spent close to a dozen years in the group before leaving in 1979 to become bandleader rockabilly icon Robert Gordon’s band. Soon after, he joined The Legendary Blues Band, which included former members of Muddy Waters’ bands, and in 1981 he formed his own group, The Duke Robillard Band, which later became Duke Robillard & The Pleasure Kings.

In 1990, he replaced Jimmy Vaughan in The Fabulous Thunderbirds and since then he’s toured the world with a number of famous names, among them Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, and appeared on Dylan’s 1997 album Time Out of Mind, which won a Grammy for Album of the Year. He once formed a duo with jazz guitarist Herb Ellis and in the early 2000 he was part of a swing trio, New Guitar Summit, with Gerry Beaudoin and J. Geils of The J. Geils Band.

Robillard is the rare variety of artist who also works on the other side of the production side of the music business and he produced blues legend Joe Louis Walker’s Between A Rock and The Blues (2009, Stony Plain) and Everyone Wants A Piece (2015, Stony Plain), among others.

(by A.J. Wachtel)


  • Best Blues Guitarist: W.C. Handy Award (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004)
  • Grammy nomination: Best Contemporary Blues Album, Guitar Groove-a-Rama (2007)
  • Grammy nomination: Best Traditional Blues Album, Stomp! The Blues Tonight (2010)
  • Keeping The Blues Alive Award for Producer of the Year (2004)


  • Too Hot to Handle(1985, Rounder)
  • Swing(1987, Rounder)
  • You Got Me(1988, Rounder)
  • Rockin’ Blues(1988, Rounder)
  • Duke Robillard & The Pleasure Kings(1990, Rounder)
  • After Hours Swing Session(1992, Rounder)
  • Turn it Around(1991, Rounder)
  • Temptation(1994, Point Blank)
  • Duke’s Blues(1996, Virgin)
  • Dangerous Place(1997, Point Blank)
  • Stretchin’ Out(1998, Stony Plain)
  • New Blues for Modern Man(1999, Shanachie)
  • Conversations in Swing Guitar(1999, Stony Plain)
  • Explorer(2000, Shanachie)
  • La Palette Bleu(2001)
  • Living with the Blues(2002, Stony Plain)
  • Exalted Lover(2003, Stony Plain)
  • More Conversations in Swing Guitar(2003, Stony Plain)
  • Blue Mood: The Songs of T-Bone Walker(2004, Stony Plain)
  • The Duke Meets the Earl(2005, Stony Plain)
  • Guitar Groove-a-Rama(2006, Stony Plain)
  • Duke Robillard’s World of Blues(2007, Stony Plain)
  • A Swingin’ Session with Duke Robillard2008, (Stony Plain)
  • Stomp! The Blues Tonight(2009, Stony Plain)
  • Passport to the Blues(2010, Stony Plain)
  • Wobble Walkin(2011, Blue Duchess)
  • Low Down and Tore Up(2011, Stony Plain)
  • Independently Blue(2013, Stony Plain)
  • Calling All Blues(2014, Stony Plain)
  • The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard(2015, Stony Plain)
  • Blues Full Circle(2016, Stony Plain)
  • Duke Robillard & His Dames of Rhythm(2017, C. Records)
  • Ear Worms (2019, Stony Plain)


  • Roomful of Blues, Roomful of Blues (1978)
  • Roomful of Blues, Let’s Have a Party(1979)
  • Roomful of Blues, Swingin’ and Jumpin(1999)
  • The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Powerful Stuff (1989)
  • The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Walk That Walk, Talk That Talk(1991)
  • The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Wrap It Up(1993)
  • New Guitar Summit, New Guitar Summit (2004, Stony Plain)
  • New Guitar Summit, Live at the Stoneheim Theater(2004)
  • New Guitar Summit, Shivers (2009, Stony Plain)


With Al Basile

  • Blue Ink(2004)
  • Down on Providence Plantation(2005)
  • Groovin’ in the Mood(2006)
  • The Tinge(2008)
  • Soul Blue(2009)
  • The Goods(2010)
  • At Home Next Door(2012)

With Joe Beard

  • For Real( (1998, AudioQuest)
  • Dealin (2000, AudioQuest)

With Gerry Beaudoin

  • Minor Swing(1994)
  • Swing Cafe(2005)

With Eddy Clearwater

  • Cool Blues(1998)
  • Reservation Blues(2000)

With Al Copley

  • Royal Blue(1991)
  • Good Understanding(1994)

With Ronnie Earl

  • Soul Searchin’ (1988)
  • Test of Time (1992)

With Sax Gordon

  • Have Horn, Will Travel(1998)
  • You Knock Me Out(2000)

With Scott Hamilton

  • Blues Bop & Ballads(1999)
  • Across the Tracks(2008)

With Jay McShann

  • Hootie’s Jumpin’ Blues, (1997)
  • Still Jumpin’ the Blues(1999)
  • Goin’ to Kansas City(2003)

With Jerry Portnoy

  • Poison Kisses(1991)
  • Home Run Hitter(1995)
  • Down in the Mood Room(2002)

With Jimmy Witherspoon

  • Spoon’s Blues(1995)
  • Jimmy Witherspoon with The Duke Robillard Band(2000)

With Others

  • Too Cool to Move, Snooky Pryor (1992, Antones)
  • Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie, Pinetop Perkins (1992, Antones)
  • Toolin’ AroundArlen Roth (1993, Blue Plate)
  • Married to the Blues, Mark Hummel (1995, Flying Fish)
  • Found True Love, John Hammond (1996, Point Blank)
  • Time Out of Mind, Bob Dylan (1997, Columbia)
  • Wiggle Outta This, Curtis Salgado (1999)
  • The Blues Keep Me Holding On, Savoy Brown (1999)
  • Good Day for the Blues, Ruth Brown (1999)
  • West Coast House Party, Kid Ramos (2000)
  • Three Feet Off the Ground, Bruce Katz (2000)
  • Memphis, Tennessee, Rosco Gordon (2000)
  • Love the Game, Debbie Davies (2001)
  • Boogie ‘n’ Shuffle, Billy Boy Arnold (2001)
  • Guitar, Jimmy Thackery (2003)
  • Blues in My Heart, Chris Flory (2003)
  • Introducing Sunny and Her Joy Boys(2009)
  • Between a Rock and the Blues, Joe Louis Walker (2009)
  • Porchlight, Todd Sharpville (2010)
  • Tales from the Tiki Lounge, Sunny Crownover (2010)
Published On: December 18, 2019