Ben Robinson makes his triumphant return to Julian Blues Festival, spends time rocking in Anza

Robinson connects with the band at the 19th Annual Julian Blues festival June 17. Diane Sieker photo

Blues guitarist Ben Robinson, along with his Preacher Stone bandmates Josh Wyatt and Jim bolt, made his triumphant return to Robb Bower’s Julian Blues Bash June 17.

Almost a decade ago, blues guitar prodigy Ben Robinson, just 22 years old, performed with a band of local musicians at Robb Bower’s Julian Blues Bash Festival. Fans followed Robinson to the cool tree-strewn pastures at the Menghini Winery where the event was held. He shared the stage with some of Southern California’s most inspiring blues artists and held his own, much to the delight of concert-goers.

Robinson had a reputation for lightning fast licks, soulful playing and intense presentation.

“An old soul in a little kid’s body,” commented blues experts from Georgia, where Robinson got his start performing at jam nights in blues clubs at age 11.

In 1998, Robinson and his family moved to Temecula, then settled in Aguanga. He attended local schools, receiving his diploma from Temecula Valley High School.

As his skills improved, Robinson signed on with a manager, recorded a couple albums and made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman in New York City, where he met musician extraordinaire Paul Shaffer. Shaffer later tapped Robinson’s budding talent by including him in the Nickelodeon House Band, Snickhouse, where, with Tony Royster Jr. and other talented children, they made TV commercials, played at the Kid’s Choice Awards and performed at Nick corporate events. He made an appearance at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York where they appreciated his “old soul,” too.

Robinson also collected sponsorships from Laguna and G & L Guitars and Lost Soul Clothing.

His talents took him from Southern California to North Carolina where he joined the blues trio Skinny Velvet, with Jim Bolt on bass and Phillip Barry on drums. The award-winning group cranked out blues standards as well as original tunes.

Some years later, Bolt and Robinson joined the popular outlaw band Preacher Stone. With a European tour, specialty cruise tour, numberless venues played from New York to Key West, and a new CD under their belts, Robinson landed with a very talented group of musicians.

Fast forward to Saturday, June 17, 2017. Encouraged by promoter Robb Bower, Robinson, along with bassist Jim Bolt and Preacher Stone drummer Josh Wyatt, flew west to perform at the 19th Annual Julian Blues festival. Performing as a blues trio and already being very familiar with each others playing styles, the band wowed the “Bluesheads” that day. This was Robinson’s third gig with the festival, the first being in 2005, then again in 2008.

“I could not believe it when I heard he would be here in California!” gushed one blues aficionado.

Old friends and new alike were impressed with the skills exhibited by the band and delighted in meeting Bolt and Wyatt, who had not been to California before, as well as Robinson’s girlfriend Gina Blair.

Playing alongside such great artists as Dennis Jones, The McCoy Brothers, The Chris Fast Band, Earl Thomas and headliner Philip Sayce, Robinson was in excellent company.

Billed as the “Ben Robinson” band, the players performed originals such as “Heart of Stone,” written and recorded by Robinson. Bolt added his fun and funky tune “Moneymaker.” They covered “Old Love” by Eric Clapton, capturing the feel of the song. The combination of expert bass lines, solid, precise drumming and wailing guitar solos made for an excited and dancing crowd.

Ben Robinson had returned – in style – and the crowd went wild.

But wait, there’s more. The festival ended with an “all-star jam” where musicians from all the groups took their turns playing as one band. The audience stayed until the very last lick had faded from the amps.

But the Ben Robinson Band wanted more. They agreed to try to get to Anza’s Cahuilla Mountain Market for what remained of the Saturday night performance by local celebrity Mark Huston and his band, The Workin’ Men.

Heartily welcomed by Huston, the band, guests, staff and owner Jorge Rodriguez, the guys mingled with people that remembered Robinson’s performances when he was just a kid. Anzians enjoyed meeting Bolt, Wyatt and Blair.

Huston graciously allowed the musicians the stage, where they performed three songs, accompanied by Huston’s guitarist Rocky Carrasco. They performed the crowd favorite, “Hey Joe,” by Jimi Hendrix, “One Way Out” by the Allman Brothers Band and an original blues tune.

And the crowd went wild, Ben Robinson had returned.

Missy Carver Boulton, who used to work with Robinson in Anza, said she was happy to see her former co-worker.

“So, so, glad he was here,” she said. “It is so great to catch up it’s been so many years. He’s such an awesome guy!”

Robinson was in his element, meeting, greeting and mingling with old and new friends – and making music.

“I’ll be back. And sooner than the last time,” he promised.

To get in touch with Ben Robinson, visit www.facebook.com/ben.robinson.5249349.

To discover the music of Preacher Stone, see www.preacherstone.com.

For more information about the Julian Blues Festival, visit http://robb-bowerpresents.com/.

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