True to the blues – Octet aims to fill Perrysburg room with rhythm


Back in 1967, a blues band started playing for jitterbuggers in a club in Westerly, R.I.
Blues was big with its influence on rock ‘n’ roll being recognized, and people were starting to recognize
just how fun swing music could be.
Now 42 years later, that band, Roomful of Blues, is still at it, and though the songs in any given set
have turned over through the years, the basic sound remains the same.
"We like it most where people can dance," said Chris Vachon, a guitarist who has been with the
band for 19 years. "For our kind of music most people want to get up there and shake a little and
have fun."
The band will perform Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Fat Fish Blue in the Town Center at Levis Commons. Tickets
are $18. Call (419) 931-3474.
Roomful of Blues is like the Energizer Bunny of the music the rock music scene. No one from the original
line-up is still with the band. The closest to an original member is saxophonist Rick Lataille who
joined in 1970.
"It just keeps going and going," said Vachon. "People leave, and we replace them. It’s
kind of extraordinary."
The current band also includes: Dave Howard, vocals, Bryan "Frankie" Rizzuto, bass, Ephraim
Lowell, drums, Travis Colby, piano and organ, Doug Woolverton, trumpet, and Mark Earley, baritone and
tenor saxophones.
Yet the band remains true to its founding principles. "We get to play a wide variety of blues
styles," Vachon said. Those include the guitar-driven riffs of Chicago blues and the horn sounds
from Kansas City.
"It’s kind of a journey through a lot of different blues stylings."
That’s a revelation to casual listeners who think of blues as "one-dimensional music," Vachon
But with every show and every recording, Roomful of Blues upsets those preconceptions.
Take the band’s most recent offering "Raisin’ a Ruckus" on Alligator Records.
Vachon, who produced the session as he has the band’s last several recordings, said he was pleased with
the number and variety of contributions from the band’s members.
The title track by Lataille is a happy-go-lucky jump tune in a minor key that includes solo turns by each
member of the horn section including the late Bob Enos on trumpet.
The band also gets into a Big Easy groove with "Big Mamou," "Sweet Petite" and
"New Orleans"
Vachon contributes "Life Has Been Good," a celebration of his second marriage.
"As a band we don’t try to dwell on the tortured life of a blues artist," Vachon said. "We
try to be uplifting. Pretty much we’re trying to get people to dance and have a good time."
That even applies to the tough times advice song, "Round It Down" by Colby. "If you think
you’re making nothing," the song says, "something is a pleasant surprise."
Given the band’s never had a big radio hit, its setlist is not anchored to the past. "We’re still
Vachon said. "Most of our repertoire gets updated when we do a record."
Despite the changing personnel – more than 50 musicians have graced its ranks, the band’s personnel
remains rooted in its native New England.
Over the years, Vachon, a New Hampshire native, said, the band brought in folks from other parts of the
country, but with the flagging economy that’s less feasible. The band’s playing fewer shows, so it’s
less feasible to bring folks in from father. So now the band has a majority of members from Rhode
In recruiting new members, the band draws on people already active in New England’s vibrant jazz and
blues scene.
Roomful of Blues is no stranger to Northwest Ohio and has appeared at the original Fat Fish Blue in
Cleveland. That a new venue is opening even now is "a little surprising" and welcomed.
"God bless them," Vachon said, "someone has to step up."
After four decades the band isn’t planning to retire from the road. "Obviously we enjoy what we do
and love the kind of music we play."

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