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From Lawson and Four More to "Blues At Your Door":

I started singing in the first grade. A teacher came to my classroom and said that there was going to be a talent contest and asked if any one could "do anything". I raised my hand and said: "I can sing". I won first place, and that was it - I was hooked (the applause, the adulation, the women...well ok, the applause)! Throughout elementary and junior high school (Charjean & Sherwood), I would be the one that was called on to sing at the "events".

In high school (Overton), I started hanging out at the YMCA and CYO dances and was blown away listening to the great bands of the era, like the Counts and the LeSabres. So, I decided to try to join or start a band.

Because of the recent interest in the "early" days of Memphis music (several books have been written on the era of the 60's.....), I've gone into detail on the bands that I've had or played in. There is even more detail in the "Trivia" section.   

Bobby and the Originals was my first "pay for play" band. The group was renamed Lawson and Four More when we signed a recording contract with Ardent Recording. Our main gigs were T Walker Lewis YMCA (behind Treadwell High School-Highland and Summer Ave area, St. Michael's CYO (Summer Ave), and the Bitter Lemon (on Poplar Ave where the underpass cuts through to Union).

Bobby and the Originals/Lawson and Four More

Joe Lee - Lead Guitar & Vocals

Joe Gaston - Bass Guitar & Vocals

Bill Donati - Drums

We started out four piece, then later added a keyboard player, Bernie (?), who was later replaced by Terry Manning - Keyboard & Vocals 

Me - Lead Vocals & (initially) Rhythm Guitar.

We specialized in 1950's Do Wop. The Beatles and the Stones had just come into prominence, and although we did some of their tunes, we were considered an oldies band (even then!). The singers of the 50's were the greatest influences on my singing style.

In 1965, we signed a recording contract with Ardent Recording. For marketing reasons, our name was changed from Bobby and the Originals to Lawson and Four More (at least it was original).

In 1965-66, Lawson and Four More had two releases on the Ardent label: "If You Want Me You Can Find Me" and "Relax Your Mind". We were also heard frequently on the radio with the commercial we did for the music store, Guitar and Drum City (owned by songwriter Paul Craft). In case you're a Memphis music buff (into Memphis music trivia, or you don't have a life), I have detailed my recording/Ardent experience in the "Lawson and Four More" section.

As most bands usually do, Lawson and Four More grew apart musically. The "Four More" evolved into being a psychedelic type group, while I remained true to my 50's/R&B roots. Also, Lee Baker had shown me my first blues licks on guitar, which got me hooked on  the blues.

I left Lawson and Four More and formed Lawson's Blues Bag, one of the first (if not "the" first young white blues band) in Memphis. We were heavily influenced by Albert King, BB King, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Lawson's Blues Bag:

Glen Cammack - Lead Guitar 

Larry Lindsey - Bass Guitar

Gundy Owens - Rhythm Guitar

Don Kesler - Drums

Me - Lead Vocals.

When I left Lawson and Four More, I was "supposed to" maintain my Ardent recording connection. Lawson's Blues Bag was together probably together about 6 months before I lost interest and quit the group. I was burned out from the previous experience: the excitement and disappointment of the recording process. Looking back, I regret not pushing Lawson's Blues Bag more. It was one of the best bands I ever had. We were just too far ahead of the times for Memphis. 

Also during this time, I played all kinds of  temporary gigs, which included my first "black" club. For a short time I had a gig at a little club called Ester's Lounge (Lamar Ave). It was a great place to further develop my R&B and Blues style.

The "House Band" at Ester's:

Glen Cammack - Lead Guitar

Danny Aycock - Bass Guitar & Vocals

Dan Faust - Drums

Me - Lead Vocals, Rhythm & (a little lead) Guitar.

After The Blues Bag disbanded, I cut my hair, moved back home (see the "Trivia" section), and went back to college. During this time, I really got into Bluegrass. My dad, Howard Lawson started playing about the same time I did (I was about 15). Dad loves Bluegrass. He started out on guitar, but soon went to mandolin. He became a heck of a player! For about a year, while I was attending the University of Memphis, he and I played Bluegrass gigs as ........you guessed it the Lawsons! I would play guitar while he played mandolin. Then, dad would play guitar while I played the five string banjo.

The Lawsons:

Howard Lawson - Mandolin, Guitar, & Vocals

Me - Lead Vocals, Guitar, & 5 string Banjo.     

Around 1970, I was approached by David Friener, a keyboard player who had left Flash and the Board of Directors, to put together another rock and roll group. We formed a group called Prelude. We got a job as the house band at the El Toro Lounge (behind Pancho's in West Memphis). We played there five nights a week for about 6-9 months. We were regulars on George Klien's Talent Party. We really tried to "make it". The highlights of my "Prelude" experience was opening for The Who, at Ellis Auditorium, and opening for the Young Rascals, at the Mid South Coliseum. The gig with the Rascals was my greatest achievement because after the show a mutual friend introduced me to my future wife, Carolyn Coker (now known as "CoCo"). We met and have been inseparable ever since (notice I didn't put this in the trivia section!).  After our club gig in West Memphis, we went "on the road" before landing a gig at the Thunderbird Lounge (the bottom floor of  the Shelbourne apartments-UT area). We played there about three months before disbanding.

Prelude was affiliated with Jerry Williams (Jerry managed the Guillotines, and later opened TransMaximus Recording Studio) , one of my favorite (along with George Klien) of the "Memphis music people". Jerry worked hard to get us a contract with a major label (close but no banana). He was responsible for our gigs with The Who and the Young Rascals.

The band originally had five members. For the Thunderbird gig, we went to four. 


David Friener - Hammond B3 Organ & Vocals

Bill Hall, and (later) Gerrad Palmer - Bass Guitar & Vocals

Roy Yeager, and (later) Richie Pulliam, & Chuck Baker - Drums

Jim Vinson -Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar; and (later) Brian Truitt - Vocals, Percussion, & Rhythm Guitar

Me - Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar. 

After the "Prelude" experience, I went back to the University of Memphis for a couple of years and finished my degree. I played at night and went to college by day. 

The last group that I was a member of before graduating was New World, one of the best groups I ever worked with. Although I was going to school, we were all very serious about the band. Our main gig was the Cock & Bull Lounge (Lamar and Winchester). We did a lot of  Allman Brothers, ZZ Tops, and original stuff. For a time we had some affiliation with Jerry Williams as we searched for the "elusive" recording contract. 

New World:

Ricky Johns - Lead Vocals

Randy Swan - Keyboards

Kenny Hamilton - Lead Guitar & Vocals

Leo Goff, and (later) Jimmy Love - Bass Guitar & Vocals

Jimmy Pierce - Drums 

Me - Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar. 

While playing with New World, I started having ear trouble caused by the loud volume. I developed a hearing condition called Hyperacusis, which is a heightened sensitivity to sound. Because of this, I had to quit New World (we played at ear shattering volume). For a year or so, I became a "lounge lizard" and played with "club" groups that played at lower volume levels. In fact, I graduated from the University of Memphis (to me it's still Memphis State!) in December 1973 and started as lead guitarist/vocalist at the Whirlaway Club (on Lamar) the next week. After a while, the nucleus of the Whirlaway group accepted a job at the Club Car Lounge at the Admiral Benbow Inn (Lamar & Airways). 

Lounge Lizards:

Joey Williams, and (later) Stan Barron - Drums

Ben Wages - Lead Vocals & Bass Guitar

Larry Pierce, and (later) Richard Bryant - Lead Vocals & Keyboards

Dominick Conjardo - Sax

Jimmy Kiihnl - Trumpet

Me - Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar. 

Around 1976, the ear problem that I had developed and the incredible boring grind of being a "lounge lizard" took their toll. I was burned out. So I quit playing! I laid my guitar down and didn't pick it up for several years. Then one day.......

While I was with New World, I began studying classical and flamenco guitar with Mr. Fusco, a gypsy guitarist who claimed to have studied with Andres Segovia. Later, I studied with Howard Vance (Howard Vance Guitar Academy - a great place to study all styles of guitar) and learned jazz tunes on the classical/nylon string guitar.

One day I got the urge to play my guitar again, and I haven't put it down since! I started studying with Howard again. At that time, I really didn't think I would ever perform in public again (because of my ear trouble). 

Around 1983, I got interested in comedy. For a few years, I worked around the Memphis area doing stand up comedy (impressionist) and commercials. 

At that time, I used to hang out at the Daily Planet (Park Ave ), the infamous neighborhood bar owned by Kenny (guitarist for New World) and Debby Hamilton. Lots of local musicians/personalities (Tom Hackenberger, Harry Bryan, Alan Collier, Andrew Suggs......) used to hang there. I used to set in and hone my comedy routine. Also, I started to jam with the bands (Don McMinn, Glen Cammack & the Crackers...) that played there. The problem with my ears had gotten better, and little by little I started to get interested in playing with bands again.

About this time Joey Williams, one of my old buddies from the "Whirlaway" days, called and asked if I was interested in playing again. He was playing at Leon's (Summer and White Station area), a gig that greatly reminded me of the Whirlaway. I played there for about a year. It was a lot of fun, plus it allowed me to get my "chops" back.

Leon's House Band:

Denise Barnes - Lead Vocals & Keyboards

Joey Williams - Drums

Mike Rowland - Bass & Vocals

John Russell -Lead Guitar & Vocals, and (later) Howard Tankersley - Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar

Steve ? (from parts unknown) -Sax

Me - Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar.

Eventually, I got the urge to form my own band. I started with a trio called BLT (Bobby Lawson Trio).


Kelsey Card - Drums & Vocals

Mickey Burrell - Bass Guitar & Vocals

Me - Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar.

About that time while jamming at the Planet, I met Richard Hite, the (late) great bass player of Canned Heat. Richard had retired to Memphis after leaving Canned Heat to play music and pursue his passion for record collecting. Richard was one of the greatest people and musicians that I ever worked with, and I miss him dearly. We decided to form Bobby Lawson & Shades of Blue. I always had trouble finding a keyboard player, so I bought a keyboard and decided to DIY (do it yourself). Our main gigs were the Circle Cafe (Brookhaven Circle), Neil's (Poplar Ave-medical center area), and various gigs on Beale Street like the Rum Boogie Cafe. We were together about five years (give or take a decade).

Bobby Lawson and Shades of Blue:

W.C. Garrison - Drums & Vocals

Randy Middleton, and (later) Bill Parsley - Lead Guitar & Vocals

Richard Hite (formerly of Canned Heat); and (later) Walter Shaw, Micky Burrell, Charles Gillihan, and Bob Tait - Bass Guitar & Vocals 

Me - Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar, Keyboards.

Finally, I got a bit tired of "running" a group. After we disbanded, I hooked up with Wayne Thompson, former rhythm guitar player for Tommy Burke and the Counts (the first band I idolized). Wayne was now a drummer and played a lot of country club & private party gigs (I had been mostly on the nightclub circuit). Leo Goff, former bass player for New World, and I  joined up with Wayne, his (now) wife Melissa, and Memphis legendary singer/keyboardist, Wally Wright (formerly of Eddie Harrison & the Shortkuts) and formed Heat Wave. This was the best vocal group I ever worked with. Wally, Mellisa, and I had very different sounding voices, but we got a great blend.

Heat Wave:

Wayne Thompson - Drums

Melissa Thompson - Lead Vocals & Percussion

Wally Wright - Lead Vocals & Keyboard

Leo Goff - Bass Guitar & Vocals

Me - Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar. 

Naturally, after a while I got the "bug" to have my own band again, so I formed Bobby L & the Spell.

Bobby L & the Spell:

David Shanklin - Lead Guitar & Vocals

Jack Syfan - Bass Guitar & Vocals 

Al Doyle, and (later) Terry Carter - Drums

Me - Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar, & Keyboards. 

When I left Heat Wave, Leo had remained. After about a year, Leo left Heat Wave, and we teamed up to start my current group, Bobby L and Smokehouse. We're together now and available for bookings (fast dependable service and reasonable rates!). For more information on Smokehouse, please visit the "Bobby L and Smokehouse" link of this site. 

Bobby L and Smokehouse:

Leo Goff - Bass Guitar & Vocals

Mike Forrest - Lead Guitar

John Burgess - Drums & Vocals (formerly Daren Dortin and Charles Carrington)  

Me - Lead Vocals, Keyboard, Lead Guitar, Saxophone, & Harmonica.

After several years or working together, Smokehouse disbanded. Fortunately, I was offered a job as singer/guitarist for the Memphis Blues Society Jam band (which lead me to my contacts for cutting my CD).
The Blues Society was putting together a promotional CD to give to new members. I was asked to be on it, so I wrote a couple of songs.
We cut them at Three Flights Up Recording Studio (here in Memphis). It went so well that Steve Davis, owner, wanted to do a CD on me!
Most ot the members of The Blues Society Jam Band played on the tracks of the CD. 

The Memphs Blues Society Jam Band
Dave Bennett - Bass Guitar
Johnny McDaniels - Drums and Percussion
John Sanders - Keyboards
Lee "Scrap Iron Raines" - Harmonica 

Me - Lead Vocals, Keyboard, Lead Guitar, Saxophone, & Harmonica.

The Bobby Lawson Band  - Reforming!