Artist Spotlight  
Bobby Manriquez
By Robert John, correspondent to
© 2005 - All Rights Reserved

Bobby Manriquez, a native of Washington, D.C., plays the Blues - and so much more...

If you're looking to hear some of your daddy's Blues, you might look elsewhere. Although Bobby's music is clearly rooted in the Blues, it's his Blues, his heart and his muse that he follows - and the results are fresh and vital. He coaxes modern yet timeless tones from his guitar, finding notes that seemingly aren't present on other players instruments.

Stretching the boundaries of Blues through his compositions as well as his playing, Bobby's music deserves a listen by anyone seeking to expand their musical horizons.

Barrelhouse Blues ("BB") recently spoke with Bobby about his new CD, "Prayin' the Blues," his musical experiences and more. Read on...

BB: Tell us a bit about your musical history and experiences...

BM: When I think back, I've met and played with so many very talented musical stars. I mean, as a teen I danced to "The Midnight Hour" and played "Funky Broadway" in soul bands. Never did I expect that I would end up, as was Steve Cropper, "The Wicked" Wilson Pickett's lead guitar player. Sharing flights with Carlos Santana, having KISS open for the act I was in at the time (Capital Records' Kathi McDonald Tour) and sitting back stage plunkin' around on guitars with Greg and Llowell George of LITTLE FEAT or Jeff Beck are all fond memories. Even more humbling has been having some of these same people acknowledge and even praise my music.

BB: Your latest CD, “Prayin’ the Blues,” clearly draws on many influences...where does your inspiration come from to write songs such as “Slinky” and “FT3.”

BM: I had an awakening while spending some time in a cage, and both songs were born out of soul-felt experiences; bluesy, funky music, to me.

Slinky is an account of my rough years touring and druggin'. It tells how I'd only call on God when the heat was on. It goes on to describe the source of my faith in terms of Harley Davidsons and other modern-day likes of mine.

FT3 again, not that I'm "religious," is a "rappy" blues number taking advantage of such terms as "G" in order to parallel the "gangstah" lingo with the "G" for God as I advocate peace. This is the third in the "FT" or "Family Traditions" legacy which began on my first solo CD, "Another Shade of Blue(s)."

BB: The CD demonstrates your ability to play many instruments. Was this an effort to carefully produce a specific sound and feel on the songs?

BM: I guess you could say so. I knew exactly what I wanted. If I didn't have a friend who could give it to me quickly, I'd go at it myself, knowing I'd learn something in the process. Some of my love for certain feels came from listening to bands like Chaka Khan's RUFUS, so when Bobby Watson (from RUFUS) said he's like to play one I wrote one that he'd "make happen." Same idea with the traditional blues feel of "My Heart to Give" and the involvement of Bob Margolin and Nighthawk's Mark Wenner. "Henpecked" was written with former Miles Davis guitarist Mike Stern, and current bassman deluxe ( a la John Scofield's "Loud Jazz) Gary Grainger in mind. These nuggets of golden performances throughout the record really added to what I needed.

BB: Our interest in you and your music is based on a foundation seemingly rooted in the Blues, but your music clearly stretches those boundaries. Is this a conscious effort on your part, or do you just follow your muse?

BM: Definitely the latter. This is my blues. Blues comes from the heart. My tastes have never been confined to 3 chords and trying to sing like there's gravel in my throat. I happen to love some of the original voices and feeling in old blues. Any form of art, in my opinion, left to only replicate or carry on, suffers the possible lack and vitality of what innovation is all about.

BB: Is the process of writing songs an easy or difficult one for you?

BM: For whatever reason, (I look at any talent I may have as a gift) I find both an ease and immense enjoyment in creating a song when I know what I'm setting about creating in terms of feel, mood, and genre. I really dig it. I dig the studio.

BB: Do you have a favorite tune from the CD? If so, which one and why?

BM: I'd say "Black and Blue" is one of my favorites. It was originally going to be called "Trick or Treat," but that would not have sat well with an otherwise, mostly spiritual CD. I played everything. I like it's strength and simplicity.

BB: Who or what are your greatest influences as a songwriter and instrumentalist?

BM: Up until now, I have totally castrated myself from "modern music." I never listen to radio. Just as I know not what the notes I'm playing are, I've had this thing about not wanting to be influenced by anything other than what inspired me to play and enjoy music so much growing up. I always liked the good singers (Aretha, Kenny Loggins, Wilson Pickett, Jimmy Reed) and always went for the very few guitarists who had somewhat mastered what I believe to be the absolute most difficult trait of a good blues guitarist. That trait would be a creamy, slow, controlled vibrato. The reason why you hear it so seldomly is because it's very difficult to do (good examples are Eric Clapton, Lucky Peterson, Stevie Ray, and Jeff Beck).

BB: As an artist and performer, how do you manage to keep your performances fresh and inspired?

BM: I make sure the dope is fresh. (Kidding; I don't drink or drug.) Seriously, I'm real spontaneous when it comes to playing. The ideas kinda' flow out of me after the groove and feel presents itself. I would describe playing live as trance-like and draining (in a good way). It's very much akin to some of other, well-known "best feelings attainable on this planet."

BB: What are some of your most memorable experiences as a performer?

BM: I'd have to say, the sight of the thousands of people filling New York's Central Park, after which I got my first write up in Rolling Stone Magazine, calling me a "great guitarist," along with Nils Lofgren and Rick Derringer. Later, multi-thousands more filling San Francisco's Candlestick Park, was really something. I was with (now E-Street Band's) Nils Lofgren. There was an ocean of people. The bill, including us, also featured Santana, Journey, Jeff Beck, Tower of Power, and others. I have been informed that a European company has included this performance on an "All Time Best Concerts" DVD, to be released soon.

BB: Who would you most like to perform with that you haven’t thus far?

BM: I'd like to, when I'm really feeling perky, trade licks on stage with the best: Jeff Beck. I'd also really like to accompany Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, and Bonnie Raitt. My shoes would be shined.

BB: What advice would you offer to other aspiring singers, guitarists and songwriters hoping to make a living in the music business?

BM: The music business is, unfortunately, very different from the one I started in. Despite that, from my heart, I'd say the ability to "follow that dream" is essential and vital... to the soul and the mission... win or lose.

BB: What’s next for Bobby Manriquez?

BM: "They" say, I'm real good. However, so far, It's made me little money to speak of. I'm planning a live blues album that, I believe, will set the record straight, and your pants on fire. Maybe then I'll feel like I've left my mark.

BB: Lastly, what do you value most about making music?

BM: In all sincerity, it satisfies my soul and feeds my spirit.

© 2005 - All Rights Reserved

You may contact Bobby Manriquez at: