- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Well into their third decade, Shreveport’s Bluebirds continue to soar into new areas of music.

The latest incarnation for this storied group, born from the ashes of A Train in 1986, is tres Bluebirds, which has been, in recent years, a fixture at area casino nightclubs, special events and festivals.

For several years until about a year ago the band was six or seven players strong and went by the name Robin and the Bluebirds, based on the historic name of the band and the inclusion of talented local singer Robin Beach Black, the effervescent and versatile daughter of local blues guitarist and songwriter Jerry Beach. Beach performed with his daughter and provided the signature guitar sound in the band since the departure of its longtime picker, Buddy Flett.

Flett was forced to withdraw from music briefly in February 2008 when he was diagnosed with encephalitis. After a slow recovery, he re-entered the music field and can be found most weeks playing at a number of places. But bassist Bruce Flett, his brother and fellow Bluebirds stalwart, was forced to shop for other talent to fill that key spot.

Beach was that man. The gap reappeared when Beach and Black left, amicably, last year, and Flett again set out to restructure the Bluebirds.

For a few months, Jason Coffield was the band’s guitarist, Flett said. But the new face in the band, a lean, rangy picker whose intense, ponytailed visage stands stage left from Flett, is Robert Self, whose roots are in the Baton Rouge area.

“Robert has been with me since the fall of 2013, maybe six months,” Flett said. “He’s got quite an amazing resume and I did not know him at all until I heard him one night. He has such a passion for playing, and has a day job, working for a blind company, hanging them up.”

Self is 38, plays other gigs around town, including what used to be the Rustic Cowboy, now Woody’s, Flett said. “He’s a lot younger than me. He can play so many different styles. He gets a sound like a steel guitar. I love when he does that, so we can play some country as well as rock, And he’s a darned good singer.”

The band has seen a number of players, mostly drummers, pass through it, sort of like a finishing school for musicians.

“And they’ve gone on to bigger and better things or to lesser things,” Flett, 62, joked. “You’d be surprised, quite a few of them have come back. Its like musical chairs,” some of whom still seek the Fletts for music advice and promotion.

“The Bluebirds for the most is a three-piece band that Buddy and I started with Brady Blade in 1986,” Flett recalled. Blade, now considered one of the nation’s top session drummers, as well as an astute businessman, producer and studio owner, divides his time between Shreveport and Stockholm.

Blade’s time with the Bluebirds was brief, though he has returned on occasion and will play with the band on its birthday May 15 at Horseshoe Casino.

“He started with us that May and it was some time that summer he left to go to the Killer Bees,” Flett said.

The band’s longest-running drummer, “without a doubt is Kerry Hunter,” Flett said. “He’s been on two of our three albums and he’s with us now.”

Former players speak fondly of their time flying with the Bluebirds.

“I will always be grateful for all that Bruce Flett and The Bluebirds have done for me,” says one local guitarist on the rise, Matthew Davidson, still not old enough to buy a beer or vote, and barely old enough to drive or join the service. “I first met Bruce at a musicians’ jam at Christian Services Hospitality House in April of 2010. He invited me to sit in the next week with The Bluebirds at El Chico for Cinco de Mayo. All of The Bluebirds were so nice and welcoming to me that night, and took me under their wing.

Bruce kept inviting me to play with them after that night, and less than two months later, The Matthew Davidson Band was performing on the patio of the Madison Park El Chico,” continued Davidson, who also has received support and encouragement from such legendary local players and session giants as guitarist James Burton (Elvis, John Denver, Emmylou Harris) and Joe Osborn (Fifth Dimension, Carpenters, Johnny Rivers.) “Bruce was the bassist for my band for over a year, and we have played together on other occasions since then.”

The Bluebirds’ extended family also has helped such budding talent.

“Jerry Beach became my guitar teacher for a while, and I really enjoyed my lessons with him and look up to him,” Davidson continued. “All of The Bluebirds ((Bruce, Jerry, Robin, Zeke (Seighman), and Stan(ton Hoffman)) taught me so much and I had a great time performing with such talented musicians. Those performances with them were the real beginning of my music career and I’ll never forget that.”

Black, now the focus of the band Robin and the Mystics, also has praise for her mentors.

“I learned so much about the business end of music from Bruce and the Bluebirds themselves have been an ever-changing musical treat for almost my entire life,” she said.


Information from: The Times, https://www.shreveporttimes.com

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