Born in Fall River, MA and raised by two musically talented parents in Newport, RI, Bobby began learning music around the age of 5 or 6 when he would play songs with his parents. Little Bobby would strum on the ukulele while Tony, his Dad, stretched out on the violin or guitar and his Mom, Lolly, played the piano.
He took private lessons first on piano and then guitar while in grammar school. Later, as a high school freshman, he joined the school marching band. The band director suggested that he play the tenor saxophone because he was tall and strong enough. Even though his musical tastes were more along the lines of what is now Classic Rock, he found that he truly loved the sound of the tenor sax.
As Bobby puts it ...
"There is something about pouring your life's breath into a horn that makes the music so much more personal than with any other type of instrument".
Unfortunately, times were hard and money was short and that horn his parents rented for him had to be returned to the store. For a good many years after that, Bobby thought about getting his own saxophone, but never did because of the expense.
Even so, he really enjoyed playing the guitar. Being kind of an introverted kid, he spent most of his free time playing along with his older sister's records. Doing that trained his ears so well that he could learn almost any song that was on the radio after hearing it a few times. The only records that he ever had to buy were the ones were too hard to learn off the radio. In those days, music was sold on vinyl records and there was no such thing as software to slow down the tough parts. He had to play them over and over at full speed to learn them.
"As a working pro I'm always needing to learn new material, so I really appreciate these tools that let you slow down songs without changing the pitch. All this great new technology available today makes it much more simple to learn songs by ear."
By the time he got to high school he discovered how much he loved performing in front of a crowd. He joined with four other talented guys and formed a rock band. They drove everyone's parents crazy with the loud music coming from the basement. Eventually, they got good enough and began playing school dances. Chucky Matley covered the rhythm guitar spot with John Haney keeping them in time on the drums. Rich Haymon on the Hammond organ gave the band a powerful sound that set them apart from the other cover bands in town. Bobby was the lead guitarist and shared the vocal duties with bassist Will Borges. Like all things though, the band came to an end when high school ended and everyone went their separate ways. In the past 10 years or so, thanks to social media, they have all reconnected.
When he finished his education, Bobby left Newport to try to make his fortune in the big city. First he went to New York City, but the transition from the quiet resort town of Newport, RI to the "City That Never Sleeps " was too much of a culture shock for a small town boy. He just couldn't take all the noise and stress. To this day he recalls the enormous relief he felt when he boarded that Amtrak that returned him to New England. Undaunted by this first set back, his next target was Boston.
Although it's a pretty large city compared to Newport, he found Boston much more to his liking. It was still a bit of a transition for him, but over time, he was able to work his way up the pecking order to become an in-demand sideman for lots of busy Boston bands and recording artists in a wide variety of musical genres.
In 1998 Bobby realized his childhood dream and finally bought his first saxophone. Like a kid in a candy store, he devoted every spare minute to learning how to get good, mostly learning by asking the professional horn players he worked. He eventually took a handful of formal lessons, but because he was blessed with good ears, his primary focus from the beginning was always to make each note sound as good as possible. As Bobby says ...
"I'd gladly trade one appropriate, good sounding note for a thousand irrelevant ones. I've been fortunate to be friends with so many great sax players, so I have always had access to lots of world class guidance."
Before too long, he was getting calls for saxophone gigs in addition to guitar. His resumé includes side-man stints with a who's who of New England's most successful R&B and Blues artists who all recognized his talents as a musician.
"The key to being a good sideman is to remember that most people in the audience are there to hear the singer sing...
When the singer points at you to solo, you get to have your moment in the sun, but most of the time your job is just to make the song sound better while staying out of the vocalist's way.
Also remember, the singer is usually the one who signs your check.
Bobby gained skills and insights from each association with other performers. Eventually, he began to realize that he might finally be ready to take center stage and express his own musical voice instead of just accompanying that of other artists.
Bobby has been writing music since the 1980’s and his songs come in a wide variety of styles. To him, every song has its own message and deserves the most appropriate musical genre to fit the message contained in the song. This has made it pretty hard to categorize his body of work and it has probably limited his success in the music business, but he has no regrets. As Bobby puts it,
“Everyone likes to think they are unique, but truthfully every musician is a product of their musical influences in combination with what they bring to the table. There is no way that I can objectively compare myself to any specific artist. I try to sound a little like everyone I've ever loved listening to...
but I only steal from the very best.
When push comes to shove, I think Larry Carlton may have said it best.
It's all "Just Another Excuse to Play the Blues"