Americana Roots: The Blues Orphans

Americana Roots highlights the freshest and most original Americana and bluegrass from across the pond in the US.  It covers everything from brand-new, just out of the box bands, to cult favourites, to established acts who have yet to reach the UK’s shores.  Storming out of Pittsburhg, Pennsylvannia, sounding like a drunken parade down main street with all your best friends while being led by the funniest guy around is the Blues Orphans.

Band: The Blues Orphans

For Fans Of: Leftover Salmon, David Peel & the Lower East Side, Captain Beefheart

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Members:  Bob Gabig (guitar/vocals), Andy Gabig (harmonica), Mark Custer (cornet), Roger Day (tuba), Dr. Nelson Harrison (trombone), Dave Yoho (drums), Dave Erny (bass), Hill Jordan (trombone)


Discography:  ‘Neighborhood Beat’ (1997), ‘Schism’n Blues’ (2003), ‘Corn Creek Travesty’ (2005), ‘Root Rot’ (2007), ‘Hystericana’ (2013), ‘More Fake Blues’ (2018)

Background:  The Blues Orphans started as duo in 1974 with brothers Bob and Andy Gabig.  The pair played together for the next decade before deciding to start a full band in 1983 and taking on the name The Blues Orphans.  Since then, the band’s lineup has always been in constant motion, growing and shrinking over the years.  Sometimes having horns, sometimes not, but at the center was always Bob with his enigmatic presence, and his brother Andy.  The Blues Orphans sound is blues based and blends rock, polka, punk, bluegrass and just about everything else, while being laced with the sharp, humor of Bob’s lyrics.  Their shows are an unpredictable blur of excitement.  Bob may start playing some weird lick or guitar riff, leaving the band unsure of what song he is going to begin, forcing them to try to follow his unpredictable lead.  This unpredictably has made Blue Orphan’s shows a swirl of energy where the crowd may suddenly break into a giant samba line parading around the venue.

Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman, has been a fan of The Blues Orphans since his days in high school in nearby Carnegie, Pennsylvania, and is heavily inspired and influenced by the unpredictable nature of Blues Orphans shows.  He has incorporated the anything goes attitude that is the Blues Orphans trademark and Bob’s ability to be completely free and unrestrained onstage into Leftover Salmon shows.  Over the years he has covered a number of the band’s songs live, and even included ‘Unplug that Telephone’ on Leftover Salmon’s 2002 album ‘Live’.  Herman says, “My real hero is Bob Gabing.  He writes hysterical anthems that have inspired me for years.”

What They Do Live:

About Tim Newby 59 Articles
Author of books, writer of words, enjoyer of good times. Often found with a beer in hand and barefoot at a festival somewhere. Author of 'Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin' Sound & Its Legacy' (2015), 'Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival! (2019). New book 'Pete Browning: The Life & Troubled Times of a Forgotten Legend' due out in 2023. Follow him on twitter @Tim_Newby9 .
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