Blues guitarist Robben Ford gets picking at Doubletree Jan. 25

Nicholas Sparling

The mood was audible from the DoubleTree Hotel ballroom on California Avenue Jan. 25, when it played host to Grammy-nominated blues guitarist Robben Ford and his band. The performance marked the 90th show put on by local music store World Records.
Pat Evans, owner of World Records, was excited at the chance to bring Robben Ford back in Bakersfield. Evans said,”If you ever see a guitarist whom you think is better than Robben Ford, ask him.” According to an e-mail sent out by Evans, the show was “done without ticketing service charges and without sponsors.”
Presale tickets were $20-25 and before the show, people were eagerly lined up in the hall. When the doors opened just before 7 p.m., people were glad to be let in and led to their seats. Most frequent the events of World Records, and many knew where they were to sit already.
Robben Ford’s CDs were being sold at a table for $20. There were a total of 350 seats in the ballroom and just over 250 tickets sold for a more than fair turn out.
Bunky Spurling kicked off the show at 7:15 p.m. with the room still in an inappropriate buzz, people talking, and still being seated. He sat alone on the center of the stage picking his guitar for a most impressive introduction. Bunky is part of the organization Keeping the Blues Alive.
After messing up for a moment on a song, Bunky told the audience that the “part when I sounded lost, that was the jazz part.” Following his set was a short intermission.
Given a chance to assess the whole scene, I noticed how many people were taking advantage of the bars set up on the left and the right of the ballroom. The tables were already littered with small collections of beer bottles, empty wine glasses, and cups with nothing more than a stirring straw and melting ice.
The main set consisted of Travis Carlton on bass, Gary Novack on drums, and Ford himself on lead guitar. Ford’s album “Truth” has earned him a Grammy nomination for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” this year.
Ford shielded his eyes from the three sets of five bright lights directed at the stage to see the audience who was glad to welcome him back to Bakersfield.
The band has kept busy on tour this past year, touring through Europe before Christmas and being on the road during the majority of the summer. The night before Bakersfield they were in Los Angeles, and the next day they would be off to Las Vegas. According to Travis Carlton, the band spent between 220 and 230 days on the road last year.
Couples who felt compelled to move abandoned their seats in favor of the left of the stage, turning it into a dance floor. The set consisted of the songs of Ford, some cover songs, purely instrumental songs, and some dedicated to blues legends B.B. King and Freddie King.
Every member of the band was given the chance to prove their worth on the stage with impressive solos, but none as amazing as Ford’s.
Ford’s default guitar technician Daved Kohls has set up the sound for some of the biggest names in the business including Metallica, the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, and even Bob Dylan. Kohls has an arrangement with Ford that if he is ever on tour with a band, and Ford decides to play a show, the band will get a sub and pay to fly Kohls to the show.
“That’s what I like about Robben Ford,” said Evans, “He gets the best guitarists in Bakersfield out here. Normally, the only way I can get them here is on stage, but when Robben Ford’s in town, they all come out.”