Franc Robert & The Boxcar Tourists
Formed in 2010, this was Franc’s backing band until Franc moved to Jacksonville in Sept. 2016. Originally composed of Remi Sawyer (drums) and Trent Sholl (bass) this lineup recorded Why Do I Never Win for Mind Balm Records, and won the 1st Annual St. Johns River Blues Challenge, as well as playing festivals and clubs all over Florida.
Remi left in March 2011, replaced by Dave Simmons. This lineup recorded Mulligan Stew in June 2012 (augmented by Lee Pons on keys and Smokin Joe Sadowski on harp) and toured around the Southeast US, playing festivals and clubs from South Florida to Virginia, opening for Johnny Winter, Tinsley Ellis, Damon Fowler, Southern Hospitality, and many others.
Trent left in 2014, replaced by Sam Mudd, with Smokin Joe an occasional member. This lineup recorded “Goin Down To Florida” in March, 2015, and continued to play festivals and clubs around Florida. Sam left in June 2015, with Larry Powell holding down the bass chair until August 2016.
Walker Smith Group
This version of the Walker Smith Group was put together for the International Blues Challenge in 2009. Featuring Walker Smith on lead vocals/guitar, Franc on lead guitar/lap steel, “Blind Dog” Jeff Vincent on harp, Jeff Avrin on bass, Tracey Schmitt on drums, and Karen Carruthers on piano, this group won the Suncoast Blues Challenge and competed in Memphis at the 2010 International Blues Challenge. This lineup also opened up for Chris Thomas King for the Suncoast Blues Society Christmas party, and the Clearwater Sea-Blues festival, opening for Robert Cray.
There were 3 distinct versions of this band-the first was Franc on guitar/vocals, “Nick” Nickerson on bass, Carianne Finney on keys/vocals, and Tracy Schmitt on drums. This lineup lasted only a few months (summer 2008 to Dec. 2008).
The 2nd version was Tampa Tina on vocals, Franc on guitar and vocals, Don Cox on bass, and Dave Simmons on drums. This version had a really strong rockabilly flavor, and did play some shows and festivals (Cotee River and Leesburg Bikefest) until Tina left in July 2009.
The third and final version had Franc, Don and Dave, with Dave DeWitt singing lead and harp. This version played from late 2009 to mid 2010, and played numerous club gigs and a couple festivals.
Back Alley Blues Band
Back Alley Blues Band is really the partnership between Franc and Smokin Joe Sadowsky, formed in 1996.
Originally formed in 1996 from the ashes of Nuthin But Trouble, the original lineup was Franc on guitar/vocals, Smokin Joe Sadowski on harp/vocals, Jimmy Sollazzo on bass, and Keith “The Groove Mechanic” on drums. This version hung on for awhile, then fell apart due to lack of gigs, and the rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll Xpress.
The 2nd version was a splinter group from Rock ‘n’ Roll Xpress, formed in Sept. 2000, featuring Franc, Joe, Kevin “Jake” Williams on bass, and Ron Philipps, a tattoo artist who played drums at night. This version played a lot of local clubs and dives. Jake and Ron both left the band in April 2002.
The 3rd version featured Franc and Joe, with Don Cox taking over the bass chair, and Dave Simmons on drums. This version played constantly around the Tampa Bay area, eventually opening up a number of festivals (Chasco Fiesta, Cotee River Seafood Festival). The band also recorded an EP in 2005 (Back Alley Blues Band) and 2006’s Boxcar Tourists, which received local airplay. Alza Perez joined after the Boxcar Tourists CD in 2006 as guitarist-vocalist. The last gig this version played was at Skipper’s Smokehouse on Oct. 14th, 2006, opening for Charlie Musselwhite and Seth Walker.
The 4th and final version featured Franc and Joe, with Alza moving over to bass and Marty Lindeman taking over on drums. Since both Joe and Marty could play drums AND harp, they would often switch in the middle of the gig, depending on who was singing! This lineup played numerous gigs around Tampa Bay and further out, including Leesburg Bikefest, Chasco Fiesta, and Cotee River Seafood fest. This version also competed in the Suncoast Blues Challenge in 2007, and recorded a CD “You Can’t Stay Here”. The band disbanded in July 2008.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Xpress
Formed in 1998, there were 3 distinct versions, with Franc involved in 2 of them. The first featured Franc, Alza Perez on vocals & guitar, Jimmy Sollazzo on bass, and Uncle Joe on drums. Jimmy left the band in late 1998 due to health problems, and Kevin “Jake” Williams took over on bass. This version played shows all around Tampa Bay, and was known for it’s 4 part harmonies (everybody could sing well in this lineup!) as well as its reputation for putting on a great hi-energy show! Smokin Joe would occasionally join in on harp and vocals. The third version was after Franc, Joe and Jake left to re-form Back Alley Blues Band.
Nuthin But Trouble
Formed in Sept. 1995, this band featured Franc, Alza Perez on guitar/vocals, KC Blue on harp and vocals, Jimmy Sollazzo on bass, and Doug Knapp on drums. The band was playing the local circuit around New Port Richey/Tarpon Springs/Hudson area until November 1996, when Alza, KC Blue and Doug Knapp all left for various reasons.
Blue Thunder Band
This band was formed by Franc and Tom “T-Bone” Hamilton after Franc left Crawdaddy Blues Band in July 1990. With a 2nd guitarist and drummer, this band played gigs local to Clearwater and St. Petersburg until June 1991, when the band split over lack of work.
Crawdaddy Blues Band
The first version of this band was formed in 1989 in Montreal, Canada, and played local clubs. It broke up when Franc moved to Florida in April 1990.
The second version was formed at a jam session hosted by Sarasota Slim in April 1990. A group that was just forming and didn’t have a guitarist approached Franc after hearing him jam with Slim. This version was a 5 piece that stayed together for several months, when Franc left after creative differences with the rest of the band.
Generic Blues Band
Formed in November 1986, the band was Franc on guitar/vocals, Kevin Berger on bass/vocals, Al Guindon on guitar, and Rod McLennon on drums. Al left in September 1987, replaced by Victor Farrell on guitar and vocals. This lineup played around Montreal, and hosted the famous “Blue Monday” jam at the Rising Sun nightclub on St. Catherine street. The band went their separate ways in the summer of 1989.
Formed by Franc, Mario Miniati, and Dan Alberts in March 1985, this band’s focus was on original new wave/pop/punk music, and went through numerous bassists before calling it quits in Sept. 1987. Mario still performs in Montreal with his band, and Dan played drums on Mario’s album in 2004. All 3 still remain in contact with each other to this day.