Friday, April 6, 2007

While most kids his age were outdoors popping pez and shooting spud guns, little Robert Sheff was locked away in a tiny studio studying piano composition under the stern tutelage of Meta Hertwig and Otto Wick. And by the time his teenage friends were busy bringing sea monkeys back to life, Robert was bringing the works of John Cage to life in a celebrated concert series in his native San Antonio.

Then one day he hopped on a bus to Michigan, where he was destined to meet the Pop Brothers -- Iggy, Dan, and Philip -- who had recently started a blues band called The Prime Movers. Just by chance they were looking for a keyboardist, and when they saw Robert's fingers whipping across the keys like sump'n sump'n, they implored him to join the band.

The Prime Movers circa 1966 (that's Robert on the far left, can you spot Iggy?)

News of Robert's talent spread rapidly. First Carla Bley wanted a piece of him. But when her rival Laurie Anderson caught wind of this development she phoned Robert immediately and demanded he collaborate with her on her latest project, Strange Angels.

The fellas weren't too far behind. David Behrman and the great John Cage were chomping at the bit to make good use of Robert's distinguished digits. He was in more demand than a toothpick at a corn roast! But being passed around by all these hoity-toity musicians was wearing poor Robert down.

He decided to move out to Oakland to teach Harmony & Couterpoint at Mills College, where he would remain for twelve years. It was an environment steeped in experimental music and the perfect place for Robert to realize his philosophical and musical visions.

First order of business? Swapping his lackluster name for something with a little more pizazz. After many sleepless nights and a hundred alternatives he finally found the one.

Now he was ready to record his first album. In 1977, with the help of Peter Gordon and a host of Bay Area talent, Out of the Blue was born.

MP3 files removed at the request of the copyright owners.