With all the makings of an American music icon, Tab Benoit has become one of the premiere roots stylist of the century. Tab has paid his dues as a road troubadour playing 250 nights a year performing at venues across North America, honing his guitar chops and becoming part of Louisiana folklore and legend.
Way down in the heart of steamy South Louisiana there's a run-down shotgun-style, brick building where magic is known to happen on any given night. Many of the town's people don't venture into the area, but those who do, order from a hand written menu containing such misspelled delicacies as "hot sawsage poboys" and "fried swimps",. After a good, greasy meal, they are treated to the most authentic blues around. It's here at Tabby's Blues Box and Heritage Hall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where Tab Benoit played to gain acceptance among the true blues fans and players of the down and dirty genre, while earning the customary thirteen dollars a night.
"We weren't allowed to bring in our own equipment", Tab recalls. "We always just made do with what was there... that's the Blues Box way." Tab has fond memories of the leaky roof, the outdated PA system (a 1970's bass amplifier), and the appreciative crowd; a mixture of LSU students and neighborhood regulars. But mostly, he remembers a piece of advice from Tabby Thomas, the club's proprietor, who told him, "If you play the blues, you'll always have a job."
Tab has taken Tabby's advice to heart, maintaining his blues roots while hitting the road--hard. For the past several years he's been performing his own brand of cajun rock 'n blues, night after night, while watching the size of his audience steadily increase. This grueling tour schedule has paid off, as he now plays for standing room only crowds across the country, from major music cities to small town blues bars.
Born in Baton Rouge in November 1967 and raised in the oil and fishing town of Houma, Louisiana (where he lives to this day), Benoit barely remembers learning to play guitar. "I had a book that showed you how to play chords", he said. "After I learned the first three, I got rid of the book."
Since that time, the music has seemed to come naturally to him. He began playing gigs around town -- weddings, local Cajun festivals, and rock and roll shows – anything to make a living and get the chance to play music. For Tab there was a natural progression from rock 'n roll to the 70's to the Cajun rock 'n blues he now plays since all of these genres are firmly rooted in the blues.
He soon ventured off to New Orleans and met Barbara Becker, commonly known as B.B., and then manager of the Legendary Dr. John. She remembers the days when she would go see Tab and be the only person in the audience. When Justice Records president called her for a recommendation for an upcoming project, they set up a meeting at a local bowling alley (the now-famous Mid City Lanes - Rock 'n Bowl). Tab was playing there in a blues jam contest. Even though he came in third, it was his blues that got signed to participate on Justice's "Strike a Deep Chord: Blues Guitars for the Homeless". Everyone was so impressed with his contribution, a heartfelt blues number called "Nice and Warm", that they signed him to a multi album deal.
Tab also struck a deep chord in the television industry, getting several songs placed in prime time shows including Northern Exposure, Melrose Place, and Party of Five. Even the most watched show in the world, Baywatch, chose Tab to perform (this time on camera) on the premier episode of the spin-off series, Baywatch Nights. Other artists featured on the show include Buddy Guy, B. B. King and Robert Cray.
Everything Tab does, he does on the spot. He rarely rehearses, making each performance a new experience for both the band and the audience. He likes things simple, and approaches life with a laid-back reverence. Whether it's his uncanny ability to fix things (he's been known to repair a tour bus with a Swiss Army Knife), his winning performances racing dirt track stock cars, or his emotional, yet restrained, approach to playing music, Benoit believes in spontaneity and the importance of the moment. Benoit just does what comes naturally.