The Austin Chronicle

You’re The Guy

By Jim Caligiuri, October 13, 2011, 8:11am, Earache!

Proclaimed "The World's Greatest Bar Band," NRBQ returns to Austin on Saturday for the first time since 1994. The group now has a local ace in their corner, drummer Conrad Choucroun, best known for his time with Bob Schneider but with a resume that also includes work with Bruce Robison, the Damnations, and too many others to list.

Throughout the 1980s and into the mid-1990s, when I lived in the Northeast, NRBQ was easily my favorite band to see live. The shows were always a goofy mix of crafty originals and unexpected covers from the likes of Thelonious Monk, Gordon Lightfoot, and obscure oldies from the 1950s. Since 1967, the Q has seen its membership change many times but none as radically as when the lone original member, keyboardist, Terry Adams, recently changed the name from his Rock and Quartet - what he had been touring under - back to NRBQ, with the previous members' blessings.

Choucran, likewise, grew up a fan but had a much more personal connection to NRBQ.

“Banana Blender Surprise was my first band when I was a teenager, and we were all big NRBQ fans,” he recalls. “We opened for them in Houston at Rockefeller’s and in Austin at Liberty Lunch in the spring of 1994. After one of the shows the drummer, Tommy Ardolino, said to me, ‘You’re the guy.’ And I said, ‘What?” He said, ‘You’re the guy. When I get too old, you’re going to play the drums for this band and send me the money.’

"I thought that was so funny. Thirteen years later I got a phone call from a friend of Terry Adams. He didn’t know what I had been doing since then, but he remembered me from that night. Of course, I’d played with a lot of people and started a music career. But he didn’t know that. It was just so wild. I ended up playing my first gig with the Rock and Roll Quartet in November of 2007.”

Getting NRBQ to Texas was a goal of Choucroun’s but the band could never seem to make it worthwhile financially until a fellow Banana Blender Surprise alumnus stepped in.

“Alan Hill, who books Discovery Green, a concert series in Houston, and who was also in BBS, called and that was the final piece of the puzzle," Choucroun gushes. "So it’s finally happening, and I’m so excited!”

With a new album Keep This Love Goin’ that, in spite of all the personnel changes, surprisingly sounds just like NRBQ, it’s a perfect time for a tour. The shows, however, remain as unpredictable as ever. “It’s whatever Terry feels like playing at that moment," Choucroun explains. “That includes really old songs - from the first album even - songs he’s written, or covers that are in the mix. It’s all fair game.”

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