Future Blues - "Young Artists Make Music a Family Affair"

By Ed Ivey Blues Revue (Issue No. 44 January/February 1999)

Northern Californian Corby Yates might be on his ways to becoming the youngest household name on the electric blues circuit. Last year he won the 17-and-under division of the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Competition sponsored by the Experience Hendrix Foundation. Yates blew the roof off the final gig with former Band of Gypsys members Buddy Miles and Billy Cox.

His self-released CD reveals an uncannily mature player -- the high-school senior shreds licks with the soul of players three times his age.

Jim Yates, Corby's dad and bassist, said, "When he was 3, he said, "Dad, I want to be the best guitar player in the world,' and I told him if you work your rear off, there's no limit to what you can do."

The elder Yates, a working musician for 20 years, realized that his son had something very special. " You can tell when a kid has clarity, so I knew really early. Even when he didn't have chops, he was able to emote. I could tell he was able to hook his emotions into his musical personality."

Corby found his niche six years ago -- as a sixth grader -- when he discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan's music. " The first time I ever heard him was on Live at the El Mocambo and I watched it like five times that day." Corby said. After receiving a Peavey electric guitar for Christmas that year, he started woodshedding and soon was copping Hendrix licks.

These days Corby headlines such venues as the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach and Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco, and he has appeared at festivals throughout the West Coast. He opened for Jimmie Vaughan at a packed San Jose auditorium recently and brought down the house. Other support slots with players such as Anson Funderburgh, Tommy Castro and James Armstrong have strengthened his draw.

Corby's band is a power trio that, in addition to his dad, includes drummer Robert Acree. Father and son work seamlessly together: " It's a very good partnership. My dad writes a lot of the lyrics; you know, he's been through a lot more than me," Corby said as his dad laughed. " It's really cool to do the thing we're most passionate about with each other," Jim said.

The band currently is fielding several offers from record labels, and it's only a matter of time before Corby gets signed. Yates appears to have a great future in blues, but first there's that cap-and-gown gig to attend. After that, he and his dad will turn up the heat. " I'm going to go on tour, play everywhere around the world, carry a torch, write lyrics and have something to say," Corby said.