Brooks Robertson  - Funky Fingerstyle Guitarist
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Brooks Robertson - Funky Fingerstyle Guitarist

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Band Blues Acoustic




"Picking into the future Guitarist Brooks Robertson carries on the fleet-fingered picking tradition of his late mentor, Buster B. Jones, and other greats as he builds his own musical legacy"

One day Brooks Robertson is a normal kid growing up in Eugene, loving baseball, hiking and biking local trails, working at Jiffy Market, just having fun. Then, before you know it, at the age of 11, during a Nokie Edwards Music Festival in Veneta, he’s utterly transfixed by the performance of Virginia guitar finger-picking legend Buster B. Jones.

The conversion was immediate, like Saul to Paul.

Now he carries on the Jones legacy.

“I was astonished,” Robertson, 21, recalls. “I told my dad I wanted to play guitar like that. It’s all I could think about.”

Jones’ fast playing style — which earned him the nicknames “Le Machine Gun” and “Pistola” — and his playing buddy, Thom Bresh, son of Merle Travis, mesmerized Robertson, who before then wasn’t interested in any musical instruments. “They played incredible finger-style guitar,” Robertson remembers, “and what they did different was play the bass line, rhythm chords, melodies and harmonies all at the same time. It really turned the switch on for me.”

His dad, Tom, who played guitar a lot around the house, must chuckle, because he had to drag his son to that concert. But the elder Robertson, a fan of The Ventures during their guitar instrumental reign on the pop charts of the 1960s, and especially lead guitarist Nokie Edwards, probably had a hunch the music would electrify his son.

The next year Tom helped out at Edwards’ local festival, which gave him and his son the chance to strike up friendships with Jones, Edwards and a cadre of Veneta-area musicians. Then things took an unexpected turn.

Gift from Nashville

Rather suddenly, Jones moved from Nashville to Junction City to live with Patty, a local dump-truck driver he had fallen in love with and married.

From the age of 12 on, Robertson was a frequent house guest of the Joneses. He remembers his dad dropping him off Thursday nights and picking him up on Sundays.

“I loved hanging out with him,” Robertson says. “He was 30 years older than me, but he was my best friend. Who else at that age can say they had a friend like that? Buster was one of the smartest, most creative and fun guys I’ve met.”

Robertson poignantly remembers the circle of musician friends who grew ever closer as they helped Jones during increasing medical setbacks.

Meanwhile, young Robertson got the music education of his life from Jones, an international superstar of the guitar who at first agreed only reluctantly to weekly lessons for the shy but determined youngster.

“First lesson was a bust,” Robertson laughs. “I had it all wrong. He sent me home and said ‘Don’t come back until you know this.’ I worked hard and nailed it by the next week. Then things just took off.”

He remembers the next six months of weekly lessons as being one of the most intense, creative times of his life. Later that year, Jones gave him the ultimate compliment. He invited Robertson to play with him on stage at the third Edwards festival in 2003. After the event, Jones presented him with a special Godin guitar and Robertson became the youngest endorsee of the company.

Finger-picking legacy in hand

Until Jones’ death from liver failure in February 2009, he and Robertson were inseparable friends and performing partners. Jones invited his young protégé to play by his side on stages around the world.

Since then Robertson has been determined to keep Jones’ legacy alive. He’s been a fixture at Northwest coffee houses and festivals, faithfully playing Jones’ riveting instrumentals and gradually introducing his own music.

Earlier this year he moved from Eugene to Portland and now is considering Nashville, “the creative center of the world if you’re in my business,” he says. An earlier visit to Nashville this year stirred his passions, and he looks forward to mingling with other musicians there to evolve his craft, possibly into film scores and commercials. But right now he’s on a mission.

“I want to champion Buster and the other great finger pickers,” vows Robertson. Among his core influences, he includes long-time Jones’ sidekick Bresh, Jerry Reed, Lenny Breau and the man who started it all, Chet Atkins.

That legacy is in good hands thanks to this 21-year-old South Eugene graduate who is hailed as one of the best emerging contemporary finger-picking solo guitarists. He’s won several prestigious music awards, most recently first in the United States and second internationally in the 2010 guitar competition, Six String Theory. His disciplined, complex playing, precise rhythm and compelling harmonies and melodies amaze audiences and critics alike.

Now he’s a budding singer, too.

As attendees of his Aug. 27 Eugene Celebration appearance found out, one of Robertson’s new experiments is trying out his vocal chops. “I’m working to add the instrument of my voice to my music” he says. “And for the first time I’m writing lyrics to my songs.”

Although solo work and duets with Jones have been his mainstays, Robertson says he is intrigued by the possibility of adding stand-up bass and drums to his act and looks forward to exploring new, possibly jazz-tinged areas of music within the configuration of a trio.

Next up for Robertson is the Sisters Folk Festival on Sept. 10, then shows in Hillsboro (Sept. 16) and Bend (Sept. 23)and a tour through California.

His latest CD, “Into the Trees,” is ded-icated to Jones. For album sales and tour details, see

Writer Paul Omundson can be contacted at - The Register Guard

"Brooks Robertson: Eugene’s guitar phenom to play Cozmic Pizza"

Eugene guitar prodigy Brooks Robertson had a hard time coming up with a disadvantage for finger-style guitar. “I have to go to the nail salon,” he said, brandishing a set of right finger nails that are honed to a fine point. “That gets some strange looks from the people there.” His inability to malign a guitar style he has mastered is understandable, given that it has allowed the 20-year-old to travel across the nation and even perform in Paris. This Saturday, he will bring his burgeoning skill and experience to Cozmic Pizza with another young phenom, Taylor Malone. Tracks on his new album Into the Trees, which he recording in Eugene with Don Latarsky, often seem like the work of a talented guitar duo, or even trio. The endless barrage of notes and intermingling melody lines, however, is the singular result of Robertson’s ten nimble fingers floating across the fret board and sound hole, melding endless chord shapes and harmonics into a unified song. Watching him play heightens the experience. The music is not only beautiful to the ears, but the sight of his hands churning out impossibly synchronous melodies baffles the eyeballs. The amount of notes he creates should not emanate from one man on stage. Yet, these are the possibilities of finger-style guitar. “I look at finger picking as a way to push the guitar to its maximum potential,” the humble Eugenian said to OMN over coffee at Espresso Roma. “It’s the best way to play. You get so many tones, overtones and harmonics; it just makes the most of what a guitar is capable of doing.” Robertson has been performing since he was 12 years old. His teacher, finger picking guru Buster “Machine Gun” Jones, took Robertson’s raw talent and honed it into a finely tuned player. As Robertson has matured and grown, his music has grown with him. “When I first started out, I had a narrow goal, which was to play exactly like Buster. That was my main focus.” Robertson came into Jones’ life at a sensitive time in the teacher’s life. According to an article by the Register-Guard posted on Robertson’s website, Jones’ left side of his body was becoming paralyzed as Robertson sought instruction. Fearing his teaching days were numbered, he taught Robertson with a special diligence, sharing tips and secrets he told no other student. As a result, the student, soon eclipsed the master. Watch Buster talk about Brooks: Since he completed his original goal, Robertson started to look elsewhere for inspiration. He started listening to finger-style guitarists Doyle Dykes and Tommy Emmanuel. Eventually, he found inspiration within himself. For the past three years, he has composed his own material, which has further catalyzed his emotional and creative development. His new album contains many of these original tunes. “When I go back and listen through the album, the songs that stick out as my favorite are the originals,” he said. “It’s exciting to say that I wrote that song. Hopefully, I can contribute to finger style guitar.” This musical evolution has coincided with his accruement of life experiences. “My playing is more in touch and soulful,” he said. “It’s not like I practiced more or anything, it’s just maturing as a human being. When I first started, I was like a robot, I didn’t play with enough emotion. It’s much different now and it’s so much more enjoyable to play.” Despite the young man’s emergence into his own artistic voice, he never ceases to credit Jones for making it possible. The inside credits of his album read: “[This] is dedicated to the life and legacy of my friend and mentor Buster B. Jones.” He is also not shy to admit that his originals aren’t completely original. “I like to take parts of tunes that I like and incorporate them into my music,” he said. “Why not use what I like? There are no rules for song writing.” While some creative purists may cringe at this open attitude, Robertson has a different take. “Everyone has their influences,” he said. “Some people try to stay away from sounding like someone, but I think it’s OK to have a song that’s not 100 percent original.” For the show on Saturday, Robertson has a goal that, given his considerable skill, promises entertainment. “I’m going to try to blow people away,” the young man said with a grin. “It’s going to be a high energy show. Lots of originals, plus Taylor, who is scary good, will join me for some duets.” Robertson loves finger-style guitar. It is the only option for him, and on Saturday, he aims to display the sonic possibilities the instrument can give any capable player who uses all ten fingers. - Oregon Music News

"Brooks Robertson: A Fingerpicking Grasshopper Without His Sensei"

Brooks Robertson defines:

“Finger style is when you’re playing bass parts, rhythm and melody all at once, there’s a lot of technique that goes into it.”

He discovered the guitar at twelve years old and now at 20, he is a finalist–one out of thousands of entries in the Yamaha 6th String Theory competition. Robertson will be up against 17 other finalists for a full ride scholarship to Berklee School of Music in Boston. “I think my chances are pretty good,” he says with confidence.

Robertson has recorded two albums and played festivals and all sorts of venues around the world, “Some people may say I am at the height of my career but I would definitely say I am just getting started. I am very fortunate to have accomplished so much at a young age, but most of the shows I played were with Buster headlining and I was just there to make a cameo, I’m looking forward to doing this on my own,” a modest way to look at his success.

Buster? The Eugene native was first inspired to play music when he saw Buster B. Jones, another finger style guitarist, playing at a show in Nashville. “I was just a kid in the audience,” he explains. Afterward, he researched Buster and found out that he was coming to Eugene to play a show. Robertson continues, “I got a chance to go back stage and meet him, after that he was my hero.” Shortly after their meeting, Buster fell in love and moved to Eugene. When Robertson found out, he knew it was his chance to really get in touch with his idol. “Buster wasn’t really into giving lessons at first, but after awhile he realized I had the same drive and desire that he had and wanted to pass on his wisdom to me.” Having your idol willingly want to be you mentor doesn’t happen every day. “I was lucky,” he says.

Watch Buster talk about Brooks:

Brooks at age 13 with Buster in 2002

The backstory is that not long after Buster moved to Eugene, he was stricken with a debilitating illness. Teaching Brooks became a part of his rehabilitation. From then on they were inseparable.

For the next 8 years, he traveled the world with Buster and by the time he was in high school he had already played shows in Ireland, France, Germany and Canada. Not many high school students can say that. “I sort of just jumped in to performing,” Robertson explains. Being under Buster’s wing as a young musician was crucial but Robertson is learning how to be on his own because Buster recently passed away.

Robertson has played the Nokie Edwards Festival, the NAMM Show in Anaheim, the Montreal Jazz Festival and many others. He was the youngest endorser of Godin Guitars, traveling world-wide. In 2004 he performed on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion. He won first place in their talent competition for 12-10 year-olds.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Nokie Edwards, of the Ventures once said of Robertson, “”He is slicker than a cat on a greased pole.”

In the making for the last couple of years, his upcoming album, Into the Trees, will be released in mid-April. “This album is a combo of who I am as a guitar player, a good majority of it are songs that Buster wrote or recorded or stuff we wrote together. It represents where I came from as a player and appreciation from how I learned because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be playing. These songs mean a lot to me.

“Music is such a universal thing I feel like everyone can relate to it. It’s nice to have a connection through music with everyone else whether it’s that they like the music you like or you like the music they play or vice versa. I’m more into enjoying the music I play. It would be nice to have it be my career but more important than being famous is the music. One thing Buster used to tell me was that after the radio and playing shows at the end of the day it comes down to what it means to you, you have to play music and play shows for you or else it will all fall apart. That has really stuck with me a lot. It would be hard to market myself and make things happen if I didn’t love what I was doing.” - Oregon Music News


Into The Trees - 2010

American Fingerstyle - 2007

Thumb Like it Hot - 2006



Brooks Robertson just doesn't need much more than two thumbs, eight fingers and six strings on a wooden box to carry his listeners away.

Hailed by prominent exponents of his instrument like Nokie Edwards, Thom Bresh, John Jorgenson and Mason Williams, the young fingerstyle guitarist embodies the creative vision of a postmodern world: It's the music that counts. Brooks utilizes his superb technical abilities to play bass, rhythm and melody simultaneously and surpass the borders of conventional genres. He merges hauntingly beautiful compositions, country rhythms and jazzy harmonies with funky licks into his very own art form sometimes delivered with a punch, sometimes with a smile.

Brooks was born in Eugene, Oregon in 1989. Seeing Buster B. Jones perform at a festival near his home town became a life-changing experience for the kid from the sticks. Just eleven years old, he was immediately inclined to pick up the guitar. Soon, the world renowned fingerstyle virtuoso and instructor dedicated his spare time to introducing his new fan into the secrets of the fretboard, and after six months of lessons the natural talent performed his first show with his mentor.

When Buster B. Jones took him under his wings, Brooks began playing high-profile gigs such as the Nokie Edwards Festival, the NAMM Show in Anaheim, the Montreal Jazz Festival or the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield among others. By the time he was a teenager he had become the youngest endorsee of Godin Guitars and traveled to several states and foreign countries to perform. Brooks went on to play on Garrison Keillor's National Public Radio classic "A Prairie Home Companion" in 2004, where he won first place in a talent competition for 12 to 20 year old participants.

In recent years, while still appearing regularly at prestigious events like the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) Convention in Nashville, Brooks focussed on perfecting his craft, soaking up new tunes and styles and techniques as well as blending them into his own groovy and soulful original music. He entered the "Yamaha Six String Theory Guitar Competition", which drew participants from more than 40 countries all over the world. Brooks was invited to perform in the finals at the Broad Stage in Los Angeles in March 2010. A star-studded jury, including Steve Lukather and Lee Ritenour, eventually chose him as winner of the country category and second place winner overall.

Although he is deeply rooted in the powerful tradition of the genre, founded by the likes of Merle Travis, Jerry Reed, Thom Bresh and Buster B. Jones, Brooks also draws inspiration from the elegant mastery of the legendary Chet Atkins and other phenomenal players. His own compositions and arrangements have even been compared to fingerstyle jazz champions Lenny Breau and Earl Klugh. Now, as energy and maturity come together, this young man is ready to step out of his mentors' shadows and electrify the world with the sheer acoustic beauty his fingers create, when touching a set of strings.

"He is slicker than a cat on a greased pole."
Nokie Edwards (The Ventures, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

"I was completely knocked out with the acoustic guitar virtuosity of Brooks Robertson! Brooks has a very original touch and sound plus monster chops. He's always making great music with his guitar. I'm sure Brooks will be sharing his music with the entire world and have an incredible career." Lee Ritenour (Grammy award winning guitarist )

"Brooks Robertson plays like the house is on fire."
Thom Bresh (legendary thumbpicker)

"Brooks Robertson is well-equipped to carry on the legacy of Buster B Jones' powerful and funky guitar style. Any player would be very proud to have such an accomplished guitarist as a protg. Brooks' personal playing and composing style is equally compelling, as audiences around the world are finding out. The solo guitar's future is in good hands with players like Brooks out there!"
John Jorgenson (Elton John, Desert Rose Band, Hellecasters)

"All guitar players are like Frankensteins. Their music is made out of bits and pieces of other players. In Brooks' case, he's a son of a Frankenchops, the well known monster picker Buster B. Jones. Buster and Brooks are both so scary ... the legend continues."
Mason Williams ("Mr. Classical Gas")

"Brooks Robertson is a superb and exciting guitarist. I love his playing!"
Pat Bergeson (Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Lyle Lovett, Madeleine Peyroux)

Band Members