Rob Babson: Rob is the founder/bandleader/front-person & M.C. of the Delta Knights. He is also the bandís lead vocalist, lead guitarist and chief songwriter/arranger. With DK, he's also been seen and heard playing blues harp, bass and even ukulele. Rob is always honing his chops and vocal repertoire, ever eager to please his audience. Although swing, rhythm and blues, blues and classic rock are his preferences, Rob never rules out anything if itís good.
Rob's Musical Roots
Rob has been in show business since elementary school, when he played the King Of Hearts in Fourth Grade in Alice In Wonderland. As a musician, he has performed throughout New England, Tennessee and St. Croix. Rob was born in Biddeford, but raised in Standish, Maine. He started playing guitar at age 14 and took lessons from the late classical guitar instructor Mike Silvestri. He put a band together with some high school friends, Troy Bennett and Dean Clegg. Rob's friend, Eric Driscoll thought up the name Unfinished Business and the name stuck. Initially, Rob wanted to play guitar only, but singers were always in short supply, so he quickly realized he'd get more gigs if he sang, too, so he started building his vocal repertoire. In High School, Rob was involved in Drama at Bonny Eagle High School, under the tutelage of the late P. Michael Bourgoin, which gave him the foundation he needed to be comfortable onstage. Rob's extensive theater experience continues to give him a theatrical slant to his performances.
Rob's Musical Evolution
While in Standish, Rob continued to hone his musical chops. At age 19, he joined his first gigging band, Minus 500. Rob was singing so much that he decided to take some vocal lessons, to help hone his vocal chops and learn to sing properly. He took guitar lessons with Gary Richardson, too. Rob realized that he could earn a living as a musician, and he did for a few years. After playing for other bands and bandleaders, around the mid-1990s, Rob envisioned a small band that could play roots music, blues, R&B and swing. He gathered together two musicians he had worked with previously, and the band recorded their demo tape at Tree Frog Studios. The Delta Knights Band was born. The trio immediately started gigging extensively in Maine and New Hampshire.
Rob's new band The Delta Knights is launched
In mid-1996, Rob moved to Portland, Maine, to be closer to the vibrant music scene here - where he resides to this day with his wife Camelia and their 2 dogs and cat. Their son, Jeremiah, lives in New York City, and is a vocalist and actor as well. It was in Portland that his new band started taking shape.
In its debut year, 1996, Rob and his then-new band The Delta Knights performed at local and international competitions, representing Maine in the first-ever International Blues Talent Competition in Memphis, TN.
DKB in orbit
The band forged ahead in the coming years, branching away from blues, into more of a variety-type band. The band played functions, weddings, and more. It was during this time that Rob came into his own as a bandleader. During this time, drummer Larry Peterson and bass player/vocalist Sandy Pardee helped to bring the band local recognition. Larry and Sandy stayed with the band for over 15 years. At their gigging peak, DKB played over 120 gigs a year and the trio got very tight musically and personally. In 2001, DKB recorded its third demo, reflecting their ventures into more of a variety music-approach, and sounding much like they did in a live club. In 2001, the band also launched its website, www.deltaknights.com.
In 2009, at Rob's wife's urging, Rob asked sax player Darren Whitney to join the band full-time (see his bio below). It was a wise move. Now a quartet, the band had a fuller sound, and the band breathed new life. For certain engagements, the band expanded, with a second horn, keyboards, and female vocalists. Trombonist Jeff Marsanskis wrote many horn chart arrangements for the band which the band still uses when it plays as a larger unit. These were busy times for Rob and the band.
In 2010, the band appeared on WCSH's popular 207 show (You can see the video on the Videos tab). The band performed one of Rob's original compositions, "Big Bass Drum," which the band still plays nearly every show. Around this time, the band entered the social media realm and started a Facebook page.
In 2011, the band recorded its fifth demo, 12 From 19 at Studio 19, engineered by Dan Merrill. The band took special care to really nail the parts of the songs they covered. Rob played all electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica and sang lead and backing vocals. The tracks can be heard on the DKB website, and feature the quartet, plus Andy Chipman on keyboards. "Big Bass Drum" is the only original track on the demo.
Rob and DKB today and beyond
Now in its 22nd year, the band continues to evolve and build its fanbase. In 2012, drummer Brian Hodgman joined the band (See Brian's bio below). And in 2015, after 17 years in DKB, bassist Sandy Pardee married and moved to Canada. Justin Maxwell took over the bass chair (see Justin's bio below). While the band doesn't play over a hundred gigs per year anymore, they are still making an impact at every performance. Just two weeks ago, on August 18, the band played to over 800 attendees at Fort Allen Park! Patsy Wiggins of Friends of The Eastern Promenade filmed the band, and interviewed Rob, and the clip is a good representation of how the band sounds today. You can view the clip on the band's Videos page, or on The Delta Knights Facebook page (the band joined Facebook in 2010). Wanting to capitalize on the strengths and interests of the band members, Rob changed the direction back to more of a roots-music approach. Audiences and the band have liked the change. Rob looks forward to recording some of the band's songs to showcase the new lineup and return to its roots. Rob is in the process of recording an LP of his original compositions.
Other acts and pursuits
In addition to his beloved Delta Knights, Rob is involved in musical pursuits outside the band as well. For over two years, he has played bass, guitar and sang for The Time Pilots. You can find out more by visiting www.timepilotsband.com. This band plays very different music from the Delta Knights. Rob is enjoying playing new music with this group and is having fun playing a different instrument than in the DKB.
Rob also performs with Singer/Songwriter Ronda Dale from Portland, Maine. In this project, Rob is the guitarist/harmonica player. Rob and Ronda perform as a duo and as a full band, showcasing Ronda's original songs from her debut album, Somebody Like Me, a few of Rob's original songs, and choice covers. Rob and Ronda also perform as part of a tribute show to the music of Patsy Cline, which has played to several appreciative audiences. Visit Ronda's website, www.rondadale.com for more information.
Rob still enjoys being involved in theatrical productions. He has performed in pit orchestras for Broadway Shows, including Grease, Carnival and Bye Bye Birdie. From 2007-2013, he was involved with Freeport Community Players' Home Time Radio Hour, singing, acting, and playing guitar in the pit. Rob returned in 2016 to become Radio's guitarist and musical director.
In 2016, Rob worked with Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist John Stivers in a project called Threadbare Agnostic. Visit www.jtstivers.com to find out more.
Rob also performs as a duo and trio with various instrumentalists, at assisted living facilities, festivals and concerts.
Please visit the Rob Babson Music tab to find out what projects Rob is involved in outside of The Delta Knights.
Rob has been a Reading Teacher for 15 years, so he clearly values education. Thus, Rob has studied guitar privately with Mike Silvestri, Gary Richardson, and Tony Gabourey. He studied voice with David Goulet and Debbie Scannell.
Rob has taught guitar privately, at Fiddlehead Arts Center, and in a group setting at Riverton Elementary School.
Rob's Equipment at a glance:
Fender HSS Stratocaster
Fender American Deluxe Reissue Telecaster
SMF Electric Bass
Rivera Quiana Studio
Fender Deluxe Reverb
Fender Rumble Bass Amp
: Our reed man has played on and off with The Delta Knights since 1999, joining the band full-time in 2009. Darren is highly skilled on Tenor, Alto, Soprano Saxophones and Flute. Since an early age, Darren has been inspired by many styles of music. Growing up and listening to the recordings of many musical greats such as Marvin Gaye, Charlie Parker, Poncho Sanchez and Sting, inspired him to start playing the saxophone. He discovered that the saxophone could be a vehicle to expressing the emotions inspired by these great artists. Because of his
diverse taste in music, he participated in every musical situation available to him, from top 40 bands and reggae to jazz and funk.
After high school, Darren had the opportunity to play in the world-renowned college big bands of North Texas State before returning to Maine to receive his BA in English Literature from the University of Southern Maine. In 1997 he had the pleasure of playing on Motor Booty Affairís CD, ďCan You Feel the Love,Ē which received airplay on MTVís hit series Road Rules and Real World. Darren is on a constant mission to create music in any genre with exciting passionate musicians and always trying to deliver performances filled with the exuberance and warmth audiences and concert promoters expect. And he continues to perform with the best bands in the Greater Portland area. He can be seen onstage with Brian Johnson, Dan Merrill, The Shakes, The Time Pilots, and others.
Darren has studied saxophone and music theory with a wellspring of music educators, including Bill Street, Dan Haerle, Scott Reeves, Bob Thompson, Joe Laflamme, Janet Reeves, Alex Johns, James Riggs, George Garzone & and Tim Sessions. Darren also teaches saxophone privately.
Brian is a rock. Brian first became involved in DKB as a sub back in the late 90s, finally joining for good in 2012. His groove and time is steady, propelling the band, and dancers, on the dance floor. Whatever style of music or event, Brian is a consummate professional, always bringing his best to every show, whether attended by 13 or 1300.
Brian started playing drums in the High School Band. He studied with Dick Demers early on, and has performed with many bands over the years filling in when he could. Some of the bands and performers are Cherrie Bonny, Malinda Liberty, Denny Breau, Frank Coffin, Rick Graham, Jeff Farnsworth, The Blues Bullies, The Blue Willow Band, and many others. When he played drums with Malinda Liberty, he got the chance to open for many Country Stars, such as Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and Waylon Jennings. Brian has also done studio work with many local musicians such as Denny Breau, Tim Bishop, and Jim Gallant to name a few.
Bassist/Vocalist Justin Maxwell is a fixture in the Portland music scene. He is now in his third full year with The Delta Knights. Highly regarded as a bassist, keyboardist, vocalist, sound technician and recording engineer, Justin has performed and recorded both locally and nationally with a who's who of acclaimed artists. Artists such as The Maine Dead Project, Cidny Bullens, The Colwell Brothers, Ronda Dale, Red Light Revue, The Shakes, Girls, Guns and Glory, The Coming Grass and many others have benefited from his unique stage presence, top-notch playing and professionalism.
Other Musicians who frequently play with the Delta Knights:
Kate Campbell-Strauss: Saxophone
Scott Morrison: Bass
Andy Chipman: Keyboards/Bass
Mark Napoleone: Keyboards