Robert Randolph and the Family Band is an American funk and soul band led by pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph. Other band members include drummer Marcus Randolph, vocalist Lenesha Randolph, Ray Ray Randolph (bass) and Brett Haas (guitar). Danyel Morgan (bass), Jason Crosby (keyboards and fiddle) and John Ginty (organ) are former members. Rolling Stone included Robert on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. The band also plays before every Friday-night New York Knicks basketball game.
Frontman Robert Randolph was trained as a pedal steel guitarist in the House of God Church and makes prominent use of the instrument in the band's music. The instrument is referred to in many African-American Pentecostal churches as Sacred Steel. Randolph was discovered while playing at a sacred steel convention in Florida.
The group's sound is inspired by successful 1970s funk bands such as Earth, Wind & Fire and Sly & the Family Stone. Randolph himself has explained that in his adolescent years before his discovery by the secular community, he was almost completely unaware of non-religious music, saying "I never heard of the Allman Brothers Band, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, none of them. I wasn't into that music, only the church thing."
Before releasing albums with The Family Band, Randolph was selected by avant-garde jazz organist John Medeski to join him and the North Mississippi Allstars on their 2001 jam project, The Word. Just prior to the release of The Word's debut album, Randolph was brought to the attention of music fans through an enthusiastic review by Neil Strauss in the New York Times in April 2001. On their first non-church tour of the East Coast, Randolph's new Family Band band opened for the North Mississippi Allstars and then rejoined the musicians after their set, with Medeski, as The Word.
The first Robert Randolph and the Family Band album, Live at the Wetlands, was released in 2002 on Family Band Records, recorded live on August 23, 2001, just prior to the club's closing. The band released their studio debut, Unclassified on August 5, 2003. They attracted the attention of Eric Clapton, and have subsequently toured as a supporting act with the English blues guitarist. Clapton later guested on their 2006 album Colorblind, playing on a cover of "Jesus Is Just Alright".
In 2002, they were hired by ABC to make the network's new NBA theme song. The song, "We Got Hoops", only appeared in three telecasts, though it was used throughout both the NBA and WNBA seasons during promotions for both leagues. In September 2003 Randolph was listed as No. 97 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list. Robert entered the list following Leigh Stephens and directly preceding Angus Young. In February 2004 Robert Randolph and the Family Band along with the band O.A.R. released a cover version of Led Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain", which was subsequently placed for purchase online in the iTunes Music Store. This version was played live with O.A.R. at their August 15, 2009 show at Madison Square Garden.
Their third album, Colorblind, was released October 10, 2006. The song "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That" was used in several commercials for NBC, and used in Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas' jive on Dancing with the Stars. In June 2008 the Discovery Channel used this same song in a popular promo entitled "It's All Good" for their summer lineup. The song "Thrill of It" was used throughout the 2007 college football season by ABC during their College Primetime games. They worked with producer T-Bone Burnett on their fourth studio album We Walk This Road, released in 2010. They released the supposed first single from that album entitled "Get There" but this song did not appear on the album. The first official single from the album is "If I Had My Way."
Randolph's concerts are known for their lively stage performances, with Randolph content to let the rest of the band play on while he dances. Dance is an integral part of the concerts. During "Shake Your Hips", women are encouraged to dance onstage. For the song "The March", Randolph leaves his instrument to instruct the crowd on how to properly perform the intricate dance move.
Other noteworthy concert regulars involve the entire band trading instruments allowing each member to show off their musical proficiency. When he becomes completely enthralled by his music, Randolph will kick the chair away from his pedal steel guitar and dance while he plays. A microphone is occasionally passed around the front row of the audience, so they can sing during the song "I Need More Love". Audience members are also called up on stage to sing ("Purple Haze") or be a guest guitarist for one song.
The band made its first television appearance on Late Show with David Letterman on August 5, 2003, performing "I Need More Love".
In 2004 Robert Randolph and the Family Band was the opening act on the Eric Clapton tour. They are featured prominently in the Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD (2004). The band also appears on Bonnaroo Music Festival DVDs. The length of the concerts can vary greatly depending on what songs are played (the band does not use a set list) and how long jams last. Concerts go over the allotted time if the band and the audience are having fun. Most concerts don't have an intermission; instead, band members will exit the stage leaving one or two members a chance to shine with solos. The one time the band does stop is so the band can relax, get hydrated, and plan the encore. On October 9, 2004 Robert Randolph and the Family Band appeared on the PBS television show Austin City Limits.
On January 24, 2007, they played in Dallas at Victory Plaza outside of the American Airlines Center as part of the 2007 NHL All Star game festivities. The band also played before the start of the 2007 NHL All-Star Game. The Family Band has opened for Dave Matthews Band for some shows on their 2002-09 tours. In 2005 Robert Randolph appeared on the Dave Matthews Band release Weekend on the Rocks. Robert Randolph has performed as a guest during the Dave Matthews Band set on songs such as "All Along the Watchtower", "Louisiana Bayou", "Stand Up", "Smooth Rider", "You Might Die Trying", and "Two Step", among others.
In 2007, Robert Randolph and the Family Band played at the inaugural South Padre International Music Festival. In 2008, they opened for Eric Clapton and were also one of four featured artists on the Music Builds Tour. Robert Randolph and the Family Band played in Oxford, Mississippi on April 25, 2009 as part of the 14th annual Double Decker Arts Festival. In 2009 Randolph also sat in on two live performances of Led Zeppelin's "Fool In The Rain" with the band O.A.R.
Also, on June 22 2014, Robert Randolph and the Family Band played at the TD Toronto Jazz Fest, welcoming a new "cousin" Andrew Prince to the stage for two songs.