Lonesome Onry and Mean

Lonesome Onry and Mean: This Guitarist Really Does Rip the Strings Off

You hear people say guitarists "ripped the strings off it" all the time. Well, travel out to the 2:30 mark on this great Webb Wilder video and, if you look close, you'll see the inimitable Donny Roberts take both hands and just rip all the strings off.

By the way, the cool cat playing bass is Houston's own Denny Blakely, currently of the Davin James band. The drummer is Jimmy Lester, still in LOM's opinion the best rock drummer in Nashville.

Lonesome Onry and Mean saw Roberts rip the strings off at the Webb Wilder show at Fitzgerald's in 1991. Our guitar-playing son, about one year into learning guitar at the time, saw it too, as he was standing directly in front of Roberts when it happened. LOM has recently been on a search for Roberts and finally located him in Phoenix, Ariz., where he's an architect. We asked him what he's doing musically now and got this surprising e-mail answer.

"My main music focus is with my church. I am a worship leader and write music and keep the band together," he says. "I get to do whatever I want musically, the whole palette. Non-denominational church, the sermons are always straight from the Bible and the primary focus is to learn from Jesus. Lots of rockers and crazies who love all sorts of music. [The] pastor loves when I play the blues. I was leading the youth band for about three years, and at one point we were doing hardcore screamo metal."

LOM asked Roberts if he ever pulls the strings off his guitar anymore.

"Yep. Every once in awhile during a worship service, where we play music for an hour or so I'll rip my strings off.

"I started that when I was very young and did it out of frustration at a gig," he says. "Then I stopped for years until Webb and the Beatnecks first toured and I got in one of those moods at a gig and I tore the strings off and there happened to be some press there and some label people and they were like 'keep that in your show.' It was fun at first... but then... crowds started gathering at my side of the stage waiting for me. From the first song they'd be yelling at me to rip my strings off. LOL! Crazy times."

Recalling his Nashville career and the hectic days when the Webb Wilder band was hotter than a rocket, Roberts has regrets but remains philosophical.

"I am still probably the biggest fan of Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks to this day," he says. "R.S. Field and Webb's original concept, which never came to full fruition, was the real deal. Oh, well."

More on Roberts - and some music - Monday.

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William Michael Smith