An anachronism in the world of late-'90s rock & roll, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise consists of the group's namesake, a wizened Detroit street singer, plus three relatively fresh-faced alterna-kids as a backing band. Robert Bradley was born in Alabama, but gained musical experience and spirit by playing his acoustic guitar at coffeehouses as well as piano in Baptist churches. He had spent several years in Detroit by 1994, performing occasionally on the street just to be heard, when guitarist Michael Nehra, bassist Andrew Nehra, and drummer Jeff Fowlkes (formerly in the Detroit band Second Self) overheard Bradley through an open window while rehearsing for a new project. After listening to Bradley sing for an hour, they invited him up to the studio to record several acoustic songs, then invited him to become their vocalist.
The Nehra brothers' production experience (with Detroit locals Majesty Crush) helped out the group while recording their debut album, 1996's Blackwater Surprise. The band's eccentric background and energetic live show -- almost gospel in feel -- gained them many fans on frequent club dates as well as arena shows opening up for the likes of the Dave Matthews Band, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Widespread Panic, and Maceo Parker. Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise also did well on alternative radio and VH1. Keyboard player Tim Diaz joined up as well, prior to the band's sophomore effort, 2000's Time to Discover. ~ John Bush