by Liza Mitchell
Conrad Oberg is enjoying his summer. He recently graduated with high honors in the classical piano program at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and is keeping busy, playing his guitar and doing some charity work. But this is not a typical summer vacation and Oberg is anything but a typical teenager. The 18-year-old, blind musical mastermind is gearing up to release a new rock album, described as “Ray Charles meets Jimi Hendrix” and will perform some of his new material Saturday, Aug. 25 at Trio – The Event Place at Tinseltown. Tickets are $10 in advance ( http://conradoberg.com/tickets.html) and $12 at the door.
Trio is a new, 1200-square-foot venue on seven acres on the city’s south side. The venue accommodates up to 700 guests in banquet-style seating or up to 1,500 at a reception or open air event. Trio boasts a full-service bar, 30-foot open ceilings, built-in DJ booth and abundant parking within walking distance to restaurants, theaters and boutique hotels (997-8004 or email at [email protected])
A portion of the proceeds from the show at Trio will benefit the USO. Oberg will auction off one of his personal guitars to benefit the organization. The guitar is a stage-played, reissue of a mid-60’s Wilshire model that is set up for Oberg, a real treat for collectors of music memorabilia. “Conrad likes helping people out when we are able” said his father, Michael Oberg. “The USO is certainly one organization he’s happy to assist.”
Oberg is also a special guest performer opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd at a 4,000 seat private, invitation-only fund raising event later this month in Tampa. Trace Adkins and Kid Rock are among the other artists slated to perform. “For a boy from Jacksonville, Florida, they didn’t have to ask twice,” the elder Oberg said.
The invitation to perform was an awesome opportunity for a young man who taught himself to play the guitar lead to Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, ‘Freebird’ in his great-grandmother’s backyard. He was only 10 and had received his first guitar just days before from his father while recording with the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis’ band at Sun Studios in Memphis, TN. He celebrated his tenth birthday in the studio and, at the time, had only played piano and keyboard, albeit without the benefit of formal lessons or sight.
At a Missouri truckstop, Conrad’s dad bought the Best of Lynyrd Skynyrd on cassette and popped it in en route to his great-grandmother’s home. “I told him every little boy from Jacksonville has to learn to play Freebird,” Oberg’s father recalled. “He sat out back in my grandmother’s backyard and played the lead to Freebird after about an hour of noodling around on the guitar.” One sound that vexed the young prodigy was the “bird-chirping” of the guitar on ‘Freebird’ so to help replicate it for Conrad, his father cut down a piece of conduit from the basement and showed him how to use it. Oberg taught himself to play slide guitar that day, as well.
Conrad who will be touring later this year, is no stranger to performing on a national stage. In 2008, Oberg was chosen by 12 million Cartoon Network viewers as the most talented teen musician in the country for their show “Props!”, and in 2009 he was tapped to open the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock in Bethel Woods performing along side many of the performers from the original festival in 1969. As a result of the Woodstock performance Conrad was featured on CNN, and in over 80 international publications including USA Today, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone.
“Conrad’s been large and in charge for a long time,” his father said. “He’s a very polite boy and very humble but when he’s on stage, there is no doubt who’s the boss.”
The show at TRIO promises to be a treat for Conrad’s local fans, many of which have caught his act during Springing The Blues and can’t wait to witness the phenom again. The majority of Conrad’s performances are at large out-of-town music festivals and this is the first time in two years he’s performed for a Jacksonville, hometown audience.
by Liza Mitchell