UPDATE: A sad update to the Corby Yates story. Corby took his own life Monday night after struggling with schizophrenia and mental illness in recent years. Read my Fresno Bee column for more of the story. I’m told funeral services are private, but there will, eventually, be musical tributes to him. I’ll give you info on those when they’re announced.
ORIGINAL POST, 9/25: Sad news hitting the local music scene today: Corby Yates, the once-teenage blues guitar prodigy, has died. Details are few at this time, but musicians he played with and a few of his close friends are verifying that Yates died Monday night.
Yates started to play guitar at age 6 and when he was 11, he won the Charlie Daniels Guitar Wars Competition. He was the national winner of the Jimi Hendrix Music Competition when he was a junior in high school. He attended Sierra High School in Auberry.
“My goal is to become the best blues musician that ever was, ” Corby, then 15, told The Bee in a 1996 interview.
At 18, Yates moved to Santa Cruz to play more gigs in the Bay Area and along the coast. Last I talked to him, in 2007, he was 26, living in Brownsville (near Chico) and had just released his third CD. His last local performance was in 2009, opening for Robin Trower at the Tower Theatre. Another album was released earlier this year.
Below are a few videos showing Yates’ talent on the guitar. The first was filmed during a Fresno show at Crossroads. The second was in the Bay Area and includes his longtime friends Ian Blesse and Toby Cordova, who are better known these days as Strange Vine. I’ll update this post when I learn about his death or any services/memorials/tribute shows in his honor.
REMEMBRANCES FROM THE LOCAL MUSIC SCENE