Robert J. has been a mainstay in the Wisconsin music scene ever since releasing his first record Boys Town in 1986. Since then, he has released a total of 10 CDs. In 2003, he was named Wisconsin Male Vocalist of the year and has garnered over a dozen MAMA and WAMI Awards to date. Among other achievements, his song, "A Million Miles Away" won top honors in Billboard Song Contest, and in 2015 the Madison Area Music Association awarded Robert with the Lifetime Legacy Award for songwriting. He has had success with his bands, Boys Town, The Moon Gypsies, and The Rowdy Prairie Dogs and many remember him from his time hosting The Sunday Jams at Schenk's Corner (518 consecutive Sundays). Over the years Robert J. has shared the stage with many well known artists including The Beach Boys, Taj Mahal, The Subdudes, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Delbert McClinton, LeAnn Rimes, John Eddie, Paul Thorn and many more. Recently, Robert released his patriotic protest song and video, America (Oh Say Can You See). The Isthmus wrote that it "is a song that not only sounds American, but one that does its best to illustrate what truly is American -- a spirit of patriotic dissent".
Robert J. Conaway grew up literally "riding the rails," following the career of his father, an executive with the Canadian National Railroad. He lived in Duluth, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, Buffalo, Vancouver, Toronto, and Detroit. During college, he worked as a "gandy dancer" on the railroad while finishing up his education at night school, and on the weekends he played in bands. When Robert graduated, he quit his railroad job, jumped in the "band van" and migrated to Colorado with a band called Happy Trails.
Like the mighty Mississippi River, Robert J.'s music flows from the many different genres that pepper the river's banks. Robert J.'s music encompasses elements of blues, rock n roll, R&B/soul and floor-stomping country. Such a mix of genres gives his music its own unique flavor and has allowed him to share the stage with artists of all genres including, The Beach Boys, Taj Mahal, Delbert McClinton, Keb Mo, The Subdudes,The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Diamond Rio and many, many more.
Over the years, Robert J. has played thousands of shows with countless bands. He has written hundreds of songs. He's lived at least several lives, and throughout it all, Robert J. has always tried to make sense of life through song. "His lyrics are direct, edgy reenactments of life itself".
In the fall of 2007 after finishing work on two new CDs, Robert J. had a heart attack while raking leaves in his backyard! When the ER doctor told him the six words that threatened to shake his foundation: "You are having a heart attack," all he could think about was his wife, his kids and the songs that he hadn't finished writing.
Since then, Robert J. has gone through cardiac rehab, lost 24 pounds, written over 25 newly inspired songs, formed his new band, "The Rowdy Prairie Dogs", released two CDs, Winning 6 MAMA Awards including, Best Country CD, Best Rock CD and Vocalist of the Year. "The Revenge of the Rowdy Prairie Dogs" CD was released to Americana radio where it climbed to #19 on the Americana chart in Europe and to #14 on the Roots Rock Chart in America!
The RPDs have shared the stage with The BoDeans and The New Riders of the Purple Sage and showcased at the Steelbridge Song Festival, Riverfront Rendezvous and Summerfest.
This past year, Robert has reunited with The Moon Gypsies and will be playing shows with them in 2016. Also, this winter, Robert J. will be recording his next CD due out in 2016.
All the basics...Elvis, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, CCR, Poco, Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y, The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Little Feat, Springsteen, Pete Seger, Bob Seger, blues, 60's R&B, Real country and old jazz.
"Anxious road songs, weary heart songs, monochrome self-portraits of mavericks trapped in a continuum of mental turmoil and unease." - Tom Laskin, The Isthmus, Madison, WI Mar. 2002
Biography #1.Robert J. has had a guitar in his hand since the age of 2. His early attempts at trying to be the next BIG "Singing Cowboy" sensation were layed to rest when his parents wouldn't buy him a horse. Instead, he entered kindergarten and pursued an education. His love for music, especially rock and roll continued to grow and grow. He saw the Beatles at Comisky Park in 1965. He saw the Grateful Dead open for Jefferson Airplane in 1967 (or was it '68). After graduating from college, he jumped in the band van and migrated from Detroit to the mountains of Colorado. The band's name was "Happy Trails"! Basically, Robert has been jumping in the band van and following the "Happy Trail" ever since.
BIOGRAPHY #2. Robert J. has lived all over North America; from Northern Minnesota to Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Seattle, L.A., and Colorado. He has called Madison, Wisconsin his home for the last 24 years. Robert has put out 4 recordings since 1986 and an anthology disc called "Rewind" was released on PopBomb Records in late 2004. Robert has received many songwriting awards and in 1999 won 1st place honors in the Billboard Songwriting Contest for his R&B song "A Million Miles Away". In 2003, Robert was given the Male Vocalist of the year award from the Wisconsin Area Music Industry(WAMI's) Robert has played shows with many acts including Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, Taj Mahal, The Subdudes, Buckwheat Zydeco, Delbert McClinton, Ellis Paul and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
1999 - 1st place in the Billboard songwriting contest in the Blues/R&B category for his song, "A Million Miles Away".
2003, Won a WAMI(Wisconsin Area Music Award) for Male Vocalist of the Year.
2004, Starts PopBomb Records with investors.
2005 - Produces Lucas Cates debut CD, "Contradictory" for PopBomb Record released in 2006.
2005 - Wins 1st and 2nd place in the Berghoff and Blues Song Contest with his songs "Will It Always Be This Way" and "A Million Miles Away".
2005 - Signs 4 song publihsing deal with L.A. based "Transition Music".
Spring, 2007 - Lucac Cates CD, CONTRADICTORY, produced by Robert wins 3 awards at the MAMAs including BEST POP RECORD and BEST POP SONG.
August, 2007 - Robert sang 2 songs for the indy film, "Madison" to be hitting the festival circuit in 2008. Also "Rewind" from the new "Blur" CD is placed in the film.
September 2007 - Wins Broadjam/Berghoff & Blues World Wide Talent Search.
May 2008 - Robert J./ The Rowdy Prairie Dogs win 6 MAMAs at this years music awards show! See news for more info.
May 2008 - WAMI AWARD - The Moon Gypsies win best Folk/Acoustic Group of the Year.
2015 - The MAMA Songwriting Legacy Award.
Robert J. solo artist and Moon Gypsies releases.
Boys Town - 1986
I'm Yours(single) - 1986
It's You(single) - 1987
Hey Amanda(single) - 1989
Dixie Highway - 1992
No Brakes, No Choice, No Exit - 1994
We Knew Love(single) - 1996
Family Tree - 1998
"The Moon Gypsies" (1999),
"Slip" (2002) - The Moon Gypsies
"I Ride A Hog" (2003) - The Moon Gypsies
Rewind (Anthology) - 2004
A Beautiful Blur - 2007/2008
The Revenge of the Rowdy Prairie Dogs - 2007/2008