What do George Strait, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Taylor Swift, and Trisha Yearwood, to name a few, all have in common? Aside from being some of country music's most successful artists, their albums have benefited from the masterful fiddle playing of Rob Hajacos.
One of Nashville's most in-demand studio musicians, Rob has contributed toan endless stream of hits. These includeGarth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places," Brooks &Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie" ,Taylor Swift's "Love Story", Trisha Yearwood's "She's in Love with the Boy", Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine" and Kenny Chesney's, "She thinks my Tractor's Sexy."It's nearly impossible to listen to 90's country radio for an extended amount of time without hearing a few songs that feature Rob's indelible sound.
His unique blend of country and rock sets him apart from fellow fiddlers. While other fiddlers are often steeped in the traditions of bluegrass, Rob found inspiration in two very different artists: the classic country of Ray Price and the seminal rock and roll of the Beatles.
Rob's dad was a fiddle player which inspired him to pick up the instrument.Hereceived his first fiddle from hisparents when he was just 4 years old.His dad was really into Ray Price and his sister loved the Beatles. When she wasn't around, He would sneak into her room and put on her Beatles Rubber Soul album and try to play along. "I loved all of the great melodies," recalls Rob. Being around his dad and hearing the fiddle a lot, there was some osmosis. However, it wasn't until he entered junior high, his mother suggested he join the school orchestra. It was then thathe fell in love with the instrument.
Soon, Rob was bowing the strings in smoky clubs throughout his native Virginia. He interpreted country hits with a group of wizened yet encouraging musicians. He performed everywhere from beer joints to WWVA's Wheeling Jamboree. It prepared him for playing on records because he had to learn the different styles of all the cover songs from that period. During that time, Rob received a call that would forever change his fortune-the offer to move to Nashville and join the band of Grand Ole Opry legend Little Jimmy Dickens.Rob was 19.
For six months, he refined his craft while backing up Little Jimmy, impressing crowds and fellow artists with his deft, evocative playing. Steady tours with other stars of the time quickly followed.This culminated with Rob's dream gig: traveling the country with Mel Tillis. He was working the road with Mel and Tillis's great band. It was just the place he wanted to be.
Eventually, Rob decided to focus his efforts on becoming a full-time session player. It turned out to be a wise decision that would lead the fiddle Phenom off the bus, into the studio, and onto the debut album of an artist named George Strait. It's Rob's honky-tonk intro on the first single, "Unwound" that announced 1981's Strait Country to the world.
When he was given the shot to play on George Strait's first record, he didn't think he belonged there.He thought hisfiddle-playing heroes were playing much better than him. But, Rob brought something uniquely modern to the studio. He was influenced by guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Larry Carlton, and many of those in Nashville. Their tone and phrasing inspired him in such a way; he started recordingelectrically, as well as using a microphone acoustically. This created a unique toneand style for Rob.
This technique quickly landed him session work with Alabama, Keith Whitley, and Clint Black. As the '90s dawned, Rob found his name atop every producer's wish list. His fiddle style helped define the decade and anchored career-making albums like Garth Brooks' No Fences, Alan Jackson's Don't Rock the Jukebox, and Shania Twain's Come on Over. In 1993, his playing netted him one of Music Row magazine's All-Star Awards, an honor presented to musicians who have appeared on the most Top 10-selling albums of the previous year. He played on 15, half of the 30 albums to go Top 10. He had the most Top 10 album credits of any musician that year. Rob would go on to repeat in the fiddle category the following year, and win yet again in 1997.
His work with Brooks and Dunn afforded him another chance to shine. Not only did Rob's fiddle supplement the Brooks and Dunn soundscape: but in some cases he even came up with the song's memorable hooks as on "Boot Scootin Boogie". Rob did likewise for Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson, composing the themes for Garth's "Much Too Young [To feel this, Damn Old]" and Alan's "Here In The Real World."These artists and their producers gave himthe freedom to create with his signature styling.
These pieces of music further raised his profile on Music Row and cemented his place as one of country music's most influential fiddle players. Rob has appeared on Taylor Swift's albums and rosined up the bow for records by superstars Kenny Chesney and Sugarland. He has toured England, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia with Neil Diamond. Rob has worked with artists as varied as Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan, Colt Ford, and the Band Perry.
Rob has played on all of Garth Brooks' albums. In 2016 Rob was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame with Garth Brooks and the group of studio musicians that recorded with Brooks known as the G-men.
Rob has never been one to wave a big banner for his instrument. He has always enjoyed working with the rhythm section and being part of a band, coming up with pieces of the puzzle to make a great record. Many would agree that Rob is responsible for the fiddle's staying power. By constantly revolutionizing his sound, mixing weeping country with a rock rhythm, he has helped the instrument evolve and carve out its place in contemporary country music. In the process, he unintentionally became one of the "heroes" he looked up to all those years ago.