Born: Buffalo, New York, United States
Robby Takac is a Living Legacy Artist at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Robert “Robby” Takac, Jr. is a musician, songwriter, producer, and arts advocate who was born on September 30, 1964 in Buffalo, N.Y. His father, Robert, Sr., was a banker and his mother, Kathy, a teacher. The family, including a younger sister, moved to nearby West Seneca when he was seven. Takac graduated from Medaille College in 1986 with a degree in communications, with a focus on radio broadcasting. While in college, he interned and worked with a local radio station. He also learned to play the bass and performed in several area bands, including Monarch, his first, and later the Beaumonts. It was through the latter group that he first met guitarist/singer John Rzeznik. When the Beaumonts broke up in 1985, Takac and Rzeznik recruited drummer George Tutuska and formed a new group which they initially named the Sex Maggots before they were persuaded to change it in 1986 to the more marketing-friendly “Goo Goo Dolls.”
The earliest incarnation of the band played loud, fast, and intentionally crude punk rock in Buffalo venues like the Continental, gradually combining covers with more and more original material. Takac was the frontman, handling most lead vocals and writing the majority of songs. As their musicianship improved and their local popularity grew, they began touring the country, building a devoted following one small club at a time. Their eponymous debut album (a.k.a. First Release) was recorded in three days in the winter of 1986 for $750 and first appeared in 1987 as a vinyl LP on Mercenary, a sub-label of a larger independent label, Celluloid.
The group then signed a longterm contract with the heavy metal-oriented indie label Metal Blade, which released their second album, Jed, in 1989. Named for the painter Jed Jackson, an early advocate of the band who had taught Takac in an art class at Medaille, the LP featured a painting of Jackson’s, “Arkansas Sunset,” on the cover. The year 1990 brought the power-pop-oriented album Hold Me Up, the group’s first release to earn significant nationwide college radio airplay. The band was invited to contribute songs to various film soundtracks and continued to tour heavily, and in 1993 they released Superstar Car Wash, hailed by reviewers as an artistic breakthrough for the Goos although it failed to sell as well as anticipated.
By this time, Takac had begun to take a supporting role in the band, as Rzeznik handled more and more of the songwriting and lead vocals. In 1995 the two musicians dismissed Tutuska and hired Mike Malinin as replacement drummer. The same year, the band had its first major commercial success with its new album, A Boy Named Goo, after a rock station in L.A. began playing Rzeznik’s ballad “Name.” The song was officially released as a single and became a Top Five hit, while the accompanying album went platinum.
The significant increase in album sales intensified the group’s dissatisfaction with the royalty rates in their contract with Metal Blade and led to a lengthy legal battle, the end result of which was a move to the label’s parent company, Warner Brothers. In 1998, the band contributed another Rzeznik ballad, “Iris,” to the soundtrack of the film City of Angels; it spent 18 weeks at number one on Billboard’s airplay charts and was nominated for three Grammys.
“Iris” was included on the group’s next album, Dizzy Up the Girl (1998), which contained several additional hit singles and sold over three million copies. Around this time,Takac and Rzeznik both moved to Los Angeles, where each would remain for several years, though Takac eventually returned to Buffalo.
Commercial success brought Takac many opportunities to support his hometown. In the year 2000 he and Rzeznik opened the recording studio Chameleon West in downtown Buffalo, relocating it in 2008 to the site of the former Trackmaster studio, where Takac had worked as an intern in his youth. Takac eventually assumed sole control of the studio (subsequently renamed GCR Audio); in addition to its use by the Goo Goo Dolls (most notably on their 2010 album Something for the Rest of Us), Chameleon West has served many other local, national, and international artists.
In 2003, Takac launched the Music is Art Festival, an annual event featuring bands, DJs, art installations, craft vendors, and other attractions. “MiA” soon became a year-round endeavor devoted to bringing music into children’s lives via education programs, scholarships, instrument donations, and other means.
Another of Takac’s long-lasting Buffalo-based projects also began in 2003, when he started the Buffalo-based indie label Good Charamel with a compilation album of music from the MiA festival and a roster of Western New York acts (the up-and-coming bands Juliet Dagger, Last Conservative, and Klear, followed by the first solo album by longtime Buffalo rocker Terry Sullivan, a friend of and influence on the Goos in their early days). After a 2006 tour of Japan by the Juliet Dagger, however, the label’s focus shifted to Japanese rock (or “J-Rock”) acts, including Shonen Knife, DJ Sashimi, and Pinky Doodle Poodle. Good Charamel is run by Takac and his wife, Miyoko Takac. (The couple have one daughter, Hana.)
In addition to the Goo Goo Dolls, Takac has participated in a side project, the electronic/dance/performance collaborative Amungus, on an irregular basis.
In 2008, he was named to the Medaille College Board of Trustees. In 2015 the Burchfield Penney Art Center designated him a “Living Legacy” artist.