Legendary DJ Red Robinson and Elvis, Buddy Holly and the Beatles
his lifetime, legendary deejay Red Robinson, who still hosts Red Robinson’s Red
Rock Diner of radio station 104.9 Fun FM on Canada’s west coast in Vancouver,
forged friendships with Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and many others that spanned
decades and he spent considerable time and became friends with people such as
Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin and Elvis. He was instrumental in bringing Elvis to
It may surprise many readers to learn that there were disc jockeys who were playing Rock and Roll music before Wolfman Jack, there names were Alan Freed, Tommy Edwards (WERE, Cleveland, OH) and Red Robinson.
’95 they elected us to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but in ’97 R&R Magazine
had us there and they had a special presentation that was called
Dedicated To The One I Love.
All of us originals were there, Arnie Woo Woo Ginsburg (WBOS and WBEX,
Bill Haley was here in 1956 and when I was interviewing him I said, Bill you
have to be on top of the world, look at all the hits that you have had. You are
Robinson started in radio at an almost unimaginable age, seventeen. “Let’s take
a look at high school at the time. It was King Edward High and even at the
dances and proms that we had, the teachers would bring their music. It would be
Glenn Miller’s Orchestra and later day Ray Anthony and Ralph Flanagan. These
were the second wave of big bands after the war and we would dance to all of
that stuff, but it wasn’t our music. There used to be a little restaurant down
at the corner of Oak and Broadway, with an imaginative name, called The Oak Way
(he laughs). The guy had a jukebox and on it he had a lot of Rhythm and Blues
stuff by Ruth Brown and Lloyd Price and we just loved that. When the opportunity
came for me to do my radio show and by the way I started my first radio show in
November of 1954, but I had been hanging around the radio station on a teen show
as a guest, for a year before that. I knew what I wanted and I had a vision of
what I wanted to do and I pursued it. When I went there, I bought my own rhythm
and blues records or I would go through the library at what was then known as
CJOR. They had left all of the R&B records up in little corners. They were
things that they wouldn’t play and I had recognized them all from the jukebox.
As soon as I started delving into magazines like Billboard and particularly
Cashbox, I would tape those and put them on. This was just prior to the real
launch of rock and roll. It is interesting the first real rock and roll hit as
far as I am concerned and that charted on Billboard was “Crazy Man Crazy,” with
Bill Haley in 1953. I kept the label, which says Bill Haley and the Saddlemen.
He had a swing band. Years later when I interviewed Bill I asked him where he
got the idea for “Crazy Man Crazy, Go go everybody.” Where did you get that? He
said, ‘We played colleges and that is what the cheerleaders did.’ (Red laughs)
In 1956 when Bill Haley and the Comets came to town it was
Back on that day in
November of 1954 when Red Robinson first took to the airwaves the very first
song that he played was “Marie,” by The Four Tunes and he wants our readers to
know that even though he was a teenager at the time, “Absolutely (I picked it
out). In my time, we didn’t have people picking our shows, we did it. If you got
ratings and sponsors followed, you kept your job. If you didn’t you were thrown
out on the street. I’ve got news for you, I like that and I would like to see
more of it today. We would have more entertaining radio and we would have more
personality on the air, because you had to work at it. If it wasn’t for us
playing the music, these people (the artists) would never have become prominent.
Buddy Holly would spend time with me, because he wanted to promote his records.
When Paul Anka went on the Show of Stars tour with Buddy Holly, The Everly
Brothers and everybody, they came to
Robinson refers to that time as the era when Rock and Roll began to emerge from two musical styles, Rhythm and Blues and Rockabilly, which he describes as being more a country swing and the type of music where Bill Haley began his career. Robinson believes that early rock and rollers took inspiration from people such as Bob Wills and Hank Williams. “If you listen to some of Hank Williams stuff, my God they stole lines out of it,” he says.
age when the internet did not exist and personal computers were unheard of,
those in the music business relied on telephone and mail to disseminate
Robinson enlightens us, “In Cashbox Magazine in those days, they would have ten
of us, guys who were playing solid Rock and Roll. There were ten of us in
Cashbox who listed our top ten every week. How did I arrive at my top ten? I had
a little thing that I put together called teletune. I had kids come in after
school and answer the phones. I would say phone in and tell us what you think of
this new song and then at the end of the day I would add them all up. Then I
knew what to play. I was actually asking the listeners what the hell they wanted
to hear (laughs). It was a top ten by my listeners. I had my personal top ten,
but I would give it to the audience to pick out (their top ten). I had Buddy
Holly’s “That Will Be The Day,” listed in my top ten in Cashbox before anyone
Robinson had to be creative, so he could keep abreast of the cutting edge music.
He would often put in phone calls to Stark Records, a store in
Red Robinson’s flair for identifying new talent and good music that caught the
attention of the management and the owner for television station KGW in
went down there and when I left (
shows with Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and the early rockers like Buddy Holly.
and I have photos and interviews to back up everything. People ask me why I took
a photographer and a tape recorder and they say I must have had great vision. I
would love, it if that was true, but it wasn’t that, I was a fan and I just
wanted to have a record of what I had done. It had nothing to do with thinking,
‘gee this will be worth something down the road.’ I don’t think young people
think that way.”
Colonel Tom Parker
handpicked Red Robinson to emcee the Elvis concert in
“Elvis was just like
a guy that I had gone to school with. There was no pretense and no conceit. He
wanted to look good, but he had no conceit. He was just like a school buddy. We
talked about cars, girls and movies and stuff that young guys talk about. It was
humble beginnings for him and for most of us right after the war,” he says.
Then there was The Beatles’ concert “I had chosen one of my deejays to go do The Beatles show and he came down with mononucleosis, so I went out to do it. I did the press conference and I went out on stage. Before Elvis and The Beatles, nobody rented stadiums. Nobody was big enough, not Sinatra, not Bing Crosby. They played in front of big crowds, but they were usually army bases or something like that. I went up there and I introduced The Beatles. They did a couple of numbers and the crowd was pushing forward to the makeshift stage that was setup. The Chief of Police said to me you have to stop this. Brian Epstein said to me, ‘You have never been to an English football game. These people are pushing forward and some of these people are going to get crushed and some are going to die. You have to get up there and say if you don’t back off The Beatles are leaving.’ I got up there on stage and I waited for the end of a song, before I walked out. As I walked out John Lennon says, ‘Get the F%& off of our stage. John and I started talking and I said John look at the foot of the stage, Brian Epstein sent me up here, because the crowd is getting out of control. He said, ‘Yeah, they are. Okay carry on mate.’ My late son Jeffrey said to me, ‘Dad no matter what else you accomplish in life, you will always be remembered as the guy who John Lennon told to F* off the stage.’
When asked if he had
ever envisioned a day when he and other radio broadcasters would be selected and
honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Red Robinson replied, “No and first
of all we never thought there would be a hall of fame for Rock and Roll, because
I had it thrown at me that it was the evil “n” word music. I had that thrown at
me when I was a kid. Imagine taking that. In
Photos top to bottom: # 1 Red Robinson on air 1955 at CJOR, #2 Red Robinson
with Elvis, #3 Red Robinson with Buddy Holly.
Photos top to bottom: # 1 Red Robinson on air 1955 at CJOR, #2 Red Robinson with Elvis, #3 Red Robinson with Buddy Holly.
interview by Joe Montague published December 17th, 2009 is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine ©
All Rights Reserved. All photos courtesy of Red Robinson are protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved
his interview by Joe Montague published December 17th, 2009 is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine © All Rights Reserved. All photos courtesy of Red Robinson are
protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved