Tribute to the Rockabilly Legends: Red Robinson Conversations With The Legends
Vancouver, British Columbia, is famous for many things, but one of the stand-out legends is the red-headed radio and television personality who introduced Rockabilly and Rock and Roll to all of Canada. Red Robinson, shares his no-holds-barred interviews with Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich on this amazing CD. Imagine eavesdropping on personal conversations between old friends–Red and Cash, Elvis and Red, The Killer and Red, Orbison and Red, Carl and Red, The Silver Fox and Red, and not to be outdone, Sam Phillips and Red Robinson. These conversations will allow you to get to know the Rockabilly Legends up close and very personal.
Being a radio and television legend in his own right, Red Robinson has impacted the history of Rockabilly and Rock and Roll music throughout North America—enough so that a musical based on his life, Red Rock Dinner, recently toured parts of Canada and the United States.
Red & Elvis Presley
I had the pleasure of working with Elvis in 1957 when he toured the Pacific Northwest. He performed in Vancouver on August 31st at Empire Stadium. Elvis was the first performer to rent outdoor stadiums and put on concerts. This entrepreneurial spirit, guided by Elvis’ personal manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was unheard of at this time in history. Even the great Bing Crosby could not fill stadiums in his day. The one thing that stood out for me during the Elvis Presley concerts was his ability to perform exactly as he did on his records. His voice was amazing.
Red & Roy Orbison
Roy and I met in 1962 when my partner, Les Vogt, and I booked Orbison on his first tour outside of the United States. The tour was so successful that we gave him a handsome bonus which he never forgot. During my last visit with him in 1987 at Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre, Roy told Les and me that in his entire career, no promoter had ever given him a bonus for performing. Roy entertained a sold-out crowd and we had a nice visit after the show. During the visit, Roy told me that he had been in town for a week recording “Crying” again, but this time with Canadian songstress kd lang at Vancouver’s Blue Wave Studios. In 27 consecutive years, there wasn’t a year that passed that Roy and I didn’t meet up. He was a gem of a performer and one of the nicest individuals I have ever met. I miss him greatly.
Red & Charlie Rich
My partner Les Vogt established the “Purple Steer” night club in Vancouver in the late 1960s. Les owned the club in partnership with Rockabilly great, Buddy Knox. One of the most popular acts to perform at the club was Charlie Rich. Many of us in the entertainment business would go to the club every night just to hear this great blues man perform. He played a mean piano, and many of the songs he performed were those he had co-written with his wife, Margaret Ann. Charlie loved rhythm and blues and jazz, and his music always featured shadings of these genres. Rich was a very shy man except when he sat down at the piano to play. He was an outstanding musician and performer. He wrote many hits while at Sun Records, including “Break Up” for Jerry Lee Lewis and “The Ways of a Woman in Love” for Johnny Cash. His own monster hit in 1960 was “Lonely Weekends,” but for some unknown reason Charlie Rich couldn’t come up with another chartbuster until “Mohair Sam” in the mid-sixties. However, in the 1970s Rich recorded a giant crossover country song titled “Behind Closed Doors” and followed it with another million-seller, “The Most Beautiful Girl” and forever wrote his name in the annals of American music history. Charlie rich was known by his “silver-hair” trademark as “The Silver Fox.” He indeed was as Sam Phillips described him many times, “One of the greatest talents Sun ever discovered.”
Red & Carl Perkins
As a deejay I was more than aware of the talents of Carl Perkins. Rick Nelson stated that he was one of his favorites, as did The Beatles when their careers took off. Rick and The Beatles also recorded many of Carl’s songs on their albums. I didn’t meet Carl until 1986 when I produced “The Legends of Rock and Roll” at Expo ’86 with my good friend, Les Vogt. Carl Perkins was a true southern gentleman, a man you could not help but like immediately. He had an engaging personality and was one hell of a storyteller. One of Carl’s best friends was Johnny Cash, and he toured for many years as part of the Johnny Cash Show. Carl Perkins will always be remembered as one of the true Rockabilly Legends. If he had never written another song after “Blue Suede Shoes,” he would still be guaranteed a special place in the annals of Rock and Roll.
Red & Jerry Lee Lewis
You may like him, you may not, but there is no denying the talent of this extraordinary performer. I brought “The Killer” to Vancouver many times over the decades, and his shows were always the most exciting events on the calendar. During one of these concert dates in the early sixties, Jerry Lee was not happy with the out-of-tune piano provided for him, so he slid it across the stage and played guitar all night. He is defiantly his own man. My fondest memory of him was during Expo ‘86 when he performed with Fats Domino—the night of August 31, 1986–at the Expo Theatre. The show was video-taped and shown on HBO throughout North America. He was on fire that night, and his piano playing was what you might expect from Lewis—extraordinarily brilliant! As one of the first performers to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Lewis was in an incredibly happy mood that night in Vancouver, BC, and it showed. The man has attitude–now taken for granted with contemporary rockers–but Jerry Lee Lewis, “The Killer,” invented it.
Red & Johnny Cash
Like Elvis’ hit “That’s All Right Mama,” I couldn’t begin to tell you what ran through my mind when I first heard Johnny Cash sing “I Walk the Line.” It was a little Hank Williams; it was a little Elvis and a whole lot innovative. It was Johnny Cash. We first met backstage at the Division Street Corral in Portland, Oregon. This was in 1959 when I was a deejay at KGW in the “Rose City.” We became friends right away, and I had the pleasure of working with him at many performances over the years. It was an honor to bring him on stage, whether it was an outdoor arena, a huge indoor venue, or a more intimate theatre. We worked them all. Cash had a presence I can’t explain, except to say it was like meeting the John Wayne of country music. Cash established the crossover country hits like none other. No wonder he is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. When we lost Johnny Cash, we lost a true original icon.
Red & Sam C. Phillips
The “Sun” shone brightly for many years, but like all things, times change. However, those historic Sun recordings will last forever because the music is timeless. One of the last times I saw Sam Phillips was at the Cleveland airport. Both of us were delayed because of weather, so we talked about music for two solid hours. He was a most interesting man with the presence of a preacher and the voice to go with it. I was fortunate to meet up with him again during the 25th Anniversary tribute event in Memphis to honor the memory of Elvis Presley. I was the emcee for the tribute show at the Peabody Hotel where Sam made a guest appearance–even though his doctor advised against it. It was wonderful to again spend some time with Phillips backstage before his introduction. Upon hearing his name, the entire audience rose and gave him a five-minute standing ovation. You could tell he was in his glory. Memphis is really a small town in many ways, and certainly it was during Sam’s peak as owner of his legendary record company. Sun Records was a small label, but it created giants.
The Red Robinson Legacy
In 1954, Red Robinson was spinning the hits on Vancouver’s CJOR while still in high school. Red is credited with being the first DJ to play rock and roll on a full-time basis in Canada. In 1957 Red moved to CKWX and turned the musical format into Top 40 radio. This is where he met the greats of the Rock and Roll era–artists such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Eddie Cochran, and more. In that same year Robinson emceed the Elvis Presley show at Empire Stadium, where thousands of Vancouver fans turned out to see “The King of Rock and Roll” in his prime. A move to KGW, Portland, Oregon in 1959 gave Red experience in a brand new rock and roll medium–television. In 1961 Red Robinson returned to Vancouver and made his home at CFUN Radio–and turned up the volume on this station with great programming and promotion. In 1964 Red introduced The Beatles on the same stage where Elvis appeared seven years earlier. Red Robinson has hosted numerous successful television and radio programs over the years. Red was also inscribed into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame, The British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame and The Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Red Robinson is a radio and television legend in his own right, who impacted the history of Rockabilly and Rock and Roll music throughout North America–enough so that a musical based on his life, Red Rock Dinner, recently toured parts of Canada and the United States. Red has often stated in reflection, “We were all just kids having fun.” It’s lucky for us that Red Robinson always brought along a tape recorder and his camera.