Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Martin Robertson, 26 Sep. '25, Glendale AZ; d 8 Dec. '82) One of the most versatile vocalists in country music and one of the all-time most successful; he moved effortlessly through rock'n'roll, Hawaiian, teen pop, cowboy ballads, evergreen standards, folk songs and his own compositions. Grew up in the desert, served in US Navy, worked as truckdriver, ranch hand etc, turned to music: had radio show on KTYL in Mesa '48 and played in local clubs; had own TV show Western Caravan '51 on KPHO Phoenix; with help from Little Jimmy Dickens he signed to Columbia and hit with his third single, own song 'I'll Go On Alone' '53: joined the Grand Ole Opry that year and stayed nearly 30 years, the last performer in the old Ryman Auditorium and the first in the new Opryland complex. Further hits in early '50s led to 'Mr Teardrop' nickname due to his catch-in-the-voice style, but a sign of versatility was 'That's All Right' '54, a top ten country hit with a cover of Arthur Crudup's song, the same year it was also Elvis Presley's first release. He had no hits in '55, as though consolidating new influences; then both Robbins and Guy Mitchell recorded 'Singing The Blues' for Columbia '56 (comp. '54 by Melvin Endsley); Mitchell had the bigger pop hit but Robbins's made the top 20 and had his first no. 1 country hit; 'A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)' was another no. 1 country and pop no. 2; he had crossovers to the pop Hot 100 every year through '63, incl. his own 'El Paso' '60, a story- song that was no. 1 on both charts and won a Grammy. Meanwhile he appeared regularly on Ed Sullivan TV show, formed own Robbins Records '57, discovered Tompall and the Glaser Brothers; appeared in several films from Buffalo Guns '57 to Road To Nashville '67; he was also a stock car driver, working the circuits whenever the music allowed. Albums of cowboy ballads gained him a fresh country audience; for a while he was absent from the pop charts but had several country hits every year; he starred in TV series The Drifter, returned to the pop chart with 'I Walk Alone' '68. He was stopped '69 by major heart surgery and was hospitalized several months; the hits continued and when he returned to work he wrote a song about his wife Marizona, 'My Woman, My Woman, My Wife', which was a country no. 1, won him a second Grammy '70 and was his last Hot 100 hit. He ignored doctors' orders and enjoyed life to the full, touring and racing and having hits every year. Switched to Decca/MCA '72 and prod. his own records, had more hits, not as big as on Columbia; returned there and had country no. 1 with 'El Paso City' '76, stayed in top ten with 'Among My Souvenirs' ('27 song by Lawrence Wright), 'Adios Amigo' (written by Ralph Freed and Jerry Livingston, a hit for Jim Reeves '62), 'I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)' ('31 hit by Fred Ahlert and Roy Turk), others. In the mid-'70s he first visited the UK and found a new audience, returned regularly and saw a TV-advertised compilation high in the UK charts. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Oct. '82 and died of a massive heart attack less than two months later. He had 50 top ten country hits, 14 at no. 1, 24 crossing over to pop, the feat bettered only by Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers and Glen Campbell. Many compilations and reissues on Columbia; and especially on Bear Family: three vols of Rockin' Rollin' Robbins, one each of Hawaii's Calling Me and A Musical Journey To The Caribbean And Mexico, and two five-CD sets Country 1951- -58 and 1960--66. ROBERTS, Kenny (b George Kingsbury, 14 Oct. '26, Lenoir City TN) Known as Yodellin' Kenny Roberts. Country singer, songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player enjoyed a career from early '40s through mid-'90s. Appeared on radio shows from mid-teens either solo or with the Down Homers incl. own Hoosier Hop on WOWO Fort Wayne IN. Stint in US Navy '45-7 interrupted career. Signed to Coral Records '48 with biggest hit 'I Never See Maggie Alone' '49; more hits followed incl. children's favourites 'Choc'late Ice Cream Cone', 'Billy And Nanny Goat'; Moved on to TV shows in mid-'50s; became regular on WWVA Wheeling Jamboree '62; recorded extensively for Starday during '60s and smaller labels like Essgee, Point, Palomino, Longhorn appealing to die-hard country traditionalists. Later based in Greenfield MA where he remained popular on local scene. Albums incl. Yodellin' Country Songs '63 on Vocalion; Indian Love Call '65, Incredible '67, Country Music Singing Sensation '69, Jealous Heart '70 all on Starday; I Never See Maggie Alone '71 on Nashville; Kenny Roberts '78 on Palomino; Then And Now '81 on Longhorn, Just Call Me Country '88 and You're My Kind Of People '91 on Point.