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THE ROBINS
The Robins of 1954-55; Top: Ty Terrell Leonard; Centre: Billy and Roy Richards, Bobby Nunn and Grady Chapman; Bottom: Carl Gardner.

Story & Discography
Compiled by Claus Röhnisch 
(with thanks to Michel Ruppli, Fernando L. Gonzales, Kurt Mohr, Galen Gart, Robert Ferlingere,  Jim Pewter, Bob Porter, Ray Topping, Anthony Rotante, Jim Dawson, Leslie Fancourt,  Per Anderö, Bill Millar, Eric LeBlanc, Steve Propes, Charles Sheen, Marv Goldberg, Todd Baptista, Tony Rounce of Ace Recordsa, Billy Vera, Dave Penny, and "Blues Records").

California´s first "bird" group was formed when Ty Terrell Leonard and the Richard brothers Billy and Roy met at Alameda High School in San Francisco in 1945, and formed the "A-Sharp Trio" (no recordings). The trio came to Hollywood a year later, and in 1949 they were joined by Bobby Nunn, who worked at Johnny Otis´ and Alu Bardi´s club "The Barrelhouse" in Watts. The group became the third of the trend setting bird groups after the Ravens and the Orioles. Grady Chapman joined the group as lead singer and fifth member in 1953. From March, 1954 Carl Gardner substituted for Grady (who was sent to jail for a while) and Carl was later featured as sixth singer in the group (and foremost lead on Spark Records). Chapman made some solo records in 1954 or 1955, and in 1957 and 1958 and also for Imperial after 1960 and was used as a studio back-up. He often joined Nunn´s Coasters Mark II during several years from the mid ´60s, and worked with Billy Richards Jr´s Nunn-offspring "Coasters" group and also toured with his own line-up of "Coasters". Grady also substituted for Carl Gardner in the true Coasters a couple of times in the late ´90s after Richards and Gardner had settled their differences. Ty Terrell, as he prefers to call himself, did some solo recordings after 1960. Several of the Robins´ members also recorded with Marvin Phillips in different versions of "Marvin & Johnny".

Note: the Richard brothers (who are not twins) were born with the name Richard (although the early Savoy song credits are to Richards). Todd Baptista, who seldom is wrong, refers to them as Richard; and the Rhythm & Blues Foundation sent one of the invitations of their award ceremony to "William Richard" - and Eric LeBlanc has confirmed the birth dates and surnames Richard, although Census has Richards registered.

Births of members: Nunn: September 20, 1925 (Birmingham, Alabama - raised in Detroit; died November 5, 1986); William Gene "Billy" Richard: January 31, 1928 in Crockett, Houston County, Texas - died in Los Angeles December 10, 2007; Roy Benton Richard (aka Curtis Benton Richard): October 10, 1929 in Crockett, Houston County, Texas (not 1933 or 1930) - died May 1 1983 in Los Angeles; "Ty" Terrell Leonard: born 1928 near Jackson, Miss and moving to California in 1939 - nowadays telling everyone he is an original Coaster; Grady Chapman born October 1, 1929, Greenville, South Carolina - active with a new Robins group up to his death in Los Angeles, January 4, 2011;
Robert Joseph Sheen: May 17, 1941 - died in Los Angeles November 12, 2000. Bill Richard aka Billy Richards Jr: circa 1940.
Recording debut: Los Angeles early 1949 as The Four Bluebirds (see below).
Most notable records for: Savoy 1949-1950, RCA 1953, Spark 1954-1955,  Whippet 1956-1957. See detailed session discography below.

The Robins in 1950, ctsy Billy Vera and Mar Goldberg. Original recording line-up:
Bobby Nunn (lead and bass 1949 - 1955);
"Ty" Terrell Leonard, Billy and Roy Richard (up to 1960).

Later members:
Grady Chapman (lead tenor & fifth singer 1953-early 1954 and late 1954-1960);
Carl Gardner (lead & sixth singer 1954-1955);
H.B. Barnum (fifth singer & utility voice 1956-1957);
Bobby Sheen (1958-1961);
"Little" Billy Richards Jr - aka Bill Richard (from circa 1960 - nephew to the older Billy).
Remembering An R&B Pioneer: Robins' Magical Tenor Lead, Grady Chapman, Dies At 81
(c) 2011    Todd Baptista

 

Grady Chapman, whose expressive high tenor lead graced a host of rhythm and blues vocal group harmony records by the Robins during the mid-1950s died January 4, 2011 at a Los Angeles, California hospital, according to the singer's daughter, Tania.  The 81-year old's death was attributed to congestive heart failure. Born in Greenville, South Carolina on October 1, 1929, Chapman came to the West Coast as a youngster and joined the already established Robins in 1952.  Discovered by Johnny Otis, the Robins had begun recording in 1949 and appeared on a handful of labels including Excelsior, Aladdin, Score, Savoy, Regent, Modern, RPM, and Recorded in Hollywood, under their own name, pseudonyms including the Four Bluebirds and the Nic-Nacs, and backing other artists including Little Esther and Mickey Champion. Chapman first recorded with the Robins- Ulysses "Bobby" Nunn, Terrell "Ty" Leonard, and Billy and Roy Richard- in Hollywood for RCA-Victor on January 21, 1953.  Over the course of three sessions held between January and September, Chapman fronted the Robins on the haunting ("My Heart's The Biggest Fool" and "How Would You Know"), the humorous, ("Ten Days in Jail"), and the soulful ("Oh Why").  The group even masqueraded under the Drifters name, waxing an obscure single for Crown entitled "The World Is Changing".  Chapman also shined on "Double Crossin' Baby", issued on Crown in 1954 as by the Robbins (sic).

Grady was in and out of the Robins for much of 1954, going afoul of the law- by his own admission- and also recording with another group, Grady Chapman and the Suedes ("Don't Blooper") for Money Records.  Consequently, the Robins added Texas-born tenor Carl Gardner who initially shared lead vocal chores with Chapman when the act signed with Leiber and Stoller's Spark enterprise early that year.  In what was likely their only session together, Gardner led "If Teardrops Were Kisses" and Chapman fronted “I Love Paris” and "Whadaya Want?" In Chapman's absence, the Robins recorded "Riot In Cell Block #9", "Framed", and "Smokey Joe's Café", and by the end of 1955, Leiber and Stoller had sold Spark, joined Atco, and recruited Gardner and Nunn away from the Robins to form the Coasters.  Chapman rejoined Leonard, the Richard brothers, and a new member, 19 year-old H. B. Barnum, in the Robins.  Signing on with disc jockey Gene Norman's Whippet label, the group recorded a number of impressive R&B and pop-flavored sides in 1956-57 including "Cherry Lips", "Since I First Met You", and "That Old Black Magic", all featuring Grady's emotive lead tenor.  Editor's note: Chapman returned to the Robins on December 27, 1954 and worked in and out with the group up to Nunn's and Gardner's departures and was with the group when H.B. Barnum joined.

Around March of 1957, Chapman's initial solo effort ("My Love Will Never Die"/"The Smiling Gondolier", backed by an uncredited female group) was issued on Zephyr and distributed by Norman.  With Grady still in the fold, the Robins moved to Imperial's Knight subsidiary label in 1958, waxing "A Quarter To Twelve", but by year's end, Chapman had gone solo full-time, leaving 17 year-old Bobby Sheen to take over the lead vocal chores. A 1958 solo disc on Knight, "Say You Will Be Mine"/"Starlight, Starbright", was followed by two 1959 Imperial 45s, including the splendid "Tell Me That You Care", again with a female group backing.  Three additional singles were recorded and issued on Mercury in 1960-61 but, despite some stellar material, Chapman was never able to build a strong solo career.  From 1963 to 1966, he toured in the Coasters Mark II with Bobby Nunn, Bobby Sheen, and Billy Richards, Jr. (sic). After the members went their separate ways, Chapman and Nunn joined forces to form their own touring unit.  At various times he performed as the leader or a member of Grady Chapman's Coasters, The Bobby Nunn Tribute Coasters Group, the Word Famous Coasters and the Fabulous Coasters.  Often, Chapman was joined by ex-Coasters alumni including Leon Hughes, Billy Guy, and Will "Dub" Jones.  In 1977, Guy, Chapman, and Evans recorded background vocals for Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas.  Old friends Billy Richards, Jr., Jerome Evans, formerly of the Cyclones and the Furys, Randy Jones of the Penguins, and Bobby Sheen, (who was working with Chapman just before his death in 2000), all shared the stage with Grady at various times from the '70s into the 2000s.  In 2000, Chapman, Evans, Jones, and Robert Baker toured Germany as the Fabulous Coasters.  When demand arose, he was also willing to resurrect the Robins, and did so on numerous occasions - sometimes with 1950s members Leonard, the Richard brothers, and H. B. Barnum, frequently with Randy Jones, Bobby Johnson and Billy Foster, and, most recently, with Bobby Baker and J. D. Hall.

In the fall of 1993, while he was recovering from throat cancer treatment, Coasters founder and lead singer Carl Gardner asked his old friend to take his place in the group until he was well enough to return to the stage, which Chapman did with pleasure.  "We were very saddened to learn of the passing of Grady Chapman," 82 year-old Carl Gardner and his wife, Veta, said in a joint statement from their Florida residence.  "We worked together in both the Robins and the Coasters and remained friends over these many years.  We send our deepest sympathies to his family.  Grady, we will miss you."
- Todd Baptista


The Discography:
Below are listed all Robins´ studio recordings. The group is also featured on live records and screen recordings. Only the most well-known LP compilations are noted. The CDs are referred to in notes. There are several different labels who have issued records as by "The Robins" which are not this group. Note: Each entry starts with master number (when known). 
 
Johnny Otis And Orchestra featuring The Four Bluebirds

(Bobby Nunn,lead vcl; Ty Terrell Leonard, Billy Richard, and Roy Richard,vcls)
with John Anderson,tpt; George Washington,tbn; Cecil "Big Jay" McNeely,tens; Lem Tally,bars; Darby Hicks (pseudonym for Devonia Williams) or poss. Lee Wesley Jones,pno; Mario de la Garde,bs; Johnny Otis,dms. Produced by Otis René. Label owned by Otis and Margaret René.
Radio Recorders, Los Angeles, early 1949
OR 540 A    My Baby Done Told Me    Excelsior 540, Essex 707, Californian 301
Note: Flip "Court Room Blues" by Johnny Otis & His Orchestra (with Lem Tally and Darby Hicks,vcls). Record issued ca April, 1949.

The Robins

(as above) with pno, gtr, bs, dms. Prob. prod. by Sammy Lane, purchased by Aladdin.
Prob. Radio Recorders, Los Angeles, May 27, 1949
RR-700    Don´t Like The Way You´re Doing       Aladdin 3031
4010-A    Around About Midnight (aka ´Long About Midnite)
                  Score 4010, Imperial LP 94005
RR-702   Come Back Baby    Aladdin 3031
4010-B    You Sure Look Good To Me
   Score 4010
Note: The singles were issed after the first Savoy issues.

The Robins  (726)
or  The Robins with the Johnny Otis Quintette (738, 752)
or Johnny Otis Quintette - The Robins and Little Esther
(78/45-731)
- also as: Johnny Otis Quintette -  Vocals by The Robins and Little Esther (78-731)
(as above) with Little Esther Mae Jones,lead guest vcl on -1; Devonia "Lady Dee" Williams,pno; Johnny Otis,vbs; Pete "Guitar" Lewis,gtr; Mario de la Garde,bs; Leard "Kansas City" Bell,dms. Produced by Ralph Bass.
Radio Recorders, 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, December 1, 1949
SLA 4452    If It´s So Baby    Savoy 726, LP 2230
SLA 4453    Our Romance Is Gone    Savoy 738, LP 2221
SLA 4454    If I Didn´t Love You So   Savoy 726, LP 2221
SLA 4455    There´s Rain In My Eyes  (aka Rain In My Eyes *)    Savoy 752, Savoy LP 2230*
SLA 4456    Double Crossing Blues  -1      Savoy 731, LP 2221, LP 2258

Note: Savoy 731 reissued several times with differing credits. It had two different flips, neither by the Robins. 4453-54 on LP credited "Johnny Otis, vocal by The Robbins". Poster of "Little Esther with The Robbins & Johnny Otis and his Orchestra" on Savoy LP 2221 (with a five-headed Robins-group incl. H.B. Barnum) is from an ad of 1956. All other LP titles credited "Johnny Otis, vocal by The Robins", except 4456 credited "Johnny Otis, vocal by Little Esther & The Robbins". Savoy 726 and 738 advertised as by "The 4 Robins with Johnny Otis´ Orchestra". SLA 4451 "I´m Not Falling In Love With You", vocals by Devonia Williams (issued on Regal 1016 and Savoy 749 as flip of Mel Walker´s "Cry Baby" - which not has the Robins as backup). All Robins´ Savoy tracks are included on the Atlantic/Savoy Jazz 3CD Johnny Otis compilation "Rhythm & Blues Caravan" 92859-2.

Johnny Otis Orchestra, vocal by The Robins
(as above) with Johnny Otis,dir; Little Esther Mae Jones,lead guest vcl-1; John Anderson.tpt; Floyd Turnham,alts, Big Jay McNeely,guest tens; Lorenzo Holden and James Von Streeter,tenss; Walter Henry,bars or alts; poss. Bobby McNeely,bars; Devonia Williams,pno; Pete Lewis,gtr; Mario de la Garde,bs; Leard Bell,dms.
January 11, 1950
SLA 5101    The Turkey Hop Pt. I    Savoy 732, LP 2230
SLA 5102    The Turkey Hop Pt. II     Savoy 732, LP 2230
SLA 5105    Lover´s Lane Boogie -1      Savoy LP 2221, Savoy LP 2258
SLA 5106    I Found Out My Troubles (aka I Found Out)    Savoy LP 2230
Note: SLA 5101 is an instrumental with 5102 the vocal. SLA 5103 "Blues Nocturne" by Johnny Otis & his Orchestra, SLA 5104 "Cry Baby" by Mel Walker and the Quintones (with vocal assistance from the band - prob. not the Robins). SLA 5107 "Misery" by Little Esther. "Lover´s Lane Boogie" issued on a bootleg single as by "The Robins"; and on LP as by "Johnny Otis with Little Esther & The Blue Notes" (Bobby Nunn featured as on "Double Crossing.."). SLA 5105, 5106 credited "Johnny Otis Septet" on Atlantic/Savoy 3 CD. Only rhythm and tpt & tens on 5105; rhythm and tens on 5106. Savoy 732 advertised as by Johnny Otis Orchestra and the "4" Robins.

The Robins with the Johnny Otis Quintette

(as above) with Devonia Williams,pno; Johnny Otis,vbs; Pete Lewis,gtr; Mario de la Garde,bs; Leard Bell,dms. Billy Richard,lead vcl on-1.
February 13, 1950
SLA 5108    I´m Through     Savoy 762, LP 2252
SLA 5109    I´m Living OK     Savoy 752, LP 2230
SLA 5110    (There) Ain´t No Use Beggin´    (aka There´s No Use Begging) -1     Savoy 738, LP 2230
SLA 5111    You´re Fine But Not My Kind     Savoy 762, LP 2230

Note: No reed featured on any of the above (although Lorenzo Holden was present on the session). SLA 5114 "Mistrustin´ Blues" and other Savoy recordings by Little Esther w. Johnny Otis often incorrectly listed as recordings by the Robins featuring Esther. Little Esther, born in Texas 1935, assumed the name Esther Phillips in 1962. All Robins´ Savoy recordings made at Hollywood´s Radio Recorders, 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard with Ralph Bass (assisted by Johnny Otis) as producer, and Val Valentine as engineer. After this session the Johnny Otis Blues & Rhythm Caravan went on the road with Ralph Bass as road manager, but without the Robins, although the Atlantic/Savoy 3CD suggests they were included. The Robins´ manager/agent Ed Fishman pulled the group away from the revue (leaving the door open for Mel Walker). LP 2230 also issued on Japanese Savoy CD SV 0266. All Robins´ tracks for Savoy issued on Savoy LP SJL-1188 "The Complete Savoy Recordings with Johnny Otis", and on Atlantic/ Savoy Jazz 3CD 92859-2 (reissued on Savoy Jazz CD 17050) "The Johnny Otis Rhythm & Blues Caravan" and in April 2004 the Robins Savoy tracks were reissued on Savoy Jazz CD 17357 as "Johnny Otis Presents The Robins" (12 tracks - not "Lover's Lane" - andnot to be confused with the Ace CD featuring Modern tracks).

The Robins and 2 Sharps & A Natural (112A)
or Maggie Hathaway with The Robins and 2 Sharps & A Natural (121 and 112B)
(Bobby Nunn and prob. as above; Billy Richard, second lead on -3) with Maggie Hathaway,lead vcl (on -1); Ted Mossner,pno; Louis Speiginer,gtr; Red Callender,bs. Produced by "Big" John Dolphin.
The bass on "Race Of Man" is most certainly Bobby Nunn.
|
download Race Of Man |
Dolphin´s Rec. Studio, Los Angeles, ca June 1950
112A    Race Of Man     RIH 112
112B    Bayou Baby Blues   -1     
RIH 112
121A    A Falling Star  -1, -3    RIH 121
121B    When Gabriel Blows His Horn -1,     RIH 121
 
The Robins
(Bobby Nunn and prob. as above); with Mickey Champion,lead vcl (on -2); with unkn. accomp. Prob. Eddie Beal,pno; Chuck Norris,gtr; Red Callender,bs; Lee Young,dms. Produced by "Big" John Dolphin.
Dolphin´s Rec. Studio, Los Angeles, prob late 1950
4050B  Early Morning Blues        RIH 150, Earth Angel LP JD-906
4051A  School Girl Blues -2       issues as above
Note: RIH is Dolphin´s Recorded In Hollywood label. RIH 112 and 121 are gospel-like recordings. The lead on 4050B sounds like a baritone. RIH 150 issued ca March, 1951.

The Nic-Nacs

(as above) with Mickey Champion,lead guest vocal (exc. on -1); and tens, pno, gtr, bs, dms. Poss. the Johnny Otis band.
Los Angeles, November 2, 1950
1440-2    Gonna Have A Merry Christmas    RPM 313, 342, Ace LP 88
1441-3    Found Me A Sugar Daddy   RPM 313, 316, 342, Ace(E) LP CH 88, Ace CD CHD 698
1442       I´m Telling You Baby     Ace LP 88, Ace CD 1174
1443-3    You Didn´t Want My Love -1    RPM 316, Ace LP 88
Note: Several alternate takes of all four songs issued on Ace CD MOD50 recently. Original single 313 issued for Christmas 1950; 316 in early 1951 and 342 issued for Christmas 1951. Mickey Champion was a familiar thrush on the San Francisco black music scene, often substituting for the under-aged Little Esther on stage.

Bobby Nunn with the "Robbins"

(as above) with vbs, pno; bs, dms.
Los Angeles, prob. March 2, 1951
1517    Rockin´        Modern 20-807, Ace(E) LP CH 88, Spark LP 1000 (reissue bootleg)
(tk 1)    That´s What The Good Book Says      Ace CDCHD 1010
1518     That´s What The Good Book Says     issues as 1517, plus Ace CHD 698
(tk 3)    That's What The Good Book Says  (slow version)     Ace CDCHD 1022
Note: "Rockin´" is an "answer" to the Mel Walker/Johnny Otis "Rockin´ Blues" hit and "That´s What The Good Book Says" was the first studio-recorded Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller composition. The alternate is issued on the 2004 Ace CD "The Leiber & Stoller Story Vol 1 - Hard Times" and the slow version is issued on v.a. CD titled "Mellow Cats 'N' Kittens". Johnny Otis not involved in these recordings. LP credits "Bobby Nunn & The Robins". There are two unissued Modern tracks filed (reported recorded March 2, 1951) titled "Well, Hello Pretty Baby" and "All Day I´ve Been Cryin´".

Note:
26 of the above recordings (not "Lover´s Lane Boogie" and the tracks of RIH 112) are featured on the German CD "Rockin´ with the Robins" on Titanic TRC 6007. During 1951-52 Nunn was recording as a solo artist - as all the other Robins went to military services, discharged in late 1952/early 1953. Nunn recorded a.o. "Christmas Bells" b/w "Two Sisters" (instr.) on RIH 244 and for Dootsie Williams
. By the end of 1952 the Robins returned to civilian life and resumed their career. They now recruited Grady Chapman as lead tenor and got a new manager, Chuck Landers (business partner of promotor Gene Norman).

The Robins

(Bobby Nunn, Grady Chapman, Ty Terrell Leonard, Billy and Roy Richard, vcls) with Shorty Rogers,dir; tens, bars, pno, gtr, bs, dms. Jack Lewis,prod; Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller,co-prods on -1. Second session arrranged by Maxwell Davis; and third session produced by Danny Kessler.
Hollywood, January 21, 1953
E3VB-0018    All Night Baby    RCA 5271, LP 6279, CLP 1000
E3VB-0019    My Heart´s The Biggest Fool    RCA 5175, Crown LP 1000
E3VB-0020    (Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I   RCA 5175, CLP 1000
E3VB-0021    Oh Why      RCA 5271, CLP 1000
July 30, 1953
E3VB-0161    My Baby Done Told Me    RCA 5486 (withdrawn)
E3VB-0162    I´ll Do It    RCA 5486 (withdrawn)
E3VB-0163    Let´s Go To The Dance    RCA 5434, CLP 1000
E3VB-0164    How Would You Know      RCA 5434, CLP 1000
September 15, 1953
E3VB-0198    Don´t Stop Now    RCA 5564, CLP 1000
E3VB-0199    Get It Off Your Mind    RCA 5564, CLP 1000
E3VB-0200    Empty Bottles     RCA 5489, CLP 1000
E3VB-0201    Ten Days In Jail -1     RCA 5489, CLP 1000
Note: "Ten Days In Jail" written by Leiber-Stoller. Crown LP (CLP) is a bootleg titled "The Best of .. Vol 2". Vol. 3 covers the Spark tracks and the first volume features Savoy tracks.
All tracks on El Toro (Spain) CD R&B 111 "I Must Be Dreamin'" (2007), also including the four Crown tracks below plus the 12 Spark recordings. The CD is compiled and has great liner notes by Dave Penny, who insists the Spark recordings were done in order of the LS master numbers.

The Drifters
(prob. as above) with unkn acc.
Los Angeles, late 1953
JB 327    Sacroiliac Swing    Crown 108
JB 328    The World Is Changing   Crown 108
Note: According to Steve Propes this Crown issue of 1954 was actually a recording by the Robins (see matrix numbers on the following session - where Grady Chapman has a true McPhatter styled singing). There were more "Drifters" issues on other labels by different groups, which were recorded by vocal groups before the Clyde McPhatter 1953 Drifters group.

The Robins
or The Robbins (120)
(as above) with reeds and rhythm.
Los Angeles, c. December, 1953
329    Double Crossin´ Baby    Crown 106
alt.take    Double Crossing Baby     Ace CD CHD 698
330    I Made A Vow    Crown 106, Ace CD CHD 698
331    All I Do Is Rock    Crown 120
332    Key To My Heart    Crown 120
Note: Singles issued in 1954. All RPM/Modern/Crown recordings prob. produced by Joe Bihari. Joe, Jules and Saul Bihari involved with their usual pseudonyms as composers on labels. Singles tracks reissued on LPs Ace 88 and CLP 1000.

The Robins
  or The Coasters   (LP 101, EP 4503, LP 371, RSACD 868)
Carl Gardner, lead/tenor; Bobby Nunn, bass/lead-1; Grady Chapman (first session), tenor/lead-2; "Ty" Terrell Leonard, tenor; Billy Richard and Roy Richard, baritones.
with
Gil Bernal,ts; Willard McDaniel,pno/celeste-4;  Charlie "Chuck" Norris,gtr; Ralph "Waldo" Hamilton,bs; John "Jessie" Sailes,dms. Unknown, eng; Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller,prod. Prob. Mike Stoller, pno on LS 29, 31, 32.
Prob. Radio Recorders, Santa Monica - Los Angeles c:a February-March, 1954
LS 13   The Hatchet Man -1       2:30        Spark 116, RCD, CD 9974
LS 29   I Love Paris -2        2:27       Spark 113, Harmony LP LS-13
LS 31   Whadaya Want? -2        2:25        Spark 110, RCD, CD 9974
LS 32   If Teardrops Were Kisses -4        2:40       Spark 110, Spark LP 1000, CD 9974
with
prob. Richard Berry,lead bass vcl-3; Mike Stoller,arr/pno;  Gil Bernal,ts; Barney Kessell,gtr; Ralph "Waldo" Hamilton,bs; John "Jessie" Sailes,dms. Abe "Bunny" Robyn,eng; Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller,prod.
Master Recorders, Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles early 1954
LS 15   Wrap It Up -1  (Gardner,second lead)       (57C-245, 59C-4073)    2:46      Spark 103, LP 101, RCD
LS 16   Riot In Cell Block # 9 -3       (57C-246, 59C-4074)    3:00        Spark 103, LP 101, EP 4503, LP 143, RCD, Rhino CD 70593, CD 9974
c:a August, 1954
LS 22   Loop De Loop Mambo      (57C-281, 59C-4093)    2:13         Spark 107, LP 101, EP 4503, CD 9974
LS 14   One Kiss      (57C-282, 59C-4094)    2:48          Spark 113, LP 101, RCD, CD 9974
LS 23   I Must Be Dreamin´       (57C-283, 59C-4095)    2:15       Spark 116, LP 101, RCD, CD 9974
LS 24   Framed  -1      (57C-284, 59C-4096)    2:43           Spark 107, LP 101, EP 4503, LP 143, RCD, CD 9974
prob. July 7, 1955 (or poss. January, 1955)
LS 30   Smokey Joe´s Cafe       55C-32, S-1669    2:43         Spark 122, 6059, LP 101, LP 315, A 13106, RCD, CD 9974
LS 21   Just Like A Fool     55C-33, S-1670    2:51        Spark 122, 6059, RCD, CeeVee 6552CD, CD 9974
Notes: Mike Stoller states in the liner notes of Rhino R2 71090 that "The Hatchet Man" was the first Robins date on Spark. Grady Chapman (who was out of the Robins from March, 1954 until the end of that year) possibly featured on more than the first session. Earlier discographies have listed above recordings in three sessions (each with four recordings) in order of LS master numbers with differing dates of recordings (March 1954, August 1954, c:a January 1955). Here they are listed according to Atco-given master numbers. If LS 29-32 were recorded at one and same session, they must have been recorded in January 1955, since Spark single 110 was released in January 1955. Some Ernie Freeman-fans state Freeman and René Hall were involved as arrangers and musicians on "Just Like A Fool" (well Freeman certainly backed the Robins - and the Coasters on tour several times in the mid ´50s). All twelve Spark titles issued on Sequel RSA CD 868. Billy Guy and Leiber/Stoller have stated that Berry was guest lead on LS 16, although Gardner and Atco proclaim it is actually Nunn. Both Berry and Guy have recorded "answers" to "Riot...". Atco purchased and reallocated Spark masters on September 28, 1955 and reissued one Robins single (Atco 6059 with S-master numbers used). Most of the Spark recordings issued as by the Coasters on several later LP issues. Spark was owned by A.L. Stoller, Mike Stoller, Jerry Leiber and Lester Sill. Quintet Music was owned by Leiber, the Stollers, Sill, and Jack Levy. Master series 57C- allocated for LP 101 in 1957. All twelve recordings released on a bootleg Robins LP (Spark 1000 "The Best Of The Robins Volume 3", 1974, reissued in 1991 with two extra tracks, "Rockin´" and "That´s What The Good Book Says" from Modern). LS 16 titled "Riot In Cell Block Number Nine" and ".....Number 9" on some later issues. LS 23 titled "I Must Be Dreaming" on Warner/Pioneer LP 13013 (and wrongly credited as the 1964 recording on that LP). LS 31 titled "Whadaya´ Want" on RSACD 868. Several of the above titles are on Dutch Harmony LP LS-13 (bootleg with very bad sound), which also features Robins´ recordings for Crown and RCA (1953). "Wobble Loo" on that album is neither by the Robins or the Coasters (actually by Ray Agee - Spark 119 - matrix LS 50) and the album is issued as by the Robins on label and the Coasters on sleeve. Rhino CD R2 71090 "50 Coastin´ Classics" noted as RCD (for general overview). LS 30 sometimes spelt "Smokey Joe´s Café". Collectables CD 9974, titled "Smokey Joe's Cafe" has ten of the 12 Spark recordings with "One Kiss" titled "One Kiss Led To Another".

The Coasters were formed in October, 1955. In 1957 and 1958 several of the Robins´ Spark recordings were reissued on LP and EP as by the Coasters, leading to the common misconception that the Robins had transformed into the Coasters. In fact Gardner and Nunn were recruited by Leiber-Stoller-Sill and due to touring engagements there was not enough recorded material available when Atco needed recordings for the Coasters´ first LP. During his absense in 1954 (or poss. 1955) Chapman recorded with the Suedes for Dolphin´s label Money (a.o. "Don´t Blopper"). In early 1954 Carl Gardner joined the group. Gardner made his first appearance with the Robins on March 13, 1954 for Gene Norman´s Embassy Ballroom. Six of the Robins´ 12 Spark-titles are on Ace CDCHD 801 "Leiber & Stoller present the Spark Records story": Riot In Cell Block #9 - Loop De Loop Mambo - Smokey Joe´s Cafe - Whadaya Want - I Must Be Dreamin´ - The Hatchet Man. During the summer of 1954 the Robins were fully engaged in Las Vegas for nightly stage shows.


Note: Around June, 1955 Jake Porter of Combo records issued a single, Combo 91 as "Jake Porter and The Buzzards", titled "Wine Women and Gold". Porter says this was the 1955 Robins (the flip "The Bop" is an instrumental).

The Robins
(Grady Chapman, Ty Terrell Leonard, Billy and Roy Richard, and Hidle Brown "H.B." Barnum,vcls/lead -1; plus poss. Johnnie "Twovoice" Morisette,vcl)
Jewell Grant,bars; Plas Johnson,tens; Ernie Freeman,pno; Rene Hall,gtr; Curtis Counce,bs; Ed Hall,dms. Freeman and Rene Hall,arrs. Produced by Gene Norman.
MGM Studio, Fairfax Avenue and Gene Norman Studio, Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, 1956 and early 1957 (during five sessions)
V-5489-175   Cherry Lips     Whippet 200, WLP 703
V-5489-176   Out Of The Picture    W 200, WLP 703
B-5000   Merry-Go-Rock    W 201, WLP 703
B-5001   Hurt Me     W 201, WLP 703
Since I First Met You     W 203, WLP 703
That Old Black Magic     W 203, WLP 703
A Fool In Love     W 206, WLP 703
All Of A Sudden My Heart Sings     W 206, WLP 703
Every Night     W 208, WLP 703
Where´s The Fire     W 208, WLP 703
In My Dreams     Whippet 211
Keep Your Mind On Me   W 211
You Wanted Fun     W 212
Snowball     W 212, WLP 703
Blues In The Night     GNP Crescendo LP 9034
How Long  -1   Whippet LP 703
Note: Carl Gardner has stated that Leiber-Stoller called him off the "Cherry Lips" recording session to do the first Coasters session. H.B. Barnum, born  in Texas July 15, 1936 (who was a childhood Hollywood stage piano concerts favorite and had made his first solo record on Imperial as Pee Wee Barnum in 1950 and sang with the Dootones in L.A. in 1955), acted as pianist and utility voice with the Robins during 1956-57. He sang and played piano for RCA in the early 1960s and later became a famous manager /arranger /producer for several acts. Whippet singles subsequently issued between March, 1956 and January, 1958 - Whippet was owned by GNP (Gene Norman). "Rock & Roll" Whippet LP 703 reissued on GNP-Crescendo 9034 (excluding "How Long") and re-titled "The Best of The Robins", and on CD GNPD 9034 (with all 16 tracks). The GNP issue has a cover featuring a photo from 1957 of Leonard, Chapman, Barnum and the Richards brothers and presents the brothers as Richard (no s). All Whippet titles issued on "Cherry Lips" CD.  "Cherry Lips" was supposed to be led by Gardner, but by then he and Nunn had left to form the Coasters. Chapman recorded several solo songs for Whippet. Johnnie Morisette said he sang with the Robins during this period. From Steve Propes in Blues & Rhythm: "I was in the Robins too, we came behind Grady Chapman. Gene Norman split up the lead singers who was getting a big head, they were nowhere alone. I sang lead on "You Wanted Fun". We played the Crescendo with Herb Jeffries. At that point there were two competing Robins groups (probably talkin´ ´ bout Carl Gardner; ed.note). They were taking away from each other - one lead by Grady Chapman, they left Crescendo on their own with H.B. Barnum." Morisette was born in Brazil on July 1, 1935 (or Montu Osland in the South Pacific). He succeeded Vernon Green as lead with the Medallions before his stint with the Robins and later worked with Sam Cooke.

The Robins

(Bobby Sheen (lead -1), Ty Terrell Leonard, Billy and Roy Richard; and Grady Chapman on -2; vcls) with unknown accomp. Produced by Imperial Records and H.B. Barnum.
Radio Recorders, Los Angeles, August 7, 1958
IM-1708    A Quarter To Twelve  -2  Knight 2001
IM-1709    Pretty Little Dolly        -2      -
November 11, 1958
IM-1831    A Little Bird Told Me  -1  Knight 2008
IM-1832    It´s Never Too Late         -
Note: There are two unreleased tracks filed for Knight: "Talk, Talk, Talk" and "Sufferin´".
Grady Chapman was substituted by Bobby Sheen from early 1958 (when Grady was in and out of the group). Sheen was born in 1941. Charles Sheen (Sheen´s son) has given the following information. Sheen joined the Robins in late 1957/early 1958 when Chapman was in and out of the group. From 1959 the Robins´ driver - Billy Richards Jr also joined the group as Ty Terrell not always worked with them. By March 1961 Sheen had done most of the leads and he went with Lester Sill to Phil Spector of Philles Records as a back-up-singer and toured with Bobby Soxx & the Blue Jeans. In 1962 Sheen started moonlighting and joined Nunn´s new Coasters, Mark II (originally including Nunn, Richards Jr, and Sheen  - Chapman joined Nunn´s group in 1964). This group was the same until 1966.

The Robins
(Bobby Sheen, Billy and Roy Richard, plus "Little" Billy Richards Jr, vcls) with girl vcls, tbn, bars, pno, gtr, bs, dms, cga. Produced by H.B. Barnum, Jack Nitzsche, and Sonny Bono. Leads: Sheen -1, Richards Jr -2) with tbn, bars, pno, gtr, bs, dms, cga. Produced by H.B. Barnum. Leads: Sheen -1, Richards Jr -2.
Los Angeles, 1960
Just Like That
  -1    Arvee 5001
Whole Lotta Imagination    -2     -
Live Wire Suzie   -1  Arvee 5013
Oh No    -2                     -
Note: In the spring of 1960 Terrell and H.B. Barnum recorded with Jimmy Scott Norman (yes the later Coasters member) as the Dyna-Sores, who made of cover of "Alley Oop" for Rendezvous.

The Ding Dongs
(Bobby Sheen, lead vcl-1; Billy and Roy Richard, Billy Richards Jr, lead-2) with girl vcls and orchestra. Produced by Johnny Otis.
Los Angeles, ca 1960
Ding Dong (aka Saw Wood Mountain)  -1    Eldo 109, Ace CD CHD 759
Sweet Thing   
-2     Eldo 109
Lassie Come Home    Todd 1043
Late Last Night    Todd 1043
Note: Thanks, Charles Sheen, for the information on above.
               
The Robins
(Bobby Sheen, lead vcl; Billy Richards Jr, lead vcl-1; Billy and Roy Richard,vocals) with orchestra directed byt Jimmy Lee.
Prob Los Angeles, ca March, 1961
6001    How Many More Times    Lavender 001
6002    White Cliffs Of Dover     -
6003    Mary Lou Does The Hoochie Koo  - 1  (aka Mary Lou Loves To Hootchy Kootchy Coo)   Lavender 002
6004    Magic Of A Dream         -
Note: Six of the Robins tracks plus one of the Ding Dongs from 1958-1861 are featured on the Ace CDCHD 1257 "The Bobby Sheen Anthology".In 1962 Roy, Billy Jr. and Bobby Sheen joined Marvin Phillips.

Note:
All titles from 1956 - 1961 (except those as The Ding Dongs) on "Cherry Lips" Famous Grooves CD 31672 971026 of 1997. Hugh Gregory wrote the following on the Robins in his 1998 book "The Real Rhythm and blues": "Although the Robins were not the most influential of all the vocal groups… they facilitated the possibility that R&B could comment on and reflect, in a humorous way, the concerns of the working man (also referring to the Coasters, ed.mark). It does have to be said… the Robins… being at the cutting edge of social change was of less consideration than turning a fast buck. And it was the lure of the fast buck that scuppered their chances of long-term success."
The tracks featuring Bobby Sheen as lead with the Robins and The Ding Dongs are issued on Ace CDCHD 1257 "Bobby Sheen Anthology 1958-1975" (2010).
Special Note:
During the 1970s Chapman, Billy Richards, Le
onard and Barnum act for a couple of times in a revival Robins group and in January, 2002 Grady Chapman (who had substituted for Carl Gardner in the Coasters a couple of times in the late ' 90s and in 2001) re-activated a new group - Grady Chapman & The Robins (with Bobby Baker, Billy Foster, and Bobby Johnson) - still active GREAT!

The Robins - Representative CDs
Johnny Otis Presents The Robins -
Savoy Jazz CD 17357 (All 12 Savoy tracks)
Rockin' with The Robins - Titanic (German) TRC CD 6007
(26 pre-RCA recordings 1947-1952 incl Savoy)
I Must Be Dreamin' - El Toro (CD Baby, bootleg) R&B 111 (All 12 RCA, 4 Crown, and all 12 Spark)
Smokey Joe's Cafe - Collectables CD 9974 (10 of the 12 Spark recordings)
Rock & Roll -
GNPD CD 9034 (featuring all 16 W
hippet recordings)
Cherry Lips - Famous Grooves (German) CD 31672 971026 (All 28 post-Spark tracks including the Whippet recordings)


"Johnny Otis Presents The Robins" on Savoy Jazz CD in 2004."Rockin´ with the Robins" on German Titanic CD.El Toro CD including all 12 RCA, all 12 Spark and the 4 Crowns.Collectables CD 9974  issued in March, 2006 - contains ten Robins Spark tracks."Rock & Roll" - The Robins GNP CD (cover almost identical to the original Whippet LP).The Robins of 1956 ("Cherry Lips" Famous Grooves CD) with Ty Terrell Leonard first left, and H.B. Barnum second left.

Presented by Claus Röhnisch,
May 1, 2011

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