Oldies But Goodies Cruise IISailing to the Mexican Riviera October 6-13, 2013
Smokey Joe's Cafe
The Robins history of goes back to around 1945 and they were an essential part of West Coast Rhythm and Blues. Terrell Leonard got together brothers Billy and Roy Richard at San Francisco's Alameda High School where they met, after a young girl told Leonard she loved his voice, he decided to start a group. Calling themselves the A-Sharp Trio, their influences included the King Cole Trio, Golden Gate Quartet, the Delta Rhythm Boys, and Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. By 1947, they'd found their way down to the Watts area of Los Angeles where the raucous sounds of early Los Angeles R&B were heard nightly. Entering the Thursday night talent show at Johnny Otis' new Barrelhouse Club in Watts, the trio placed second with their rendition of "Satchelmouth Baby." Another singer who appeared at the Barrelhouse was Bobby Nunn, a baritone/bass with a bluesy style. Like many aspiring bass singers, Nunn was heavily influenced by the Ravens. Otis had the idea of merging the two acts together to form a quartet to compete with the Ravens.
The group's recording debut came with an April 1949 release on Otis Rene's Excelsior label "My Baby Done Told Me" (credited to the "4 Bluebirds") was the flip of Johnny Otis' own "Courtroom Blues." With Bobby Nunn in the lead, the group is mostly doing unison singing in the background, a technique used in many of their songs and than in December of 1949, the Robins were part of a Johnny Otis Savoy session held at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles. With Ralph Bass as producer, some half-dozen masters were recorded. The first, "I'm Not Falling In Love With You," "Lady Dee" did not include the Robins. Four Robins tunes followed: "If It's So Baby," "Our Romance Is Gone," "If I Didn't Love You So," and "There's Rain In My Eyes." Bobby Nunn is featured on all the Robins sides and Otis' vibraharp can be heard on "There's Rain In My Eyes." With 20 minutes left on the studio clock, Otis gave Esther Jones (now billed as "Little Esther") they recorded "Double Crossin' Blues," and they recorded "Double Crossin' Blues," and told the Robins to back her up.
In early 1950, the whole aggregation was back in the studio again to record some more tunes. This time there was: "Lost In A Dream" (Little Esther, with the Johnny Otis Orchestra), "Turkey Hop, Part 2," "Turkey Hop, Part 1" (the Robins), "Cry Baby" (Mel Walker with the "Blue Notes," in actuality the Robins), "Lovers' Lane Boogie" (Little Esther with the Blue Notes; once again it's the Robins, with Bobby Nunn dueting with Esther), and "I Found Out My Troubles" (the Robins, with Bobby in the lead and Otis' vibraharp In spite of the Robins' split with Otis, Savoy continued to issue sides by the group During the lull, Bobby Nunn recorded a couple of solos for Dootsie Williams' Blue label in Williams' garage studio on 30th Street in Los Angeles. These sides, "I Got A Country Girl"/"Bring Your Lovin' Back To Me," were released sometime in mid-1950.
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 and was later featured as sixth singer in the group. Chapman made some solo records in 1954 through 1958 he also was used by Imperial 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".
On November 5, 1986, Bobby Nunn died of a heart attack at the age of 61, Roy Richard died in California in 1978 at age 53, Bobby Sheen passed away in 2000 and Billy Richard died in Los Angeles in 2007. Terrell "Ty" Leonard (who eventually went to work at a local Sears's department store), Grady Chapman, and H.B. Barnum are still live in California. Terrell hopes to join forces with Leiber and Stoller once again to tell the exclusive story of the Robins/Coasters groups. Carl Gardner, despite a bout with throat cancer, continues to tour with his own Coasters group; he lives in Florida. On a precious few occasions in the past decade, On a precious few occasions in the past decade, Grady Chapman, Terrell Leonard, and H.B. Barnum have teamed up to recreate the Robins for live performances.
Johnny Otis Presents The Robins