Remembering Rockin’ Robin Roberts – 45 years later

Six years ago, I wrote about Robin Roberts – the first person to record Richard Berry‘s LOUIE LOUIE with the rock ‘n’ roll arrangement used by the Kingsmen, Revere & Raiders, the Kinks, Iggy Pop, and countless others…

Robin died a terrible tragic death a few days before Christmas in 1967 in San Mateo – about 20 miles from where I live.

I wrote about the sadness one feels when they lose a loved one around the holiday times, especially when they have to face the season alone.

My very best wishes to all of my friends that feel that special type of sadness. Please remember that you are NOT alone.

Please take care.


Thinking about Rockin Robin, the holidaze, and lost ones

It’s 9 days until Christmas, and I’m behind in my usual annual holiday celebrations. I’ve barely purchased any gifts for family and friends, and I still haven’t mailed out any cards to anybody to celebrate the holidays. It usually takes me a bit longer than most folks to get into the spirit of things, and this year is no exception.

Christmas is a stressful time of the year for many people. There’s a lot of depression and frustration around the holiday season. Those without any close family members or friends find themselves alone during what should be a joyous period. I have friends in the retail industry that absolutely hate the emotional turmoil that this period brings them. Driving the roads, I see a lot of really bad drivers doing very stupid things. I often wonder how Charles Dickens would depict Ebeneezer Scrooge dodging the traffic at crowded shopping malls, being stuck on freeways transformed into virtual parking lots, or avoiding senile drivers that use the fast lane to drive slower than the posted speed limit. Sometimes the holidays actually bring out the worst in people.

Christmas is especially painful for those that lost loved ones around the holiday season. Violent tragedies are the worst, as they leave survivors with a sense of futility over circumstances beyond their control.

I never met Rockin’ Robin Roberts, but in the course of my journeys, I’ve met a lot of people that knew and loved this talented man. In a sense, Rockin’ Robin was the unknown star of the LOUIE LOUIE legend that died before ever receiving his proper accolades. It was Robin that took Richard Berry‘s original melody, and transformed it into the garage rock prototype embraced by the Kingsmen, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Sonics, and countless other rock and roll bands.

Rockin’ Robin Roberts, whose legal name was Lawrence Roberts, was a man with many talents. Not only was he a dynamic singer with a great stage presence but he was also a highly intelligent scholar with a passion for science. With a degree in geology, I’m sure he understood the irony of being labeled as a “rocker.”

I would have liked to have known what Robin thought about the Kingsmen achieving the great success with the song that he recorded with the Wailers. How did he feel about others basking in the glory of a song that he recorded two years before? Did he have any thoughts on the dirty lyrics controversy that dogged the Kingsmen, and opened up a big F.B.I. investigation? He recorded the song in 1961 at the age of 21, and two years later, it became a big hit for a little band out of Portland, Oregon, swiping his original arrangements. Did he feel any jealousy towards the Kingsmen?

Why did he move from Tacoma to San Francisco? Was he interested in resurrecting his career in one of the hottest places for new music in America, or was he merely advancing his career in geology?

On December 22, 1967, three days before Christmas, Rockin Robin Roberts died in a terrible auto accident in San Mateo, California. According to a newspaper report, Roberts was in car that somehow wound up in wrong lane, taking the northbound entrance to the Bayshore Freeway from Kehoe Avenue to go south before crashing head-on into a second car at the 19th Avenue overpass. Both Robin and the driver, Sunny Cabell McCulley, aged 22, died before arriving at the hospital. Immediately after the accident, another collision took place as a third car crashed into a tow truck and firetruck dispatched to the scene.

Rockin’ Robin Roberts died at the age of 27 years, leaving behind his mother, who died not long afterwards of a broken heart after losing her only child.


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