Photo: the "B" side: Roscoe Robinson - How Many Times Must I Knock (Sound Stage 7 2618)

Legendary Birmingham recording artist Roscoe Robinson is honored by the Birmingham Record Collectors on August 21, 2005 by being inducted into the Birmingham Record Collectors Music Hall of Fame. He joins fellow legendary recording artists Eddie Kendricks, Sammy Salvo, Baker Knight, Country Boy Eddie, Jerry McCain, Henry Lovoy, and radio personality Shelley Stewart as being a significant one of our local music recording pioneers in the Music Hall of Fame.

Induction ceremonies are taking place at 2:00 pm on Sunday August 21, 2005 at the Cedars Club, 301 Greensprings Avenue in Birmingham during the annual BRC Record and CD Show.

In the music industry, there are many that are called “legends.” There are singers, producers, and writers that have lasted through all of the changes through the years. Roscoe Robinson is one of the great musical talents that has endured and lasted for over 49 years.

Roscoe Robinson was born in Dermott, Arkansas and went to school there before going into music full time. In his own words, “I’ve been most everywhere you could go in this business to perform.” When asked what brought him to Birmingham, he replied that Birmingham was centrally located and it was easy to get out to performances and then back. He has lived in Birmingham for over 38 years.

His first million seller was “That’s Enough” on the Scepter Label recorded in 1963 in Chicago, Illinois. He then went on to have follow-up hits with “A Thousand Rivers” and “Do It Right Now.” He has sung with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations, Patti LaBelle, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, and many others.

His gospel hits include “Sending Up My Timber”, "Lord You’ve Been Good To Me”, and “Father I Stretch My Hand Up to Thee”. After many years of singing with the “Blind Boys of Mississippi,” he started singing with the Grammy award-winning “Blind Boys of Alabama.” One of their recent albums on which he sang “Soldier in the Army of the Lord” was recorded here in Birmingham at the Sound of Birmingham studio.

His gospel work has earned Roscoe an induction twice into the “American Quartet Hall of Fame” as a member of the “Blind Boys of Mississippi” and the “Blind Boys of Alabama”.

Roscoe Robinson continues to record to this day. He recently has gone back into the recording studio to record a secular album of new contemporary songs. With his pleasing tenor voice, he is winning new fans while previous fans are rediscovering him.

While being a professional when it comes to music, Roscoe still is a very personable person and a well-liked individual. We are proud to know him musically, but more honored to have him as a BRC friend here in Birmingham.

The Birmingham Record Collectors are pleased to honor Roscoe Robinson by electing him to the Birmingham Record Collectors Music Hall of Fame, Class of 2005

Source: Birmingham Record Collectors

 

 

Roscoe Robinson was born in 1928 in either Dumont, Alabama or Dermott, Arkansas (we’ve seen it listed both ways). In any event, his family (like so many others) moved north to find work, and had settled in Gary, Indiana by the late thirties. By the time Roscoe was fourteen, he had begun singing with local 'quartet-style' Gospel groups, much like his close friend Sam Cooke.

During the 1950s, the 'golden age' of Quartet Gospel, Roscoe would sing with The Southern Sons, The Silver Quintette, The Royal Quartet, The Kelly Brothers, The Norfolk Singers, The Fairfield Four, The Gospel Jays and The Paramount Singers... talk about a veteran! Small wonder, then, that when the legendary Archie Brownlee took sick he hand-picked Robinson to be his successor in the Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi. With Brownlee's health deteriorating, Peacock owner Don Robey probably had no intention of re-signing them and sent them on their way. Brownlee's last recordings were for Chess subsidiary Marathon around October 1959. When Brownlee died of pneumonia in February of 1960, Roscoe began sharing lead vocal duties with Wilmer 'Little Ax' Broadnax, formerly of the Spirit Of Memphis Quartet.  They recorded a very successful album for Checker called "I'll Go". This was not to Robey's liking. While on tour in Houston, Robey paid them a visit. "Chess has a lot of money," he said, "why don't you tell them you're still under contract to me, and we'll sue them for big bucks!" Back to Peacock they went for 14 sides, most of them led by Roscoe Robinson. Not at all pleased with the way how Don Robey was running his business affairs with them, Roscoe and Lawrence 'Shorty' Abrams moonlighted as the Blind Boys of Ohio in 1963 on Chicago's Constellation label. Much to Roscoe's disappointment, he left (or was kicked out of, depending on which version you read)

The Blind Boys of Mississippi.  It was at this point that Roscoe decided he had no choice but to 'cross-over.' y 1973, frustrated with a perennial lack of promotion on the part of the record companies, and a public that seemed increasingly indifferent to his music, Roscoe decided to return to the Lord. The resulting album  "He Still Lives In Me" (Jewel LPS 0066), showed that Robinson remained at the top of his game. It has been re-issued in 2007 on the sublime P-Vine Japanese release Heavenly Soul Music. His next stop would be with T.K. Records subsidiary Gospel Roots, where he would work with the legendary Ralph Bass to produce "Time To Live" (Gospel Roots LP 5007) in 1977.

In 1979 he returned to the Jewel label where he was shortly reunited with the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi for the album "The Tide Of Life" (Jewel LP 0155). Later on that year, Robinson became a member of The Five Blind Boys Of Alabama around the same time that prodigal son Clarence Fountain returned (who was recording for Jewel at the same time as Roscoe). They were both aboard for the great 1982 album I'm A Soldier In The Army Of The Lord, which Roscoe co-produced with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. It was re-released on CD in 2004.

In the early eighties Robinson joined Savoy where he and, former Harmonizing Four member,  Jimmy Jones made the album "When I Get To Heaven" (Savoy LP 14667). About a year later Savoy released  his High On Jesus, (Savoy LP 14733) album. In 1987 he was back with the Five Blind Boys of Alabama recording "Thank You For Caring For Me" (Messiah LP 110). By the turn of the century Robinson himself has re-activated his Gerri label, and released an excellent album called The Gospel Stroll in 2005. In addition to the almost 'hip-hop' flava of the title track, he joins together with old friend Clarence Fountain for the amazing I Am Pressing On. Pressing on indeed, these two men are among the last living links to the 'golden age' of Quartet Gospel.

Source: Roscoe Robinson

 

 

[This post has been in the pipeline for a long time, and I figured that since we've been focusing on some under-appreciated sides that were cut at American Studios during the height of their success, now would be as good a time as any to finally make it happen. Before we go any further, I'd like to acknowledge the generous contributions of John Ciba and David Cole, without whom it never would have been possible.]

 

Roscoe Robinson was born in 1928 in either Dumont, Alabama or Dermott, Arkansas (I've seen it listed both ways). In any event, his family (like so many others) moved north to find work, and had settled in Gary, Indiana by the late thirties. Roscoe's vocal talents were evident early on and, by the time he was fourteen, he had begun singing with local 'quartet-style' Gospel groups, much like his close friend Sam Cooke.

(For the scoop on Robinson's storied Gospel career, please be sure to visit holy ghost, where I've attempted to outline it in detail...) By the early sixties, Roscoe had been essentially shut out of the Gospel field, and was having trouble finding work. He decided to try and 'cross-over' and recorded a one-off single for the Tuff label, a New York concern that was distributed by Chess. The record, What Makes A Man Do Wrong, didn't do much, and Roscoe decided to take matters into his own hands.

Reportedly pawning his Cadillac, he started up his own record company, and named it after his wife, Gerri. Drawing on the wealth of experience he had accumulated in over twenty years out on the 'Gospel Highway', he arranged and produced a song written by Raven Wildroot called That's Enough, and released it as Gerri 001 in late 1965. Backed with the deep Ivan Thompson ballad, One More Time, the record couldn't miss.

When it started to make some noise locally, Chicago record distributor Ernie Leaner got interested and, after lending Robinson the money to get his car out of hock, shopped it around to some major labels. It was picked up by Wand in New York, who agreed to allow Leaner to handle distribution in the midwest. Released as Wand 1125 in the summer of 1966, this bouncy uptown soul number spent thirteen weeks on the R&B charts, climbing as high as #7.

The follow-up (Wand 1143) was another great two-sider, How Much Pressure (Do You Think I Can Stand) backed with Do It Right Now, which were both written by Robinson as well. Both songs hit the R&B top 40 on their own in successive weeks in December 1966. His next few Wand releases failed to chart, however, and after a disagreement with the company over management issues, he walked away the following year.

His next stop was Nashville, where he would hook up with the legendary John R, the influential WLAC disc jockey that was the head of production for the Sound Stage 7 label. Roscoe became a part of the team at 'J.R. Enterprises, Inc.', and "was helping producing and arranging and putting it all together." Excellent records like One Bodillion Years and Fox Hunting On The Weekend kept him in the public eye down South, and he was getting plenty of work, but the records couldn't dent the national charts.

Today's positively AWESOME B side (the flip of Why Must it End) was recorded down in Memphis in 1968 with the 'American Studio Group' (aka The Memphis Boys) just cranking it out. I'm not sure if that's Tommy Cogbill or Mike Leech playing that bass, but, man! The punchy horn lines by Nashville stalwart Bergen White along with those high energy female vocals combine to make this one of my favorite of Roscoe's records. After his next Sound Stage 7 single (the great I'm Burning and Yearning (For You)) tanked in early 1969, Roscoe decided it was time to move on.

“John Richbourg was like a daddy,” Robinson told David Cole a few years ago, “I loved him. He was good for getting a lot of folks’ careers going. But Sound Stage 7 had a star already, Joe Simon..." Ultimately, he said, John's radio show was no longer enough to break his records nationally, and there just wasn't much promotion beyond that. It was once again time to take matters into his own hands, and he re-activated his Gerri label.

After releasing the ultra-collectable Don't Forget The Soldiers (Fighting in Vietnam) (Gerri 002), he got together with another legendary southern dee-jay, Ed 'Doctor Jive' Mendel. Mendel asked him to go into the studio and cut something, and he came back with a cover of Fred Hughes' Oo Wee Baby, I Love You that he had pressed up on Gerri. When Doctor Jive started to spin the record on the air, his phones lit up, and he knew they had a hit. He was able to place it with Atlantic, and it climbed to #42 R&B in the summer of 1969.

Somewhere around in here, Roscoe began hanging out at Sound Of Birmingham, Neal Hemphill's Alabama studio, where he worked with people like Frederick Knight, Jerry Weaver, Sam Dees and his Black Haze Express (pictured at left), and the elusive Cold Grits. The two unreleased Roscoe Robinson tracks that have come to light on John Ciba's excellent The Birmingham Sound compilation are simply amazing. If you don't have it, get it.

After so many years around the business, Roscoe knew just about everybody, and he got together with his old friends Harrison Calloway and Aaron Varnell down in Muscle Shoals in 1970. The record they produced with The Fame Gang, Don't Pretend (Just Be Yourself) (Fame 1469) is simply top shelf stuff, and one of the most sought after of all the Fame 45s, routinely going for serious cash when it shows up on eBay.

Apparently not content until he recorded in every studio in the south, Roscoe next headed for Stan Lewis' Sound City out in Shreveport, Louisiana (for more on the great records he made out there, please check out The A Side). By 1972, Robinson made the decision to 'cross back over' into Gospel music, where he, for the most part, still remains today (as I mentioned above, his Gospel side is covered at length over at holy ghost).

In 1998, Roscoe released an album of secular standards called 'Roads and Rails', and made a very well received appearance at the Blues Estafette in Utrecht, Holland as part of a Sound Stage 7 revue that also featured the great Earl Gaines. (I just read that my man Little Buster performed at the festival that year as well!)

More recently, that same album was re-issued under the title So Called Friends in 2004, and Roscoe has his Gerri label up and running again with a 2005 release, The Gospel Stroll.

He performed with Ralph 'Soul' Jackson at two shows last year that helped celebrate the release of the Sound Of Birmingham CD (a decidedly low-fi video of the Birmingham show is up on You Tube).

I know I must sound like a broken record sometimes, but Roscoe Robinson truly deserves a LOT more recognition than he's ever received. The reality is, however, that because he recorded for so many different labels, there will probably never be a decent CD overview of his work. A contemporary of Sam Cooke, who would go on to replace one of the most prominent voices in 'hard Gospel' before crossing over, just as Sam did, Roscoe should be considered a treasured part of our heritage...

Source: the "B" side: Roscoe Robinson - How Many Times Must I Knock (Sound Stage 7 2618)

Soul Masters, Roscoe RobinsonThe Gospel Stroll Remix, Roscoe RobinsonDarlin' Please Tell Me, Roscoe RobinsonOh What A Joyous Day, Roscoe RobinsonThat's Enough, Roscoe Robinson

Listen: Roscoe Robinson - Download Roscoe Robinson Music on iTunes

Listen: Amazon.com: Roscoe Robinson: Songs, Albums, Pictures, Bios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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