James Marshall charts the epic tale of New York City’s rock’n’roll history, embodied in the story of the city’s greatest rock’n’roll guitar player, a man you probably never even heard of.

“I’m not good, I’m just different”— Wild Jimmy Spruill

Rock’n’roll was not born in Memphis when Elvis started goofing around on an old Arthur Crudup song.  It wasn’t born in New Orleans when a “Fat” kid rewrote a junkie blues song as a rolling and upbeat nearly-pop song. It wasn’t born in Chicago when Mississippi bluesmen acquired electric instruments and amplification.

It was not born anywhere, it was born everywhere — in nearly every large American city, in nearly every region. These regional styles developed by bringing together the local sounds with all the other sounds and musical styles in the air of post-World War II America:  blues, country, vocal groups and small combo jazz.

A seemingly disparate collection of musicians emerged — Louis Jordan (a graduate of Chick Webb’s big swing band) and the Maddox Brothers and Rose (traveling “fruit tramps” right out of Steinbeck, who played a Dexedrine-fueled style of hillbilly boogie that rocked as hard as anything Elvis would ever do, ever the visionaries they called their speed-fueled cover of Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” “The Death Of Rock and Roll” in 1956, the year Elvis hit the pop charts); Johnnie Ray, a deaf, gay kid who became a teen idol by sobbing and whimpering all over the stage; Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Texas electric blues guitarist who had been Blind Lemon Jefferson’s lead boy; Professor Longhair, a New Orleans pianist who introduced Afro-Cuban rhythms to the blues scene; and Gatemouth Brown, who turned T-Bone Walker’s cool electric guitar stylings into wild blasts of sonic noise, influencing Guitar Slim and a thousand other electric axe-wielders.


New York may be known more for jazz and Broadway shows and major labels like RCA and Columbia with large classical departments, but New York is big enough to produce pretty much everything, including rock’n’roll.


There were the saxophone honkers like Joe Houston and Big Jay McNeely, big with the Pachuko crowd in East L.A., and tent show drag queens whose style and repertoire would crystalize in the superstardom of Little Richard, who left the piano covered in sweat and nail polish at the end of each show. There were spangled cowboys and badass razor-totin’ mamas, and plenty of Native Americans off the reservation (Charlie Feathers, Jackie Morningstar, Marvin Rainwater, and Link Wray) — it can almost be said that rockabilly was a Native American invention.

All of these sounds and more, it all went into a boiling cauldron in the Dr. Frankenstein’s lab that was America popular music. Eventually it all came out as rock’n’roll.  Back then the idea was to be different, to look and sound unique; unlike today, where machines and computers and producers make sure it all sounds exactly the same, rock’n’roll was a like a virus, constantly mutating, and as each region developed its own style, these styles would spread to and influence other regions thanks to records and radio. Radio was especially important: the 50,000 watt blasters across the border in Mexico, where a Howlin’ Wolf fan from Brooklyn renamed himself Wolfman Jack and spun these records; the local yokels like “Daddy-O” Dewey Phillips in Memphis; Jocko’s Rocketship in New York City; Alan Freed in Cleveland; Danny “Cat Man” Styles in Newark, N.J.;, and the Mad Daddy in Akron, Ohio. With the help of radio, these sounds combined and re-combined, like germs in a petri dish.

The music put a soundtrack to the rebellion that was fomenting in other areas of the arts. On the silver screen, there was James Dean crying in the gutter with his stuffed monkey, and Marlon Brando on a Harley and leather jacket, rebelling against “Whatya got?”; and in literature, the beats and existentialists were giving their voices to the spirit of rebellion with works like On The Road, Howl, The Stranger. Everywhere you looked you could find that same mindset — it was the mindset of white kids buying Jimmy Reed records.

The really hip teenager visionaries figured it was already over by that point. The greasers and hipsters knew all about Kerouac, and they knew all about Jimmy Reed, the Midnighters and Johnny Otis. Kids like Bobby Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minnesota who shocked his high school by pounding out Little Richard’s “True Fine Mama” on the piano at the yearly talent show. Soon he changed his name to Elston Gunnn (three n’s) and took the piano seat in local bands, like Terry Lee & the Poor Boys and Bobby Vee & the Shadows; this was before he found Woody Guthrie and poetry — but he would work his way back to rock’n’roll and leather jackets soon enough.

The often misinformed books and product-driven magazines that pretend to tell the story of this music have assigned to New York City, as its own regional rock’n’roll style, the “doo-wop” vocal group sound — a sound that was born on the street corners and in the parks, in the tenement stairwells and subway passages where the echo was good. There, you would find teenage a cappella singers imitating stars of the day: the Ink Spots and the Orioles; the Teenagers, black and Hispanic kids from Harlem led by Frankie Lymon, a prepubescent gofer at a Harlem whorehouse; the Chantels, white-gloved schoolgirls from the Bronx; and the Belmonts, Italian kids from the Fordham Baldies gang, who could be found  “throwin’ doo-wops” as they bounded down Belmont Ave. But they were just a small part of the story that is New York rock’n’roll. New York has everything — and it had more rock’n’roll than just the Jesters and the Paragons.

There was more, much more — more sounds and more styles, and today they are all nearly forgotten and it is rarely written about.

Bobby Robinson 1965

The majority of New York’s black population came from the diaspora of Southern blacks moving north from the Carolinas and Georgia, fleeing the hard labor of the tobacco farms and the terror of Jim Crow lynchings for a better life in the city. They headed for New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Newark and other cities in the Northeast, and they brought their music with them; in the North, it was slowly wrought into the stew that was becoming known as rock’n’roll.  New York even had its own blues scene that fed into rock’n’roll.  And since it was New York City there were plenty of record labels around to record it, from small fly-by-nights to soon-to-become-majors; these were mom and pop operations without their own distribution, run by Jews and Italians and African Americans, even a Turk, who could scrape together a few bucks — like Atlantic, Apollo, Herald, Old Town, Jubilee.

But most important to our story today is the family of labels run by the brothers Robinson, Bobby and Danny. Bobby was headquartered on Harlem’s major thoroughfare, 125th Street, in his record store, Bobby’s Happy House, which would survive into the 21st century (see footnote). New York may be known more for jazz and Broadway shows and major labels like RCA and Columbia with large classical departments, but New York is big enough to produce pretty much everything, including rock’n’roll.

This long-winded introduction finally brings us to our subject today: James Edgar “Wild Jimmy” Spruill, rock’n’roll guitarist extraordinaire.

Wild Jimmy Spruill

Wild Jimmy Spruill

Today, if remembered at all, Jimmy Spruill is best known as a studio musician, one who made great rock’n’roll records on the side — as did other session players, like saxophone player King Curtis and New York’s other unsung guitar hero Mickey “Guitar” Baker. But in my less-than-humble opinion, no one made better or more unique records than Wild Jimmy Spruill. He lived up to his nickname and then some.

On stage, Jimmy Spruill was showman par excellence. As a player, he was a stylist with an immediately unique and recognizable sound he dubbed “scratchy”. This style was accomplished by loosely choking up on the neck of the guitar and dragging his pick across the strings to make a quivering twang that was immediately identifiable, whether on his own discs (which few people have heard since none were hits, and he didn’t make many of them to start with), or on other people’s hits from 1959 until 1964 (he played on numerous Top Ten pop and R&B chartbusters, and hundreds of those destined for obscurity, then the auction list and eBay); rockers that are as good as they are wild, as singular as anything produced in Memphis or New Orleans, or anywhere else for that matter.

His solo sides appeared on labels owned by the Robinson brothers — Fire, Vest, Everlast, Vim, Enjoy, Clock, Cee Jay…

From the early 80s until the early 90s, as the punk scene grew progressively less interesting — ravaged by death, co-opted by major labels and “new wave” and MTV, those in-the-know, those with a spirit of adventure, discovered that right under our noses the last vestiges of rock’n’roll’s first generation were still alive. The music was in its final moments for sure, but the characters who invented this music were out there, still playing. They may have retreated back to the shadows that they had emerged from, but on any given night Esquerita, Bob Gaddy, Larry Dale, Rosco Gordon, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and others were playing for very little money and almost no notoriety.

If you knew where to look they were there — and they were a lot more fun than New Romantic, Post-Punk and whatever else the music biz was trying to shove down our throats. Not only that, if the place had wheelchair access, like the old Tramps on 16th Street or the Lone Star Cafe at 13th & 5th, you could find the great songwriter Doc Pomus holding court, generous with his knowledge and insight and full of incredible stories of incredible people. Thankfully, although it took two decades, his story has been told (see Alex Halberstadt’s biography Lonely Avenue and Peter Miller’s documentary A.K.A. Doc Pomus)

It was around this time, the early 80s, that I struck up a brief friendship with Wild Jimmy Spruill. Wilbert Harrison’s “Kansas City,” highlighted by Jimmy’s quivering guitar solo, was the #1 record the day I was born, and we were both Geminis, so I always felt some sort of connection to Jimmy, who was one of the nicest and most decent people I’ve ever met in the music biz.  The following is from an interview I did with Jimmy at his Bronx apartment in 1992, an excerpt concerning his early years.  The first generation of rock’n’rollers came up hard.Wild Jimmy Spruill

JM: You’re from North Carolina?

JS: Washington, North Carolina [in the eastern part of the state].

JM: Your folks were farmers?

JS: Sharecroppers. Work somebody else’s land. House was made of mud. You know what flour is, right? You take that and boil it and make a glue, and glue the newspaper upside the walls so the air wouldn’t come in. There was cracks in it, we had to put glue upside the wall to keep from freezin’ to death.

JM: You were born in the Depression?

JS:  I was born in ‘34. My mother picked cotton every day. First time I heard a blues song, it was [sings in falsetto woman’s voice] “Oh lord, help me make it through the day”. But there was no instruments — when they first put instruments to it they call it the blues. Magazine [Living Blues] asked me if I liked blues; I said, “No!” Blues and blues music is two different things. You want to be sad? I don’t. But they didn’t understand when I told them I didn’t like the blues. So they put it in the magazine “Jimmy don’t like the blues.” First music I like was Gene Autry.

JM: Hank Ballard told me the same thing — his first influence was Gene Autry.

JS: Hank Ballard. Nice guy. But some people don’t understand what the blues is. Who wanna be sad? You wanna be miserable? No money? What do you call the blues?

JM: What do I call the blues? I guess that melancholy feeling when everything is going wrong.

JS: Now do you like that? I don’t. Snake be running through your legs when you pickin’ cotton. You don’t know anything about that? You be pickin’ potatoes and you pick up a snake.

JM: That’d give you the blues I guess … Did you have a lot of brothers and sisters?

JS: Two each.

JM: All work in the field?

JS: Yep. They had outhouses back then — you go to the outhouse, see a black snake come out, run like hell. We didn’t have no money. Christmas time you may get something. But there wasn’t nothing.

JM: How old were you when you came to New York City?

JS: Twenty-one. Maybe ’55, I was superintendent of a house so I was sittin’ on the stoop, playing guitar — Danny Robinson, Bobby Robinson’s brother (see footnote on the Robinson brothers) wanted me to record.  He put me in the studio with Charlie Walker. The first thing I played on was Charlie Walker [Charles Walker Band with James Spruill, “Driving Home Pts. 1 & 2” (Holiday) issued 1957.] And the next one I did was Noble Watts’s “Hard Times.”

JM: That’s a great one.

JS: That was a hit. I was freelancin’, playin’ in the studio band. I did one — [sings riff to “Jookin’” by Noble Watts] “Jookin’” — I’m playing three parts. Overdubbed three guitar parts.

JM: So were you workin’ strictly for the Robinson brothers at the time?

JS: No, I’d work for anybody. But Bobby Robinson really took care of me, give me work on records so I could go out and earn money doin’ gigs.  I worked with Teddy Powell, the booking agent, playing behind Chuck Berry, James Brown, whoever needed a guitar player. If they needed a house band, I’d do it.

JM: So this is when you formed the Hell Raisers? Where did the Hell Raisers play?

JS: We played Hotel Manhattan downtown, all kinds of places, everyplace — from the Apollo to weddings. But I played mostly the Baby Grand, Small’s Paradise on 7th Ave (*Author’s Note: it closed in 1986 but it re-opened for a short time in the 90’s.)  I played every club in New York— Harlem, Bronx, Brooklyn, out in Newark sometimes. I didn’t want to tour, so I stayed close to home — make more money playin’ sessions than touring.

JM: Who were the Hell Raisers back then?

JS: Charlie Lucas played second guitar behind me, Horace Cooper was on piano, John Robertson was the drummer, the sax player was a guy named Bam Walters. We’d play anything — a little rock, blues, some calypso. No country, very little jazz.  There was a place called the Rockin’ Palace on 156th Street and 8th Avenue, we’d play intermission and they’d have headliners like Sam Cooke or Jackie Wilson. I played in King Curtis’s band on and off, mostly in the studio. I played the Apollo with Wilbert Harrison, the Howard Theater behind Noble Watts. I was making enough money in the city that I didn’t have to travel. I got a lot of offers but the money was better at home. I was living on 116th Street at the time, between Madison and 5th Avenue.

Jimmy Spruill’s unique guitar style was fully formed by the time he made his first recordings. His “scratchy,” ultra-twangy guitar sound soon graced dozens of records that came out of New York City, most especially those on Bobby Robinson’s family of labels — rockers like Buster Brown, who had a minor hit with Fanny Mae, upon which the Stones would based “The Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man.” A version of the Stones performing it, with the original lyrics, survives on the Stones’ first live BBC broadcast. Check out his “Broadway On Fire,” on the short-lived Gwen label, for some of Jimmy’s most blues-wailing licks:

Broadway on Fire: 

There were singles by Larry Dale, Bob Gaddy, King Curtis, Horace Cooper, Hal Paige, Bobby Long, and others.  Fun girl-group trash, like “He’s A Bad Motorcycle” by the Storey Sisters:

Jimmy would reunite with Gaddy and Dale near the end of his life, after retiring the Hell Raisers, appearing as a special guest at many of their gigs. His sides with Wilbert Harrison deserve special mention. In addition to the #1 hit “Kansas City,” there was “Let’s Stick Together” — later a hit for both Canned Heat and Bryan Ferry

Harrison’s Geechie North Carolina accent — Geechies were the descendants of African slaves living on Georgia’s Sea Islands — never sounded better than when set against Spruill’s guitar. Also of note was Elmore James, whose final sides feature Spruill’s scratchy guitar, which provides a churning rhythm behind Elmore’s shimmering slide work. These discs appeared on a mindboggling plethora of Bobby Robinson-owned labels — Fire, Enjoy, Sphere Sound, etc.

Jimmy Spruill said, “If I could play half as good as Elmore, I’d be okay … He could really play.”

These would be Elmore James’s last recordings and Elmore’s shimmering slide guitar matched against Jimmy’s scratchy guitar sound is truly a thing of beauty and wonder. James died in May of ’63, just before the white “blues revival” that would have surely made him into a major blues act.

Another high-water mark of Wild Jimmy Spruill’s recording career is the Fury record of Tarheel Slim (Allen Bunn, another North Carolina native), with and without sidekick Little Ann; it was perhaps the greatest rock’n’roll record ever recorded in New York City, featuring “#9 Train” and “Wildcat Tamer,” among others.

The studio work kept Jimmy plenty busy — he can be heard on “Dedicated To The One I Love” by the Shirelles, “The Happy Organ” by Dave “Baby” Cortez, “Tossin’ & Turnin’” by Bobby Lewis, “Desiree” by the Charts. Jimmy was paid a flat fee for his session work and saw no royalties. But eventually he grew bored of session work and phased it out, moving on to different jobs including decorator, painter, plumber, guitar-maker and nearly a hundred others.

JS: I don’t care about money. You know what I like? Being happy. Go to Atlantic City maybe for a couple of days. I do my work. If I get money for it, I don’t give a damn. It don’t bother me. I’m not a money hound.

JM: Somebody’s makin’ money — those records are still selling.

JS: That don’t bother me. If I see a person, and I like that person’s face, I’ll do it. I did some session with John Hammond (Jr.). I’m building a guitar for him right now.

JM: Did you play music full time? When did you stop making a living at it?

JS: About fifteen years ago [*Author’s Note: that would have been around ’77.] I just kinda stopped. I get bored easy. I’ve had over a hundred jobs. Now I do a lot a decorating, re-doing people’s apartments, houses. But Larry Johnson tracked me down and asked me if I wanted to play Terra Blues [*Blues and folk club on Bleecker Street, still in business last time I looked.]  So I did that and then the offers started coming in to play again, a lot of downtown places, that I hadn’t played before — Tramps, Dan Lynch…

Jimmy was an incredible showman and one of the greatest live performers I’d ever seen — living up to his “Wild” moniker and then some. He’d play with his feet, teeth, ass, twirl the guitar over his head, drag it across the stage, never missing a note. It was the closest thing to Guitar Slim in his prime I would ever get to witness. The word spread and he became a decent size draw in downtown blues joints, although he got almost zero press and, with the exception of my old WFMU radio show, no airplay. When the UK Crazy Kat label issued a quasi-bootleg LP of his best solo 45s and most obscure sessions work, they couldn’t even find a photo of him for the cover, using a terrible drawing that looked like a five-year-old did it. Still, it helped spread his name around. His solo discs were mostly recorded under the auspices of Bobby and/or Danny Robinson — “Hard Grind” (Fire), “Scratchin’” (Vim), “The Rooster” (Enjoy), “Raisin’ Hell” (Clock), et al — and they are all fairly hard to track down, although they’ve now been re-issued on CD [see Wild Jimmy Spruill “Scratch & Twist” on Night Train and “The Hard Grind Blues Man” on Crazy Kat (UK)]; Jimmy’s final gigs were known only to the hippest collectors.

Hard Grind:

Scratching:

Scratch & Twist:   

The Rooster:

JS: I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again.

JM: Your style is so unusual — that super scratchy, twangy sound. Where does that come from?

JS: Well, you know, you’re a Gemini, you know anything can come out at any time.

JM: But most guitar players, when you hear them, you can say, Well, he listened to T-Bone Walker or He listened to Charlie Christian… I can’t think of anyone that you sound like.

JS: Well, I call it the Creator, some people call it God or religion — but it just comes to me. It don’t matter what I believe in, it just come out of me that way it come out.  I never play the same thing twice, the same way. It’s all the same to me, whatever I’m doin’. I fix hi-fi’s, computers, TV’s — it’s the same as music, it just came to me. If it break, I can fix it. I just fixed my remote (hold his TV remote up). Just opened it up and figured out where the loose wire was supposed to go. I just call all that, everything I can do, come from the Creator. I’m not gonna sing gospel like “Oh Lord Oh Lord,” but somehow the Creator come out when I play.

JS: One thing about me, whatever you write about me, I don’t give a shit, you wanna write it, write it (*As it turns out, the New York Times never ran the piece I wrote about Jimmy.) I don’t care what nobody say, ain’t nobody gonna help you out no way. Nobody gonna give you any money. All they wanna do is come and take things away from you. (*At this time, Jimmy seemed a bit miffed by some of the coverage he’d gotten in British blues mags, and about writers asking for photos, records and whatever ephemera he may have saved. Like many old timers, he didn’t have any copies of his own records.)

JS: I love my music, but I got tired of hearing people [younger musicians] play it messed up. So that was one reason I stopped. Now I been playing with Larry Dale and his band — they know my music, they from the same background as me.

JM: You recorded a lot with King Curtis. There’s one under the name of the Commandos that I love — “June’s Blues and Chicken Scratch”

King Curtis & Jimmy Spruill- June’s Blues and Chicken Scratch:

JS: Yeah, that was me and King Curtis. We use a different name, the Commandos, because we both under contract to somebody else. I don’t think Bobby Robinson care if I record for other people at the time anyway — but Curtis with Atlantic, they probably didn’t like it.

Jimmy didn’t consider himself a good guitar player, something I’d come across with many of my favorite guitarists (*Ike Turner was another one who thought his own guitar playing was subpar…)

JS: I’m not a musician, but I’m an artist. I’m an entertainer. A lot of people think I’m playing. I can’t play, —I can clown, but I play with feeling. That’s good. If I have to play I play, but I’m more of a showman. I’m not good, I’m just different. I don’t want to be great — I just want to enjoy what I do. If people like it, good. If other people don’t like it, that’s fine too. I want them to like it, but if they don’t, I don’t care. If I don’t like something, I won’t do it.

JM: Were you surprised when they put out that bootleg of your solo recordings [Hard Grind Bluesman, Krazy Kat, UK, issued in ’86]?

JS:  No, I’m not surprised, because they make money off it. But they put picture of some old black man on it — that’s not me, I never looked liked that. They put out another one with a picture of me on it, but I don’t have it.

JM: It’s basically a bootleg.

JS: Yeah, I don’t care. I don’t get paid either way. Here, look at this — I’m building a guitar now for John Hammond Jr. and I’m gonna play on his record. First time I’ve recorded in about eight years. Jimmy Lewis who played in King Curtis’s band called me, said this guy want to hire me for a session. Nice guy, I ended up building this guitar for him.

THE DEATH OF ROCK’N’ROLL

Eventually, they started dying off, one by one. By the turn of the century, they were nearly all gone, Bobby Robinson was the last to go, struggling to keep his store open on 125th Street right to the end. He lasted until January of 2011. Jimmy’s own death itself was a matter of no small intrigue, to say the least. 

THE CASE OF THE MISSING BLUESMAN: THE LONESOME DEATH OF JIMMY SPRUILL

In February of 1996, Jimmy Spruill headed to Florida via bus to help out his old pal saxophone honker Noble “Thin Man” Watts whose earliest side he had played on in the 1950s. Watts was recording a new album in his home studio in DeLand, Florida. En route, Jimmy either lost or had his wallet stolen and was traveling without ID. On his return trip, he had a heart attack on the bus and passed away, oddly enough right outside of Fayetteville, N.C. the closest town to where he was born. The unknown corpse was brought to the morgue where it sat on ice for two weeks. Meanwhile, back in the Bronx, Jimmy’s wife and adult twin daughters were frantic. It wasn’t like Jimmy to not call home every night, and now it was going on weeks without a word. It made the local news broadcasts: “The Missing Bluesman!” I remember flipping channels and seeing Jimmy’s smiling face splashed across the screen on channel 11 here in NYC. Eventually word reached the N.C. morgue where they had been trying to identify the body that was on the bus. It was Jimmy. And so ends the story of Wild Jimmy Spruill. Back to the soil of North Carolina. 

DEATH, A GOOD CAREER MOVE

With the internet and the ability to have virtually everything at your fingertips, Jimmy’s music became rather easy to find, and he has become much more popular in death than he was in life. It’s too bad there’s no live footage — the crazed stage act may be lost forever. The reissue world has served him well; notably, issued after his death are two essential CD collections, they belong in any rock’n’roll fan’s house:

Wild Jimmy Spruill – Scratch ’N Twist [Night Train] rounds up all his solo sides, many obscure instrumentals that he is featured prominently on, and even a few un-issued tracks; and Scratchin’: The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story [Highnote], a two-CD set with 61 tracks, an excellent selection of hits and misses, chart toppers and flops, giving an excellent picture of the entire scope of his recorded music.

###

*1 (Footnote or sidebox) Bobby & Danny Robinson :
Bobby Robinson was a label owner, producer, writer, record store owner and hustler. Among the acts he worked with over the years include Wilbert Harrison, Lee Dorsey, Gladys Knight & the Pips, King Curtis, Elmore James, the Shirelles. He was an important figure in the early years of hip hop and released discs by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Spoonie G, Doug E. Fresh, the Treacherous Three, et al. Among his labels were Fire, Fury, Robin, Red Robins, Whirlin’ Disc, Enjoy, Sphere Sound, and others. As an independent label, it was the hits, not the misses that ended up bankrupting him numerous times. When he would have a hit, like Wilbert Harrison’s “Kansas City” or Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya”, he would have to pay the pressing plants to press up millions of discs (not to mention paying for studio time, musicians, etc.). Often the time lapse between this outflow of cash and getting paid from the distributors (if they paid at all, many wouldn’t pay until Bobby had another hit coming down the pike) would send him into receivership. As a black businessman with a Harlem address, the banks wouldn’t loan him money (the only way to borrow was from gangsters, hence many of his masters ending up in the hands of such dubious characters as Joe Robinson and Morris Levy.) But Bobby was a tenacious sort, and he kept at it right up until the end. At the time of his death in 2011, his record store had been forced out of business by the sky-high rents on 125th Street and one of New York’s most important, if unheralded, institutions was replaced by a Starbucks.

Bobby Robinson

Bobby Robinson

*(Bobby and Danny Robinson were black record producers and label owners from North Carolina who settled in Harlem. Together they had the Everlast and Enjoy labels. Danny himself owned Vest, Flying, Holiday and Fling Records. Bobby had Fire, Fury, Sphere Sound, Robin and Red Robin and partnered with Jerry Blaine for the Whirlin’ Disc label. Together they produced hundreds of rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues records. Among the R&B, rock’n’roll and blues artists they worked with were Wilbert Harrison, Lee Dorsey, Gladys Knight & the Pips, King Curtis, Elmore James, Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Shirelles, Arthur Crudup, and dozens of doo wop groups such as the Charts, the Starlites,  the Scarlets, the Vocaleers, and Lewis Lymon & the Teenchords.

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