THE HENCHMEN
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
Australia 1965
#27 Sydney #5 Melbourne #1 Brisbane #3 Adelaide #2 Perth

Single on Go!! label by Melbourne band originally known as The AMP Men after the insurance company where three members worked. They later became The Pacifics (not the Brisbane band of the same name) and, for a while, Kevin Thompson & The Henchmen. Lead singer Kevin Thompson had left by the time of Rockin' Robin, replaced by Rick Diamond.

The Henchmen were signed to Go!! as part of their prize for winning the 3UZ Sound Spectacular, a precursor of the Battle of the Sounds.

As it happens, there were some big stars in town with the Big Show Tour at that time. As Doug Osborne of The Henchmen recalls:

The judges were Cilla Black, Freddie & The Dreamers, and a big British band called Sounds Incorporated. Cilla Black just loved us, and also our rendition of Keep Searchin’, the Del Shannon hit, as we were one of the few groups around that used an organ, which featured in the song.

The single was produced by DYT Productions, with the participation of DYT's Horrie Dargie (of the Horrie Dargie Quintet) and engineer Roger Savage.

Doug Osborne recalls the session:

It was actually Horrie Dargie's idea to put the hand claps at the start of Rockin' Robin. We were all so nervous at the time, and so Horrie went out and bought a carton of Melbourne Bitter, came back with the grog, and made each one of us drink an entire large bottle before we did the first recording take and we did it one go!

Another member of the Horrie Dargie Quintet was a professional photographer (Joe) and he took our publicity shots. They also sent us all to the Joe Latona School of Dancing, to be personally tutored by Joe himself, to prepare us for stage work/TV etc, but we all had three left feet!

The Henchmen were managed by John McMahon, manager and presenter at 3UZ:

I clearly recall all of us being led into his office at 3UZ, whereupon his first words to us were, "No grog on stage, no long hair, suits worn on stage, and no swearing! OK!"

The Henchmen's single was also released in the USA on Swan #4249 (1966). It was the second (#5002) to be recorded on the new Go!! label. As Everybody's magazine reported on 19 May 1965:

The Rondells will be third to record on the Go label, then comes Terry Dean as the fourth. The Henchmen (winners of the 3UZ Sound Spectacular) were second and of course Bobby and Laurie were first. (Quoted at Bonnie's Laurie Allen Tribute.)

See also The Henchmen's unreleased track That's What I Want.

Thanks to Doug Osborne.

THE BOOMERANGS
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
UK 1964

Single on Fontana by Manchester band Ian & The Boomerangs. See ManchesterBeat for personnel and discography.
THE RIVIERAS
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
USA 1964

Single on Riviera label by band from Indiana best known for their 1964 hit California Sun.

CLIFF RICHARD & THE DRIFTERS
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
UK 1958

On 1958 album Oh Boy! produced by Harry Robinson and Norrie Paramor at Abbey Road. The Ciff Richard Song Database has full details.
BOBBY DAY
Rock-in Robin*
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
USA 1958
Original version
#2 USA #9 Sydney #16 Melbourne #7 Brisbane #2 Perth

*The title was printed on the label as Rock-in Robin.


Single on Class. Double-sided hit in Sydney with Over And Over.

Bobby Day also recorded under his real name, Bobby Byrd1, and with a number of vocal groups, notably The Satellites, known as The Hollywood Flames by the time they appeared with Day on Rock-in Robin.

The Hollywood Flames had also charted in 1957 with Buzz Buzz Buzz, co-written by Day (#11 USA). Vocals on Buzz Buzz Buzz were by Earl Nelson who would later form Bob And Earl with Bobby Day. (Day had left Bob And Earl when the classic Harlem Shuffle [1963] was recorded.)

In 1957 Bobby Day recorded the original of Little Bitty Pretty One, his own composition, but Thurston Harris's cover became the hit version (#6 USA). The B-side of Rockin' Robin, Over And Over, written by Bobby, was a hit by British Invasion band The Dave Clark Five in 1965 (#1 USA, minor hit in UK and Australia).


Rock-in Robin was written by the owner of the Class label, Leon René, using the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas. Leon René (1902-1980) was an experienced record executive and songwriter (When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano, Sleepy Time Down South). He formed Class in 1951 when his independent r&b labels Exclusive and Excelsior closed.

See also the history and discographies of Class and its associated label Rendezvous at Both Sides Now; and the profile of Leon René at the Afro-Louisiana Historical & Genealogical Society.


1. Bobby Byrd (aka Bobby Day) of the Hollywood Flames should not be confused with James Brown associate and vocalist Bobby Byrd of The Famous Flames.

Thanks to Dave Overett for the completing the Bob & Earl connection.

Later versions:

GENE VINCENT
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
UK 1969
Later version

On I'm Back And I'm Proud, late-career album by revered US rocker Gene Vincent (1935-1971). Released on UK disc jockey John Peel's Dandelion label.

FREDDY CANNON
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
USA 1971
Later version

Single on Buddah by Bandstand regular, often on the charts from 1959, known inevitably as Freddy 'Boom Boom' Cannon or The Explosive! Freddy Cannon. He was at least as popular in Australia as he was in the US.

His biggest hits in the US were Tallahassee Lassie (1959), Way Down Yonder In New Orleans (1959), and Palisades Park (1962), but he's also remembered for such good-humored pop-rockers as Transistor Sister (1961), If You Were A Rock And Roll Record (1962) and - my favourite - Abigail Beecher (my history teacher, 1964). His last hit was in 1965 with Action, from the TV pop show Where The Action Is.

Further reading: Brian Lee's Freddy Cannon page at Color Radio is unsurpassable. The extensive label shots alone are worth a visit: even Rockin' Robin is there. Freddy Cannon's own site is at www.freddycannon.com.

MICHAEL JACKSON
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
USA 1972
Later version
#2 USA #3 UK #44 Sydney #2 Melbourne #10 Adelaide #4 Perth #16 NZ

Early single by future superstar Michael Jackson, his second as a solo act, also on his first solo album Got To Be There (1972).

BULLDOG
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
USA 1972
Later version

On the self-titled album by a rock band that included ex-Rascals Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish.

Another fine song off the album qualifies Bulldog as one-hit-wonders, at least in Australasia: No charted in Melbourne (#2), Brisbane (#13), Adelaide (#7) and New Zealand (#17).

For more about No see Only in Oz (11) at PopArchives: The Blog.

Further reading: The album reviewed at All Music Guide.
Thanks
to Garry Patterson.

NINE BELOW ZERO
Rockin' Robin
(Jimmie Thomas [Leon Rene])
UK 1981
Later version

On album Don't Point Your Finger by mod revival band.

Corrections or comments? Contact the writer.