go rockin’ robin ’cause we’re really gonna rock tonight

FOR MOST OF US, the pe­riod in our lives when we are most pas­sionate about music is our teenage years. Some­where around 13 or 14 years old, we start both in­tense for love and equally in­tense hate af­fairs with the pop music of the day. For me, this pe­riod was 1964-1969: to this day, most of my greatest loves come from this “era.” Most of the records and artists that I have loathed also orig­i­nated during this time.

For the most part, those records that I loved then, I love now—which I take as a sign of my good taste then and now. Even better, though, is that I out­grew my hates and many (most?) of the record and artists that I hated then I like now. Some have be­come faves so dear it’s dif­fi­cult to be­lieve I ever har­bored any­thing but love for them.

This in­cludes records like “96 Tears” and “Mony Mony” and groups like the Beach Boys and the Four Sea­sons. (I tended to run screaming from falsetto voices and, if I re­member ac­cu­rately, my screaming was often pitched higher than Bri­an’s or Frankie’s vocals.)

By 1964, ’50s rock & roll hits were con­sid­ered “golden oldies” and while I had deep and long-lasting loves for music and artists from this era, I had not hates that I re­member. Hell’s Belles, I al­ways loved a few records by Frankie Avalon (“Venus” is a damn near per­fect pop record) and even teenaged Elvis wannabes (“Turn Me Loose”).

 

Elvis HoundDog PS

The ini­tial pic­ture sleeves pro­moted “Hound Dog” above “Don’t Be Cruel” as the A-side of Elvis’s third single of 1956. But the “Don’t Be Cruel” quickly over­took the in­tended hit side and RCA Victor reis­sued the sleeve with “Don’t Be Cruel” above “Hound Dog.” Both are very dif­fi­cult to find in any­thing re­sem­bling NM con­di­tion and if you do, it’s prob­ably a counterfeit!

Those oldies but goodies

But there were ’50s records that I never con­nected with emo­tion­ally or in­tel­lec­tu­ally and so I sum­marily dis­missed them and rarely looked back. I don’t think anyone would fault me for saying that the “in­tel­lec­tual” con­tent of the lyrics of many of those golden oldies was ef­fec­tively non-existent.

And while a few would con­nect with me (“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” still bowls me over), I gen­er­ally con­sid­ered songs about dancing birds with guys tweeting in the back­ground to be back­ground music that could be tol­er­ated for its pe­riod nov­elty factor.

For­tu­nately, I have ap­par­ently been as wrong about dis­missing some of those ’50s hits as I was about hating those ’60s hits. And one of them was Bobby Day’s “Rock-in Robin,” the record with the guys making the silly bird sounds in the background.

I didn’t choose to re­visit this hit from 1958: it popped up on YouTube while I was writing and for some reason, de­spite sixty years of ca­sual fa­mil­iarity with it, I “heard” it for the first time!

What a great rock & roll record!

 

BobbyDay photo close up 800

This is a pub­licity photo of Bobby Day, who cer­tainly hand­some enough to have con­sid­ered Hol­ly­wood had the recording busi­ness not panned out.

We’re really gonna rock tonight

Bobby Day was the stage name for Robert James Byrd. “Rock-in Robin” was written by Leon René under the pseu­donym “J. Thomas” (Jimmy or Jesse Thomas, de­pending). René also wrote “Little Bitty Pretty One” and “Over and Over” with Byrd.

Day recorded it using mem­bers of his former group, the Hol­ly­wood Flames. Ses­sion mu­si­cians in­cluded Barney Kessel on guitar, Earl Palmer on drums, and sax player Plas Johnson playing the pic­colo that mocks a bird’s call.

Below find the lyrics as tran­scribed by me:

 

BobbyDay RockinRobin 45 Class maroon dull 1 600

He rocks in the tree-top all the day long,
hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singing’ his song.
All the little birds on Jay­bird Street
love to hear the robin goin’ “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!”

Rockin’ robin.
Rock, rock, rockin’ robin. 
Blow, rockin’ robin
’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight!

Every little swallow, every chickadee,
every little bird in the tall oak tree,
the wise old owl, the big black crow
flap-a their wings singin’ “Go, bird! Go!”

Rockin’ robin.
Rock, rock, rockin’ robin. 
Blow, rockin’ robin
’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight!

A pretty little raven at the bird bandstand
taught him how to do the bop and it was grand.
They started goin’ steady and, bless my soul,
he out-bopped the buz­zard and the oriole!

He rocks in the tree-top all the day long,
hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singing’ his song.
All the little birds on Jay­bird Street
love to hear the robin goin’ “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!”

Rockin’ robin.
Rock, rock, rockin’ robin. 
Blow, rockin’ robin
’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight!

Well the pretty little raven at the bird bandstand
taught him how to do the bop and it was grand.
They started goin’ steady and, bless my soul,
he out-bopped the buz­zard and the oriole!

He rocks in the tree-top all the day long,
hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singing’ his song.
All the little birds on Jay­bird Street
love to hear the robin goin’ “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!”

Rockin’ robin.
Rock, rock, rockin’ robin. 
Blow, rockin’ robin
’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight!

“Rock-in Robin” peaked at #2 on Bill­board’s Hot 100 but only reached #4 on the Cash Box Top 100. The B-side was “Over And Over” and on the R&B sur­veys, “Rock-in Robin” / “Over and Over” was a double-sided hit that reached #1.

 

BobbyDay RockinRobin LP Class 600

Day’s record was so pop­ular that tiny Class Record loos­ened their purse-strings and paid for an album. Un­like the single, it did not find a big au­di­ence and is a rather rare record today.

This dance is gonna be a drag

Both sides of Day’s single had a lengthy ca­reer in the Top 40: in 1965, the Dave Clark Five had their last #1 record in the US with their ver­sion of “Over and Over.”

In 1972, Michael Jack­son’s recording of “Rockin’ Robin” went to #1 on Cash Box but pooped out at #2 on Bill­board.

In 1986, “Bobby Day’s “Rock-in Robin” was fea­tured in the movie Stand by Me.

René and Day also wrote “Little Bitty Pretty One,” which was a hit for Thurston Harris in 1957, Clyde McPhatter in 1962, and the Jackson Five in 1972.

My fa­vorite ver­sion is former Lovin’ Spoonful member Zal Yanovsky’s de­light­fully stoned reading from his solo album, 1968’s Alive and Well in Ar­gentina.

go rockin’ robin ’cause we’re re­ally gonna rock tonight Click To Tweet

Bird Robin Beijinger 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of the page is of a red and brown feath­ered Eu­ro­pean robin who was first spotted at the Bei­jing Zoo in China on Jan­uary 9, 2019. This is only the third known Eu­ro­pean robin to land in Bei­jing, the pre­vious sighting was in 2014 While this robin is of Eu­ro­pean de­scent, the Chi­nese as­so­ciate it with Eng­land and have dubbed this par­tic­ular bird a “Brexit refugee.”

Postscript

Like those ’60s records that I can’t un­der­stand now how I ever hated them then, I’m baf­fled that I missed Bobby Day’s great singing all these years. Of course, this prob­ably means I’ve been missing other records from the ’50s equally great and that I have more new dis­cov­eries about past mis­takes still to come in the future …

 

 

 

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