Monday, March 12, 2012


Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know the story - Brits invade these shores in 1964 with great music based on American R&B, and in many cases have hits with songs that were originally done by R&B artists. Which is why records like this one by Bobby Day always make me smile - he COMPLETELY rips off the Brits, namely the Rolling Stones!

Bobby Day (born Robert Byrd in Fort Worth, TX on July 1, 1928) didn't need to rip anyone off. He's known today as a one-hit wonder for his monster 1958 smash "Rock-In Robin", but he was so much more - a writer, producer, record label owner and music publisher, involved in a number of hit records over the years. But, hey, VH1 watchers can't be bothered to find out any of that information (their little brains get taxed easily). That's why I'm here.

In the late 1940s, Robert Byrd left his home state of Texas and lit out for California in search of fame and fortune. He was soon playing in clubs in Los Angeles, including Johnny Otis' Barrelhouse Club, where he changed his name to Bobby Day. He also formed a group, called The Flames, later to be known as The Hollywood Flames. After recording a few singles (oddly enough, under his real name) for the Sage & Sand, Cash and Jamie labels, Bobby signed with Class Records in 1957, which was a label owned by songwriter Leon Rene (writer of hit songs such as "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman", the doo-wop standard "Gloria", "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" and his best-known tune "When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano").

One of the first singles Bobby Day recorded for Class was a tune he had written called "Little Bitty Pretty One". The record failed to sell, but became a big hit a few months later for Thurston Harris on the Aladdin label. But Bobby wasn't exactly starving for a hit - at about the same time Thurston Harris was hitting the charts with "Little Bitty Pretty One", Bobby and his group The Hollywood Flames had a hit record on the Ebb label with "Buzz-Buzz-Buzz", also written by Bobby Day. The song had the line "Well, buzz-buzz-buzz goes the bumble bee/Tweedlee-deedlee-dee goes the bird" - which would later come in handy in a big way for Bobby.

During 1958, Bobby and his entourage were VERY busy - Bobby continued to release solo singles for Class, while he and The Hollywood Flames continued to make records for Ebb AND moonlight as The Turks for the Keen label ("Fathertime"). Plus, since he apparently wasn't busy enough, Bobby formed a duo with fellow Flame Earl Nelson and called themselves Bob and Earl (Earl later paired with another Bob - Bobby Relf - and THAT Bob and Earl had the hits with "Harlem Shuffle" and "Baby, It's Over". To make things even MORE confusing, Bobby Relf also made records as Bobby Garrett; Earl Nelson would later record as Earl Cosby and, as Jackie Lee, would have a huge hit with "The Duck" in late 1965).

Leon Rene of Class Records must have been getting tired of all the shenanigans - in early 1958 he wrote a song (under the nom de plume of Jimmie Thomas - didn't ANYBODY on the West Coast do business under their own name???) called "Rock-In Robin" (known today as "Rockin' Robin" - but original Class 45s all say "Rock-In Robin"). When it came time to record the song, either Bobby or Leon decided to steal the "tweedlee-deedlee-dee" from "Buzz-Buzz-Buzz" and have the background singers chant it. For the flip, one of Bobby Day's own songs, "Over And Over", was chosen. The record became a million-selling smash, hitting #2 on the charts, and Bobby appeared on most of the top music shows of the day (including "American Bandstand").

Unfortunately, despite several great follow-ups (including the "Rock-In Robin" answer "The Bluebird, The Buzzard And The Oriole"), Bobby Day never had another hit, and he parted ways with Leon Rene in 1962. Signing with RCA Victor in 1963, Bobby worked with Jack Nitzsche (Phil Spector's right-hand man) on a series of singles which, unfortunately, flopped. However, Bobby wasn't starving, due to his composer royalties from "Little Bitty Pretty One" (which at this point had also been recorded by Frankie Lymon and Clyde McPhatter, not to mention the reissues of the Thurston Harris version on various "oldies" compilations). When the contract with RCA lapsed in early 1964, Bobby laid low for about a year, then in mid-1965 formed Byrdland Records and Queline Publishing.

For his first release, Bobby decided to get into the West Coast soul-dance market with a tune called "Keep The Ball Rolling" (not the same song that Jay and The Techniques would have a hit with in 1967). For the flip, Bobby decided, hey, since the Brits were making a fortune recycling American R&B, why not turn the tables? The recording session took place in the summer of '65, and the record that was ALL OVER the airwaves at that point? "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones. So Bobby wrote a complete soul knockoff......not that anyone was going to hear it anyway, being a B-side and all that!

Well, it's great. Just don't tell Mick 'n' Keef. They'll sue, the greedy bastards.

Anyway, the record (released in late 1965) failed to make any noise whatsoever, and by 1967, Byrdland was finished as a label (though Bobby Day kept the publishing company for years afterward). After a one-off single for Sure-Shot in 1967, Bobby Day was pretty much finished as a recording artist. However, he continued to earn money for "Little Bitty Pretty One" (which was recorded by The Jackson 5 in 1972, Cliff Richard in 1983, Huey Lewis and The News in 1994, and was also used in several TV commercials) and "Over And Over" (The Dave Clark Five recorded it in late '65, their version hitting #1 on the US charts).

Bobby moved to Australia (!!!!) for a few years in the 1970s before settling in Florida, then moving back to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. For years, the fans in the United Kingdom clamored for him to come over and sing, and he finally did just that in 1989. Unfortunately, a year later, on July 27, 1990, Bobby Day succumbed to cancer at age 62.

Bobby Day - I Don't Need No Information (About My Gal) (Byrdland 001) - 1965

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