Born 19 March 1942, Los Angeles, California
Robin Luke embodied the gentle, innocent side of rock and roll. His good looks and romantic voice made him a teen idol after his first record became a Top 10 hit. It also turned out to be his only chart success, which makes him a one-hit wonder.
Born in Los Angeles in 1942, Luke spent his childhood moving around the US with his parents, due to his father’s executive role with Douglas Aircraft. In 1953 the family found some stability in Hawaii. There Robin started playing guitar and ukelele and soon also began to compose songs. He started singing professionally in 1957, co-starring on a Honolulu TV show with Kimo McVay, while still attending Punahou High School. Not much later he was brought to the attention of Bobby Bertram, owner of the Lariat and Bertram International labels. Robin recorded two self-composed songs (“Susie Darlin’” and “Living’s Loving You”) in Bertram’s bedroom in Honolulu, with the nearby bathroom functioning as an echo chamber. Percussion was created by Bertram by pounding two sticks at a ballpoint pen in his pocket. Allegedly it took 75 takes to get an acceptable version. The bedroom was situated next to one of the largest hospitals in Honolulu and every time an ambulance would go by with wailing sirens they had to start again from scratch.
The two numbers were released in May 1958 on Bertram International. Immediately there was massive Hawaiian airplay and ten days later “Susie Darlin’” (inspired by Robin’s five-year old sister Susie) was the best selling record in Honolulu. Luckily for Luke, Art and Dorothy Freeman, Cleveland distributors for the Dot label, were honeymooning in Waikiki when they happened to hear Robin’s record on the radio.
Bertram leased the record to Dot Records for the US mainland market. Reissued on Dot, the single entered the Billboard charts in August 1958, eventually peaked at number five and went on to sell over a million copies. Luke did a quick tour of the United States and appeared on American Bandstand. As the single climbed the charts, he was brought back for more shows and performed on more national television shows, including the Perry Como Show. In the UK “Susie Darlin'" was released on the London American label (HLD 8676) and reached number 23, in spite of competition from a British cover by Barry Barnett. Tommy Roe would revive the song in 1962 (as the follow-up to his # 1 hit “Sheila”), scoring a # 35 hit in the process.
The follow-up, “Chicka Chicka Honey”/“My Girl” (the A-side another Robin Luke original) was again released on both Bertram International and Dot, but failed to chart. After graduating from high school in 1959, Luke moved from Honolulu to Los Angeles and began recording directly for Dot Records. Dot’s president, Randy Wood, took good care of him and released seven more singles until May 1961, but Robin Luke was destined to remain a one-hit artist. His sixth Dot single, released in December 1959, was a cover of Marty Wilde’s UK hit “Bad Boy”. After “Chicka Chicka Honey” there were no further releases in the UK. Luke’s last session took place in April 1962, a duet with Roberta Shore, “Foggin’ Up the Window” (Dot 16366).
It was never Robin's intention to continue as a singer. After finishing his undergraduate study at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, in 1964, he announced that he was finished with the music business. He went on to pursue a graduate degree in business administration at the University of Missouri in Columbia. After obtaining his Ph.D there, Luke held positions at various colleges and universities, eventually becoming a university professor of marketing and head of the Depart- ment of Marketing at Missouri State University in Springfield. By any yardstick, it has been an uncharacteristic career for a teen idol.
Official website with more info : http://robinluke.com/index.htm
Another discography : http://countrydiscoghraphy2.blogspot.nl/2015/07/robin-luke.html
CD : Susie Darlin’ (Bear Family BCD 15547, 1991). 31 tracks. The complete Dot recordings, including previously unissued tracks and demos. Liner notes by Colin Escott.
Acknowledgements : Colin Escott, Wayne Jancik, Bruce Eder.
Dik, October 2017
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