Jimmy Robinson

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Bass singer Jimmy Robinson was an off-and-on member of the vocal group Bill Johnson & His Musical Notes, featured most prominently on an inquisitive side entitled "How Would You Know?" He was an original…
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Bass singer Jimmy Robinson was an off-and-on member of the vocal group Bill Johnson & His Musical Notes, featured most prominently on an inquisitive side entitled "How Would You Know?" He was an original member of the group, whose origin is considered to be sometime around the mid-'40s. The other founding members included Johnson, a former sideman and arranger for swing bandleaders such as Erskine Hawkins and Lucky Millinder, as well as pianist and baritone singer Egbert Victory and tenor singer and guitarist Clifton "Skeeter" Best. To this lineup was soon added singer, songwriter, and drummer Gus Gordon, who according to legend learned to play the traps specifically to join Johnson's outfit.

The group started out recording in 1947 for the Harlem label, moving up to RCA Victor fairly quickly. "Don't You Think I Oughta Know," precursor to the previously mentioned ditty, turned into the first smash for Robinson and associates. "How Would You Know?" was released in 1948, Robinson taking the second lead vocal. Robinson was out of the group during the end of the decade, departing about the same time as Lonnie Slappey, who had replaced one of the original members. When Robinson returned in the early '50s he actually took over the spot of a female singer who had been hired in the interim, Eileen Chance.

Some fairly obscure sides for the Tru-Blue label ensued, including an ode to the aging process, "When Your Hair Has Turned to Silver." The flip side was "Let's Walk," perhaps something of an inspiration to Johnson as he again parted company with the combo soon thereafter. In 1957 Robinson returned to the fold, singing on a recording session for the Luther firm. The group's original name was dropped, with subsequent sides credited to the Bill Johnson Quintet, an affront to bean counters everywhere as there were actually six members. Robinson seems to have lost interest in performing and recording in the '60s, his former boss also fading in and out of the vocal group scene due to health problems. This bass singer should not be confused with the singer named James Robinson who is featured on recordings by pianist and bandleader Lonnie Liston Smith.