Robert Gordon (musician)
Robert Gordon in 1979
|Birth name||Robert Ira Gordon|
March 29, 1947 |
Bethesda, Maryland United States
|Genres||Rockabilly, country, blues, punk rock|
|Labels||Private Stock, RCA|
|Associated acts||Link Wray, Danny Gatton, Chris Spedding|
Influences and early career
Robert Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. At the age of nine, he was affected greatly by the Elvis Presley song "Heartbreak Hotel" playing on radio, and decided to attempt a career as a Rock & Roll musician at that young age.
His influences included Gene Vincent, Jack Scott, Billy Lee Riley, Eddie Cochran and other notable rock 'n roll music artists of the period. He made his recording debut at age 17 in 1964 with a group called the Confidentials. The Confidentials, with Robert (called Bob at the time) as the singer recorded the songs "Summertime", "Money", and "There is Something on Your Mind", among others on acetate phonograph discs. The aforementioned tracks were rereleased in 2004 on a 40th Anniversary Celebration (a special promotional CD released by Dutch author/collector Arjan Deelen).
When asked how he related to the 1960s, Robert replied "I didn't." He didn't care much for the British Invasion but he identified with soul singers such as James Brown and Otis Redding whom he saw, among other great R&B acts, performing at Washington DC's famous Howard Theatre. During the turbulent times of the late 1960s, with the rioting and antiwar protests of the period, Robert served in the National Guard in Washington, D.C. "I didn't want to be sent to Vietnam," he recalls.
Gordon moved to New York City in 1970 and a few years later joined a punk rock band there known as the Tuff Darts. During 1976, the Tuff Darts recorded "All for the Love of Rock and Roll", "Head over Heels", and "Slash" for a compilation album called Live at CBGB's, which included a number of other local New York City bands. That same year, Robert appeared in a punk/New Wave style film entitled Unmade Beds, an homage to Jean Luc Godard by underground filmmaker Amos Poe. Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry also appeared in the film.
Record producer Richard Gottehrer discovered Robert during a rehearsal one afternoon with the Tuff Darts and soon afterward the two were talking about making a rock and roll record. Gottehrer was impressed with Gordon's baritone voice and his rendition of Elvis Presley's "One Night". After some conversation, Robert suggested working with guitar legend Link Wray. Wray was contacted and he agreed to work with them both. "Robert to me sounds a lot like the early Elvis, back when he was at Sun Records," Wray would comment. Robert Gordon with Link Wray on Private Stock Records was the result of this collaboration. Due to Elvis Presley's death, the album picked up some airplay, and the label Private Stock tried to hype Gordon as the heir to Elvis. In 1978, Gordon made a second album with Wray, on the Private Stock label, called Fresh Fish Special. The record featured The Jordanaires, who had been background vocalists for Presley, and included the Bruce Springsteen song "Fire", written for Presley. Springsteen played keyboards on the track.
In late 1978, RCA records signed Gordon to a contract which he described as "a dream come true" to be on "Elvis' label". In February 1979 Rock Billy Boogie was released, this time without Wray, as Chris Spedding joined Gordon, playing lead guitar. Writer Bruce Eder (AllMusicGuide) hailed Gordon's next album Bad Boy, released in 1980, as one of the best mature rockabilly albums ever recorded. The next and last album for RCA was 1981's Are You Gonna Be The One. It is Gordon's best selling album to date, with more than 200,000 copies sold. Danny Gatton played lead guitar on this record and Marshall Crenshaw penned the single "Someday Someway" which went to No. 76 on the Billboard charts in 1981.
During the early 1980s, Gordon toured briefly with Gatton. A recording of one of their performances was later released on NRG Records as The Humbler.
In 2005, after years of not working together, Gordon and guitar player Chris Spedding reconnected and toured Europe. Highlights from the shows in Denmark, Sweden and Finland were released on "The Reunion Tour", on their own Climate Control label. The French label, Last Call released a DVD from the Amsterdam concert, titled Rockin' The Paradiso. They also recorded an album of 15 Elvis songs with the Jordanaires for the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death, titled "It's Now Or Never" released on the Rykodisc label. In 2009 and 2010 Gordon toured with an all-star lineup "The Gang They Couldn't Hang" that included Chris Spedding, Slim Jim Phantom and Glen Matlock. Notable "Gang" dates included the Byron Bay Blues Festival in Australia, and the Azkena Rock Festival in Spain where Gordon and TGTCH performed on a bill with Kiss and Bob Dylan in front of a crowd of 20,000.
This April 2014, Lanark Records will release a Robert Gordon CD entitled "I'm coming home", and on April 19th he will be performing at the 17th annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender at The Car Show event in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- 1977 – Robert Gordon with Link Wray (Private Stock PS 2030)
- 1978 – Fresh Fish Special with Link Wray (Private Stock PS 7008)
- 1979 – Rock Billy Boogie (RCA AFL1-3594)
- 1979 – Live From The Paradise, Boston, Mass. 3/22/79 (RCA DJL1-3411; promo only)
- 1980 – Bad Boy (RCA AFL1-3523)
- 1981 – Are You Gonna Be The One (RCA AFL1-3773)
- 1994 – All for The Love of Rock 'N' Roll (Viceroy VIC8014-2)
- 1997 – Robert Gordon (Llist Records - LLR00792)
- 2004 – Satisfied Mind (Jungle Records - TCB2222CD)
- 2007 – Now or Never (Rykodisc - RLP 1915-1)
In 1982, Gordon costarred with Willem Dafoe in future Oscar winner's Kathryn Bigelow's first film, a 1950s-styled motor-biking movie (inspired by Marlon Brando's The Wild One) named The Loveless. This was Dafoe's first feature starring role. Critics generally liked the soundtrack but disliked the film. The Loveless did poorly at the box office but is now considered a cult favorite. Gordon also made numerous TV appearances including a 1981 skit on the popular comedy show SCTV in which he performed with his band, including Danny Gatton—after having been "mistakenly" booked on the show as the astronaut Gordon Cooper. The spoof of a space shuttle launch also featured Bob and Doug actors Dave Thomas as Walter Cronkite and Rick Moranis as David Brinkley.
- Deelen, Arjan: "Look Who's Blue – The Robert Gordon Story", Now Dig This No. 254, May 2004.
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