Robie Lester

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Robie Lester
Birth name Roberta Lester
Also known as Roby Charmandy
Born (1925-03-23)March 23, 1925
Megargel, Texas, United States
Died June 15, 2005(2005-06-15) (aged 80)
Burbank, California, United States
Occupation(s) Voice artist, singer, author
Years active 1958-2002
Labels Liberty, Warner Brothers, A&M, Disney

Robie Lester (March 23, 1925 – June 14, 2005) was an American Grammy-nominated voice artist and singer.

Early years[edit]

Lester was born in Megargel, Texas and raised in northern Ontario, Canada.[1] After a few years in Detroit, she joined the US Army Air Corps before attending UCLA with a major in music. In Hollywood, she worked with Henry Mancini and Herb Alpert, recorded for Liberty, Warner Brothers and A&M, and sang demos for songwriters. At A&M Records Lester recorded one of her most frequently heard, though uncredited, contributions -- the Spanish verse in the Sandpipers 1966 hit "Guantanamera".[2]

Work in commercials[edit]

Lester was one of the busiest voice-over artists in early 1960s commercials, working in many commercials for Kelloggs breakfast cereal. She was first heard as both of Toucan Sam's infant nephews, with Sam played by Mel Blanc. She also voiced one of the two battling Smackin' Brothers for Sugar Smacks, and sang the commercial's jingle.[3]

Story reader for Disney[edit]

In the early 1960s, Disney songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman brought Lester to the attention of Disney's in-house record label. Lester's voice was heard as narrator and singer on dozens of Disney's children's records. One such record was The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion which also featured the voices of Thurl Ravenscroft and Ron Howard. Her singing voice was heard on the song "Hippity Hop" from the Disney album Peter Cottontail and Other Funny Bunnies. Beginning in 1965, Lester was the "Disneyland Story Reader" on records where she read the stories, acted out all the parts and reminded children to "turn the page" in their accompanying booklet. Her famous phrase “...when Tinker Bell rings her little bells...turn the page" was heard by countless children of a generation. In Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, authors Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar state, "It is impossible to calculate how many lives Robie Lester touched by singing, acting, and narrating on more individual Disneyland records than any other performer."[2]

Her "Storyteller" album for The Aristocats was nominated for a 1970 Grammy Award.

Television and movies[edit]

One of her most famous roles was as "Miss Jessica", the schoolteacher who becomes Mrs. Kris Kringle (Santa Claus) in the 1970 Rankin-Bass TV special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. In the Christmas special, Lester wrote and sang a powerful ballad entitled "My World Is Beginning Today" in which her character literally lets her hair down and comes to the aid of her future husband, Kris Kringle.[3]

Robie Lester provided the singing voice for Vera Ralston in Accused of Murder[4] and for Eva Gabor's animated characters in Disney's The Aristocats and The Rescuers. Other credits included vocal performances in House of Bamboo and Lisbon (both as Roby Charmandy), The Three Lives of Thomasina, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, The City That Forgot About Christmas, Devlin, and The Funny Company (as Polly Plum). She also contributed uncredited vocals to many other television shows.[5]

Later years[edit]

Lester spent her final years in Fillmore, California fund raising and crusading for animal rights. She published two novels: The Twenty Dollar Christmas[6] and Heaven's Gift.[7] She also gratefully discovered a fan base that had grown up with her work. Her last voice performance was in 2002 for the Adventures in Odyssey radio series.[8]

Robie Lester died on June 14, 2005 of cancer at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, California at age 80.[9] She was married to producer Geoff Eccleston, had one daughter Mindy, and three grandchildren. Her autobiography, Lingerie For Hookers In The Snow: An Audiography Of A Voice Artist, was published in 2006.[10]

Pre-Disney discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

  • "With You Where You Are"/"Listen To The Wind" (Liberty 55033, 1956)
  • "My Love And I"/"Whispering Guitar" (Liberty 55083, 1957)
  • "The Chimney Sweep"/"The Tree And The Sea" (Cascade CA-5901, 1959)[Note 1]
  • "The Ballad of Cheatin' John"/"The Miracle Of Life"[Note 2] (Lute L-5904, 1960)[Note 3]
  • "Green Flamingo"[Note 4]/"Another Show Another Town" (Chattahoochee CH-680, 1965)
  • "One Step Away From Heaven"[Note 5]/"Little Star" (Dot 45-16798, 1965)

Compilation appearances[edit]

  • Terribly Sophisticated Songs: A Collection of Unpopular Songs for Popular People (Warner Brothers Records B1210, 1958) -- "I'm Filled With That Empty Feeling" & "Just My Sol"
  • House Of Bamboo Soundtrack (Intrada Records ISC 30, 2006) -- "House Of Bamboo" & "Be Still, Little Voice"
  • Cult Hits of the 1960s, Volume 5 (Fervor Records, 2013, Internet release) -- "Ever Blue" & "A Life To Live Over" (previously unreleased)
Discography Notes
  1. ^ "Reviews of New Pop Records" section of the February 16, 1959 issue of Billboard magazine said of "The Tree and the Sea", "Miss Lester offers a sweet-voiced interpretation of this pretty ballad with choral effects and the concerto sound in the piano. Gal has pleasant sound somewhat in the Gogi Grant style. Comments on "The Chimney Sweep" follow: "This is an interesting medium-rhythm tune with Miss Lester again coming thru in good style with an interesting percussion sound in the backing. A talented thrush." Both sides written by Al De Lory and Joe Van Winkle. Also released in France on America 45 M 52 in 1959.
  2. ^ Although originally released as the B-side song, "The Miracle Of Life" on the Lute label "bubbled under" at #107 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for April 25, 1960. Also tabbed as a "Good Sales Potential" item in the March 28, 1960 issue of Billboard magazine with comment, "An inspirational side. Lyric carries a message -- the miracle of life. Chick's vocal is a good one, backed by violin and chorus." Song written by Morey Bernstein.
  3. ^ Also released on Finer Arts FA-1004 (1961), Polydor (UK) NH 66963 (1961), and Landa 681 (1962). Flip side "The Ballad of Cheatin' John" written by Don Ralke and By Dunham.
  4. ^ "Pick of the Week" by DJ Bob Hudson of WCIN in May 29, 1965 issue of Billboard magazine. Written by Wayne Shanklin, Eden Ahbez, and Lee Esmond. Flip side "Another Show Another Town" written by Van Winkle-Darian. Both tracks produced by J. R. Shanklin.
  5. ^ Performed on Shivaree January 8, 1965 (episode #50).

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Some sources incorrectly cite place of birth as Michigan.
  2. ^ a b Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar (2006). Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records. Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. p. 95. ISBN 1-57806-848-7. 
  3. ^ a b Hollis, Tim. "Topher's Breakfast Cereal Character Guide". Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Movie Dubbers list". Retrieved June 26, 2015. 
  5. ^ "IMDB page on Robie Lester". Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  6. ^ Eccleston, Robie Lester (1996). The Twenty Dollar Christmas. Fillmore, CA: LGLG Publishing. ISBN 978-1585004874. 
  7. ^ Eccleston, Robie Lester (1999). Heaven's Gift. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-0965490801. 
  8. ^ "The Odyssey Scoop - Robie Lester profile". Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  9. ^ Some sources incorrectly state age at death as 75.
  10. ^ Lester, Robie (2006). Lingerie for Hookers in the Snow: An Audiography of a Voice Artist. Albany, NY: BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1593930585. 

References[edit]