Robin Seymour (DJ)
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Robin Henry Seymour (born March 8, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan) is a former CKLW Radio Personality and Television Music Show and Host of "Teen Town (TV series)" and "Swingin' Time" in Detroit. Starting with a career in radio as a child actor on the Lone Ranger show and later as one of the country's top ten disc jockeys for a number of years, Robin's career spanned everything from the big band era to Motown to the British invasion to the psychedelic era.
The early years
After a stint with the Armed Forces Radio Network during World War II, in 1947 Robin began an 18-year career with WKMH-AM 1310, a typical suburban full-service radio station with facilities in Dearborn, Michigan. In those days, WKMH specialized mainly in middle-of-the-road pop music along with the usual hourly smattering of local news, information, and sports reports. The station was in its early years and Seymour quickly became its most popular on-air personality. His warm, confident demeanor combined with his disc jockey style appealed to audiences of all ages -- and ethnicities -- in the Detroit area, encompassing Windsor, Ontario, Canada and the surrounding vicinities.
Seymour's afternoon "Bobbin' with Robin Show" featured all of the top records on the music press sales charts. He pioneered rock and roll on the Detroit airwaves long before the Top 40 format emerged. In the mid-50s, Seymour was among the first of the nation's DJs to ask his listeners what they thought about new records -- and he was one of the first white DJs in the city to play songs performed by Black rhythm-and-blues / doo-wop style artists. Seymour hosted some of the earliest "sock hops" and initiated commercial tie-ins with local record stores. His popular radio show and live stage appearances during "Robin Seymour's Original Rock 'n' Roll Revue" held at the Fox Theater in Detroit allowed him to enjoy increasing popularity.
In 1956, a very popular group, The Four Lads, accompanied by the Percy Faith Orchestra, recorded Robin's theme song:
BOBBIN' WITH THE ROBBIN [dramatic, upbeat orchestral fanfare lead-in] Bobbin' with the Robin!
(doo-doo-do-doo-do-do-duh!) Hob-nobbin' with the Robin!
(doo-doo-do-doo-do-do-duh!) Bob-bobbin' with the Robin!
(doo-doo-do-doo-do-do-duh!) Everybody, fly sky high!
[orchestral interlude, usually accompanied by a Seymour voice over intro of his show, rapidly spoken with high energy in his typical style reflecting the norm of Top 40 radio in those days; e.g., "Yeah, and this is the big, bad bird and for the next three hours we're gonna be bobbin' with Robin! All the hits, everything new and everything just for you! So, come on along and let's everybody have a ball."] Bob-bobbin' with the Robin!
No-no more time for sobbin'
Go-go and let the mob in!
Everybody fly sky high!
Seymour had an uncanny sense for spotting hot new artists, helping introduce many of the big acts of the day via radio or stage. He claims to have been the person who debuted the 1953 hit song "Gee" by The Crows. Also in 1953, Seymour was named "Disc Jockey of the Year" by Billboard, the top music trade magazine. The following year, he was given the same title by another publication, Hit Parader.
In the mid '50s, Seymour was quoted as saying that Elvis Presley "wouldn't last more than a year," but later clarified that the comment was a gimmick to grab some headlines -- and it worked.
In 1960, Robin's show moved to the morning slot.
In 1963, Seymour and three business partners, including co-producer Art Cervi (Bozo The Clown), created Teen Town, a hip, local dance-party format similar to American Bandstand, with each show focusing on a different Detroit area high school. They secured advertisers and began shopping their concept to TV stations around town. CKLW grabbed the opportunity, and the independent show was off and running. A year and a half later, it morphed into Swingin Summertime.
Seymour continued his radio gig at WKMH through its transition to WKNR; however, after being given an ultimatum to choose between his DJ job or TV program by WKMH, he left the station to devote himself full-time to "Swingin' Time." For a very short time at the end of 1965, Robin was given radio slot on CKLW radio which he used to help promote Swingin Time.
Swingin' Time featured 50 to 75 local kids dancing six days a week to the top billboard hits. Each show, two teens were chosen to offer "yea" or "boo" opinions on new records. The 30-minute weekday shows were broadcast live, and the hour-long Saturday show was taped early in the day and aired at 3 pm.
Promoting local bands
Seymour introduced virtually all of the then-famous Motown artists. National touring acts passing through the Motor City, including Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, James Brown, Dionne Warwick, Wayne Cochran, and many more, performed on the its stage. But it was the local entertainers and the Motown family of labels, Golden World, and Fortune artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Edwin Starr, Nolan Strong and the Diablos, Nathaniel Mayer, Martha and the Vandellas and The Supremes as well as Jack Scott, Bob Seger and the Last Heard, Glenn Frey, Ted Nugent, and George Clinton's Parliaments who provided the local flavor. During those years, the lack of proper studio equipment meant no live performances, so all of the artists would lip-synch their records, which was both good and bad.
One band that appeared frequently on Seymour's show was Ann Arbor garage band, The Rationals. They enjoyed high record sales in the Detroit area, and Robin helped them get their final single and their one and only album to market in early 1970.
Robin was also the driving force behind KDB (Keep Detroit Beautiful) Teens in 1968. He spearheaded several beautification projects around the City of Detroit with a kickoff concert June 23 at Detroit's Cobo Arena, featuring The Rationals, Little Leon and the Caravan and others. He ended the summer with an outdoor music concert held in Downtown Detroit at Kennedy Square featuring popular Detroit rockers, The Cold Water Army, and others.
Life After Swingin' Time
When Robin left the show, he was replaced by another local and hugely popular DJ, Tom Shannon. However, by then, the show had lost its momentum and ended in 1968.
In 1970, Seymour recreated his WKMH "Bobbin' with the Robin" show for Cruisin' 1956, part of a CD series of Top 40 radio re-creations conceived and produced by Ron Jacobs (available here).
Robin left both broadcasting and Detroit in 1980 and moved to the Los Angeles area where he owned a successful video production company until 2013. Now approaching his 90th birthday, he works part-time from his home in Phoenix and has attended several Detroit disc jockey reunions in recent years.