Do I have stories about this guy? Oh, you just better bet I do.
Robert Gordon, Rockabilly Revival Icon, Dies at 75
Over his career, Gordon released more than 20 albums and helped usher in a rockabilly resurgence in the 1970s and ’80s.
Rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon, whose albums with guitar greats Link Wray and Chris Spedding helped solidify his place in rock history and carry the genre over several decades, died Tuesday (Oct. 18) at Don Greene Hospice in New York City following a diagnosis of leukemia, according to a Facebook post by his label Cleopatra Records. He was 75.
Born in Bethesda, Maryland, Gordon was drawn to rock ‘n’ roll after he heard Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” at age nine. He soon dug into the music of Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane and others ’50s greats and cut his first recording at 17 singing with a band called The Confidentials. His career ramped up after he relocated to New York City and joined the punk band Tuff Darts (which can be heard on the 1976 album Live At CBGBs alongside tracks by Mink DeVille, Sun Ra and others).
In 1977, Gordon cut his debut “solo” album, Robert Gordon With Link Wray, and followed with several others, including 1978’s Fresh Fish Special (with Wray), which also includes Presley’s famed background singers The Jordanaires and Bruce Springsteen, who played on Gordon’s rendition of the Springsteen-penned track “Fire.” An ad in Billboard that ran on March 11, 1978, read, in part: “Robert Gordon, the new voice of Rock and Roll, and Link Wray, the legendary guitarist, are together again! FRESH FISH SPECIAL follows their red hot first album – and it’s a killer! Bruce Springsteen wrote a song for it. Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Jack Scott are faithfully remembered in it.”
In 1979, Gordon released Rock Billy Boogie, which peaked at No. 106 on the Billboard 200. That was quickly followed by 1980’s Bad Boy and 1981’s Are You Gonna Be The One, which included the single “Someday, Someway,” which peaked at No. 76 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1982, Gordon ventured into acting, co-starring in outlaw biker flick The Loveless opposite Willem Dafoe. Gordon can also be seen performing with his band in a 1981 skit for Canadian sketch comedy show SCTV, in which he’s mistaken for astronaut Gordon Cooper.
As you may have guessed from my opener above, the BPs have a long, somewhat sordid history with Gordon. We played with him as supporting act several times, both in NYC and in Finland, resulting in my having a fair bit of dirt I could dish on ol’ Robert, but ain’t gonna. Instead, a few pics of us from our very first time working with him, at the legendary and now sadly-defunct music venue Tramps.
And there you have it, folks. Robert certainly did have a way of picking guitar talent; over the years, he worked with Spedding most, a brilliant player who also turned out to be a truly sweet, humble, and all-around nice man. That first show, Spedding borrowed a 9-volt battery from me for his tuner pedal, and actually returned the damned thing to me without even being asked—and believe me, that NEVER happens. Not just Chris, but Robert also had the peerless Danny Gatton in his onstage stable for a few years, as well as bona fide rock and roll icon Link Wray.
So yeah, rest easy, Robert Gordon. A top-notch singer, blessed with a deep, resonant voice and an excellent range. We had our run-ins over the years, as can happen sometimes in showbiz, but none of that matters now. May your troubadour’s heart and soul find everlasting peace.
I seem to recall Black Slacks getting a lot of airplay in NY Radio back then. It’s a shame all the great music back then and a guy’s gotta die for me to remember to go pick up some of his music. He was great. I remember Moon Martin back then as well. Plus Dave Edmunds and then the Stray Cats when their albums were only available as Imports (their first two).
I don’t remember Link Wray played with Gordon. A legend and a favorite of Pete Townshend (amongst many). He and Dick Dale were awesome. I also just picked up a serious Duane Eddy collection of 60 or 70 songs from the early 60s. Some great stuff.
Somewhere around this dump I have pics of me onstage with Link Wray too, Kenny. I need to dig ’em up and post them here one of these first days. Played with Dick Dale once down in Orlando, but no pictures of that one, alas. I was fortunate to run into him on the street as we were walking back to our hotel after our set and he was headed over to the Sapphire Club from the same hotel to do his. Another really nice guy, Dale was; over the years, as we’ve gotten the opportunity to share stages with just about every one of my personal heroes, I’ve been continually amazed at what friendly, warm, down-to-earth people they all turned out to be.
Those were interesting times in the music world back then.
Your tales of the actual people inhabiting it remind me a little of Jack Kerouac’s reminiscences on the early Post War jazz scene, late 40s early 50s.
If only we had writers that could capture it a la Kerouac instead of a la Rolling Stone. Especially the RS of today. It’s not even worth it to get yer picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone today.