Listen – Rapid Transit – MP3
First off, if you dug the track I posted by the Lime, check back to the bottom of that post for a link (sent to me by a reader) to a great site about Ohio rock bands of the 60’s. There’s a bunch more information about the Lime, including the fact that they recorded a second 45 (released locally and nationally), which I will of course be looking for. I really appreciate feedback like that. So many of the artists featured here (and over at Funky16Corners) are by any standard pretty obscure, and I dig when someone with an important missing piece of the puzzle takes the time to stop by and contribute.
Today’s selection is one of my favorite cuts by a group that hovered just outside the borders of fame and fortune (the supposedly held the record for the number of singles to achieve “bubbling under” status without actually making it into the Hot 100).
I can’t remember exactly when I picked up my first Robbs record, but I’m guessing it was in the mid-to-late 80’s. I found a very nice copy of the 1967 self titled Mercury LP at a record store that was breathing its last, because it looked cool, and they did a cover of Eric Anderson’s ‘Violets of Dawn’ (a tune which I had been digging on a reissue of recordings by the Daily Flash, having not yet heard the original).
So, I get the record home, drop it on the old turntable and was very pleasantly surprised. The album was a cool mixture of sunshine/goodtime pop, folk rock and just the tiniest bit of garage edge. In the next few years I managed to dig up a bunch of their Mercury 45s, including one (‘Bittersweet’*) that I will most certainly feature here in the future.
The Robbs, Dee, Bruce, Joe and Craig (in actuality brothers David, Robert and George Donaldson and non-relation Craig Kampf respectively) were a Wisconsin-based combo that had played under a few different names before settling on the Robbs in the mid-60’s. They were discovered by Dick Clark when playing a show in Chicago in 1966, and eventually relocated to LA where they became regulars on Where the Action Is.
The Robbs signed with Mercury Records and released their first 45 under that name in 1966. In the next few years they would release a number of 45s, a few of which generated substantial regional chart action (mostly in the Midwest, but occasionally elsewhere), but they never really broke through into the national charts.
‘Rapid Transit’ was issued as a 45, and was included on the ‘Robbs’ LP in 1967 (the version you’re hearing today was pulled from the LP as I didn’t feel like digging out the single). The tune is a great showcase for their sound, which was a solid mix of pop jangle and tight harmonies that always managed to include a bit of sweetness without becoming cloying. Dig if you will the “tribute” in the chorus to the Five Americans ‘Western Union’.
After parting ways with Mercury, the Robbs recorded singles for ABC/Dunhill and Atlantic, before changing their name to Cherokee in 1971. Interestingly enough, though they stopped performing, they took the name of their last band and (in the mid-70’s) opened Cherokee Studios in LA where a number of major hit albums have been recorded in the years since.
I hope you dig it.
*I have ‘Bittersweet’ in a cool picture sleeve, and if I can find it an old teen magazine (maybe ‘16’) with some great photos of the band.