About Robert B. Robinson’s UNpop Music

I’m Robert B. Robinson, and I created this website to showcase the music I’m writing and recording. What’s the musical genre? Some rock, synthpop, country, and orchestral music. It doesn’t sound much like what you hear on the radio. I write the lyrics, compose and arrange the music, and record it with software-based, virtual instruments (and sometimes real instruments), and I sing all the vocals.

But why do I call my music UN-pop? Because, hey, it’s not for everybody. ๐Ÿ˜‰

A Brief History of Me

The Music Stuff
Growing up in the 60’s, I played guitar in, what was essentially, a Beatles/Beach Boys cover band. I earned a bachelor’s and two-thirds of a master’s in music. I composed eleven church choir musicals. I arranged, produced, and recorded six album projects in a analog, 24-track studio. I served as music director in numerous churches. I’ve written hundreds of songs.

The Non-Music Stuff
I earned a computer science degree. I wrote ten novels and novellas and three dozen short stories. I held a wide variety of jobs, from milkman to apprentice electrician to software engineer.

The Extended Version (with pictures)

Like most of my friends, I grew up listening to a lot of top-40 radio. The Four Seasons, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Motown, and everything else. Then on Sundays, I got to hear my mom sing at church. She was an outstanding soloist, and I always loved hearing her sing.

I was surrounded by music. But I wasn’t making music. I was just listening.

That began to change one afternoon on the school bus when I met a guy named Derras Watkins—an unusual and interesting kid. We were both 12. I got off at his stop to hang out for a while and Derras showed me what he could do on the guitar.

I was very impressed, and suddenly wanted to play the guitar more than anything else in the world. Derras said he’d teach me, so I bought a cheap used acoustic, and began playing the thing night and day.

I was no longer a musical bystander. I was making music.

A few months later, my best friend, Larry Fisher, got drums for Christmas. Six weeks after that, The Beatles made their first appearance on Ed Sullivan, and that’s what we wanted to be: The Beatles (like millions of other boys around the world).

Larry, Derras, and I started practicing together, and the next Fall we made our debut in front of our peers at a school talent show.

Robert B Robinson with junior high rock band - The Filaments

That’s Larry on drums, Derras playing bass on a six-string electric, and me, on the left, playing my used Sears Silvertone guitar – my first electric. Derras’ mother outfitted us with tailored black satin shirts, as well as crimson ascots. I was scared to death to perform in public. But it turned out to be the coolest thing I’d ever done thus far.

Robert B Robinson with junior high rock band - The Filaments

We named ourselves The Filaments (like the thin wire that heats up inside an incandescent light bulb), and began to look for other performance opportunities.

We entered the March of Dimes Talent Contest in our small town of Orange, Texas, and won! They even gave us a trophy. Fun stuff.

I have no idea what distracted me as this picture was taken, but it made my eyes look zombie-ish. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Some time later, we added a fourth band member, Bruce Davis, who took over rhythm guitar duties, which allowed me to concentrate on the lead guitar parts. Bruce knew a ton of Beach Boys songs, so we began to add them to our repertoire.

The promotional photo below was included in the program for a benefit show we participated in.

Robert B Robinson - member of The Filaments

We did a lot of benefit shows, as well as a few birthday parties. Never made a dime. We didn’t care.

But when we got a chance to play for my sophomore banquet, there was a conflict. Derras had a part-time job, and was scheduled to work that night. I quickly became angry about Derras’ nonchalant attitude. This was an important gig—especially to me—and I was determined to go through with it.

I said a few things that I later regretted, and within minutes, we’d lost Derras as a band member and as a friend. It would be a long time before our friendship was restored.

We quickly procured the talents of Kenneth Terry, an excellent musician, to take over the role of bass player. All of the band members attended West Orange High School. Kenneth, Bruce, and I were sophomores. Larry was a freshman.

Robert B Robinson - member of The Filaments

Here we are, playing at the sophomore banquet. From left to right: Bruce Davis, Larry Fisher, Kenneth Terry, and yours truly. Not quite 16, I had nearly maxed-out at my full height of six-foot-four.

One of the numbers we performed was “Twist and Shout.” I sang lead on it, which always ripped out my throat (since I was trying to sing it like John Lennon). But what a fun time. I even had a date that night. A very pretty date. ๐Ÿ™‚

Later, we invited Bruce’s brother to join the band. Lee Davis played bass and Kenneth Terry switched to piano. One very memorable performance by this quintet invoked the screams of teenage girls through five songs. We opened with “Twist and Shout,” and the screaming took me by surprise. I thought my knees might buckle. Just a little taste of what The Beatles got every night.

There were a lot of comings and goings of band members during our brief three or so years together, with Larry Fisher and myself being the only constants.

One time we performed two songs live on a local television station in Louisiana: “Boys,” (a song that had been covered by The Beatles, with Ringo singing lead) and a song Larry Fisher and I had co-written titled, “Gotta Make That Money.” Larry sang lead on both. Over the years, Larry and I wrote a couple of dozen songs together.

Finally, Larry and I made peace with Derras Watkins, laughing about how silly our fight had been. We put the original band back together for one final show during an open house at the U. S. Naval Station in Orange. Here we are, performing outside.

Robert B Robinson - member of The Filaments

A few years later, when I was 21, I asked my old buddy, Larry Fisher, to join me in the recording studio to play drums on a 45 I was recording. He was happy to help. It took thirteen hours over two evenings to record and mix the two songs I had written.

Larry played the drums, and I did everything else: rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass, mandolin, and two singing parts. This was accomplished by recording each part on a separate track, listening to the previously recorded parts on headphones while playing or singing the new part. The trickiest aspect of the process was staying in sync.

You can see below that “Can’t Decide” was on the A side. But after the records were pressed, I changed my mind, and asked local disc jockeys to play “In Time” instead of the A side. It’s a song I wrote as a teenager.

The first time I heard it on the radio I was driving, alone in the car. I was so excited that I nearly ran off the road. It was like the scene in the movie, “That Thing You Do,” when the band first hears their record being played over the radio. They all go crazy.

But of course, my record didn’t go any further. I had no agent or record contract. Still, I have no regrets about spending the money on it. I had a fantastic time. And I’m so glad my buddy, Larry, was a part of it.

Note that I used “Filament” as the name of the record company. Since I was self-producing the record, I could have put anything there. I decided to give homage to our old band.

Robert B Robinson - singer-songwriter - early record - side ARobert B Robinson - singer-songwriter - early record - side B

Listen to “In Time.” Written by Robert B. Robinson. Performed by Robert B. Robinson and Larry Fisher (drums). Recorded in 1971, but it sounds like it’s from the early 60’s.

Robert B Robinson - singer-songwriter - in college

Right out of high school, I had spent one year at Lamar University as a music major before dropping out. Five years later, I went back to school, studying music at East Texas Baptist University for a year. Then I took a full-time music director position at a church. While I was there, I wrote a children’s musical and performed it with our children’s choir. I also wrote a youth musical.

Two years later, I returned to Lamar University to finish my music degree, completing 89 hours in two years, while serving as part-time music director in a church and writing my second youth musical.

At Lamar, my voice professor, Joseph Truncale, roped me into singing opera—which, up until then, I’d had no interest in.

The picture on the left was taken at a summer opera workshop performance. Wow, at 27, I was so thin, I looked seven feet tall. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Then Mr. Truncale informed me that I was going to take the part of Escamillo, the bullfighter, in his full production of the opera Carmen in the Spring.

What!??? Me sing a lead role in an opera? No way.

But he was very persuasive, and deep down, I wondered if I could actually pull it off. But it would require a bit of acting as well as singing. We were performing an English translation, and there were speaking parts.

At one point, during the Toreador Song, I was to climb on top of a picnic table and then leap to the floor. And, yes, I did it without breaking anything—although a few audience members gasped.

AND, at the end of the Toreador Song I was to take Carmen in my arms and kiss her—passionately on the lips.

Robert B Robinson - singer-songwriter - in Carmen

A beautiful young lady, Lisa Davis (Miss Beaumont), was singing the part of Carmen, but I was a married man. How could I kiss another woman—in front of an audience of 500 people, dozens of whom were from my church?

I was freaked-out, and refused to do the kiss in rehearsals, which made me even more nervous about the upcoming performances. But everything worked out fine. I kissed her, yet my head did not catch fire as I had feared it might.

Once the last curtain came down, I realized that despite the weeks of grueling rehearsals and my worries about spoken dialogue, operatic-style singing, and the kiss, it had been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

Mr. Truncale suggested that I stick around after graduation and work on a masters. I could be his assistant opera director. I was honored, but I declined.

Here’s a song from my senior recital (1979), “Song of the Flea,” written by Russian composer, Modest P. Moussorgsky. It’s a humorous song about a king who adopted a flea as his son.

Next, I held a full-time music position at a church for seven years. While there, I wrote another youth musical, two adult choir musicals, and four senior adult musicals. I also started a company to publish my music—even making studio recordings of the musicals. We sold a lot of music, but ultimately drowned in red ink.

After leaving that church, I struggled for several years to find my way. I moved my family to Denton, Texas and earned two-thirds of a masters in music at University of North Texas, studying music composition and music education. I did well—particularly in my computer music class. Our semester project involved using a software framework developed by the professor to create a program that would compose music automatically.

At the end of the term, we did show and tell, and most of the music produced by our computer programs didn’t sound like music at all. It was just a lot of random notes—except for mine, which blew away my classmates. It sounded like a Bach Fugue! At least it did for the first sixteen bars—which was amazing. It sounded like a human had composed it—not a computer program. That class was easily my favorite college class of all time.

But I finally faced the fact that I couldn’t (financially) afford to stay in school long enough to earn the doctorate required to teach on the college level. Eventually I went back to Lamar University and earned a degree in computer and information sciences, and then took a job with United Space Alliance for fourteen years, where I wrote software for Mission Control Center in Houston.

A few years ago, I became interested in writing fiction, and wrote ten novels and novellas and three dozen short stories over a nine year period. (RobertBurtonRobinson.com)

I’ve continued to write and record music over the years in fits and starts. Now I’m back at it, full-time. And I’m applying everything I learned about storytelling to what I already knew about writing music.

It’s gonna be fun.

Robert B Robinson - singer-songwriter