This is How I Got Started in Rock ‘n Roll & Radio
2015 marks Rock & Roll's 60th Anniversary......
About ten or so years ago, I had the pleasure to be interviewed by the website 60sgaragebands.com about my days in a Rock 'n Roll band. That band is how I got my start in this whole entertainment gig. The following is an edited version but you can read the entire interview by CLICKING HERE.
"60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
John Robinson (JR): When I was seven years old, a neighbor gave us some 45's that included Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino. That was the first rock and roll record that I ever heard. My older sister's friends also made me aware of Ricky Nelson, as they were the bobbysoxer type. I started listening to the radio regularly somewhere around 1958; my very first favorite song was 26 Miles by the Four Preps.
60s: Was the Concussions your first band?
JR: The Concussions was my first and only band. We were together for four years.
60s: Where was band formed, what year, and by whom?
JR: We formed in Stockbridge, Michigan in 1966. We began as a three piece band: myself, Mike Lehman and Frank Stephens.
60s: Were there personnel changes at any time? What were the various line-ups?
JR: John Robinson, bass guitar; Mike Lehman, drum; Frank Stephens, lead guitar; Dennis Jarrell, rhythm guitar (1966-1967); Mike Yancey, rhythm guitar (1967-1968); and Terry Krummery, keyboards (1966-1967).
60s: Where did the Concussions typically practice?
JR: In Frank's living room. Sometimes we practiced at other member's homes, but mostly at Frank's. Occasionally, we got permission to practice in the high school gym.
60s: What type of gigs did you typically line-up?
JR: We played at a few local clubs. We turned the Stockbridge Town Hall into a weekend music club called The Factory, which didn't allow anyone over 19 years old in the door. We performed at a lot of after game dances at high schools and some parties. Our first gig was a party in a barn.
60s: How popular did you become? What type of following did you have?
JR: We got many gigs at the clubs and a lot of the high schools hired us, so I guess we did all right.
60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
JR: Pure garage band music. We started out playing songs like Gloria, Open Up Your Door, Little Girl, (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone and Dirty Water. Then we started playing Hendrix, Cream, Yardbirds, James Brown, Mothers of Invention and Wilson Pickett.
60s: I find it interesting that you played Open Up Your Door, since radio was primarily regionalized in the '60s. Where did you learn the song? From the radio?
JR: A couple of us had the original Richard & The Young Lions single - I still have mine, with the picture sleeve! - and we learned it from that. I loved playing that bass line! I heard that song on CKLW and WIBM all the time back then. It was a huge, monster hit around here!
60s: There are surving recordings, correct? What can you tell me about them?
JR: Going strictly from memory, there's Substitute, The Weight, I Can See For Miles, Kick Out The Jams, If I Needed Someone, N.S.U., Paint It Black, and others I can't remember offhand. These range from 1967-1968.
60s: Why didn't the Concussions ever record a single?
JR: We had dreams of doing that, but there were so many other local bands that were much better vocally than we were, it just wasn't pursued. We were approached by a few hucksters looking for us to give them a few bucks to play their songs and possibly record them, but we told them no way.
60s: What were some of those other local bands that you particularly recall?
JR: There are many but one in particular stands out. We played a gig at The Jackson Armory with a local group, Brownsville Station, who became a major rock and roll band, with hits Smokin' In The Boy's Room and Kings Of The Party. Leader Cub Koda became a respected rock journalist and a good friend in later years.
60s: What are your recollections about him?
JR: Cub had a great sense of humor. He and I both enjoyed those crummy Ed Wood movies, Bela Lugosi films, the old Universal horror monster movies and the god-awful recordings of King Uszniewicz & His Uszniewicztones! I tried to get Cub to re-issue Brownsville Station's first chart single, The Red Back Spider, but he was embarrassed by it. He also had in his archives a super-rare tape of early Brownsville Station doing the song Monster Surfer. I saw Brownsville Station do it live in 1969 and I desperately wanted a copy. I don't know if he couldn't find the tape or not. I was totally surprised to hear about his passing back in 2000.
60s: Were you ever able to make any local TV appearances? What about 8mm or 16mm film footage? Does any exist of the band?
JR: No television appearances. An 8mm home film does exist.
60s: And you didn't join any bands after the Concussions?
JR: Nope, that was it. I still have my bass guitar, a sunburst Gibson EB2.
60s: What about your career today. What keeps you busy?
JR: I got into radio (where I still am), hosted some weekly television shows, wrote a few rock trivia books and I still write a music trivia column for a local newspaper.
60s: Looking back, how would you best summarize your experiences with the Concussions?
JR: I'm glad I had the experience, for it helped me gain some sort of a stage presence, which helps now when I emcee shows and events. I learned a lot of music trivia and became more aware of certain obscure '60's bands and artists that a casual radio listener may not (know). It definitely paved the way for me in radio. The '60's really were an extraordinary time musically and culturally, and I don't say that just because I grew up then...it's because it really was special.