Frank “Sugar Chile” Robinson

 

Detroit dynamite, “Sugar Chile” Robinson. Born Frankie Robinson, the youngest of six children, in Detroit in 1940, “Sugar Chile” began pounding on the family piano as a toddler – he reputedly banged out a recognizable version of Erskine Hawkins’ Tuxedo Junction at the age of two – and by 1945 he had been “discovered” by pianist and bandleader Frankie Carle. Within a year he was asked to play at a Whitehouse party for President Harry Truman, had guested with Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra and even appeared performing the title song in the 1946 MGM romantic comedy film “No Leave, No Love”. It was not until July 1949, however, that he made his first records for the Capitol label, when, in the consummate company of jazz veterans Leonard Bibbs on bass and drummer Zutty Singleton, Robinson took his first two releases into the Billboard R&B chart in late 1949; Numbers Boogie made it to number four, while Caldonia (What Makes Your Big Head So Hard) only reached number 14. His subsequent national tour broke box-office records everywhere and it is claimed that his appearance at Chicago’s Regal Theatre remains the biggest one-week attraction of the theatre’s entire history, easily beating the jazz royalty of the day like Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Robinson toured with Basie in 1950 and made a celebrated musical short with the Basie Sextet and Billie Holiday in Hollywood in August to showcase his hits. The Christmas season of 1950 witnessed Sugar Chile’s first European release and Christmas Boogie c/w Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer sold well enough to spark a European tour in 1951, including rave reviews for his spot at the London Palladium. He was a big hit on US radio and TV all through 1951 and then, while still in his pre-teens, Robinson’s career was suddenly over; his last single release was issued in August 1952, shortly followed by a 10″ compilation LP of boogie woogie that featured many of his 1952 recordings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s