Red Robinson is living museum of popular music and culture.
Elvis Presley? Red Robinson met him. The Beatles? He emcee’d their show at Empire Stadium in 1964 and John Lennon cursed him off the stage. Buddy Holly and Louis Armstrong? Met them when they were launching their careers. John F. Kennedy? Met him during the 1960 presidential campaign.
What started as a teenaged passion for Red — spinning rock ’n’ roll records on a local Vancouver radio station while still in high school — has turned into a six-decade career in the entertainment business.
And he truly was a pioneer. He was the first DJ to play rock’n’roll music on a regular basis in Canada. You may say “it’s only rock ’n’ roll”but in the mid-1950s the beat-heavy music, heavily inspired by African-American musical traditions, was viewed as subversive by most adults. Anyone trying to play it met with racist resistance from the establishment.
“I was listening to American radio stations from up and down the West Coast and really getting into this new music, but nobody was doing in Canada yet. I was the first one to play it on a continuous basis. I really had the pulse of what my generation wanted to hear.”
And he remains active in the industry, often greeting stars of yesterday and today as they perform at his Red Robinson Show Theatre in Coquitlam, and playing DJ Sunday afternoons on AM 650.
For his pioneering contribution to the Canadian music industry, and his philanthropic work with the CHILD Foundation and the Heart and Stroke Foundation and other charities, Robinson is receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of the Fraser Valley on Friday, June 15. He will receive his degree at UFV’s 9:30 am Convocation ceremony at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. The event is free and the public is welcome to attend.
“I never expected to receive such an honour,” notes Robinson. “I never worked toward achieving awards — I worked for the joy of it.”
Throughout his long career in radio and the entertainment industry Robinson has adhered to a belief in positive thinking.
“You need to believe in yourself. Babe Ruth had the most home runs ever, but do you know who had the most strikeouts? Babe Ruth! You have to go to bat and swing if you want to succeed!”
He is sometime incredulous that what started as an offshoot of rebel youth culture has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry, and is proud of the role he played in establishing the entertainment industry in Canada.
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