Marvin Robinson has been involved in the music business for over 40 years. He’s work
with some legendary performers and is currently the lead entertainer at the historical
Smokehouse in Burbank. We sat down with Marvin to get some of his history and we
think you’ll agree; he’s got a LOT of history to share.
|Marvin Robinson with the O'Jays|
How did you get started in music and how long have you been singing?
I started singing in my church as part of a gospel group when I was in my teens. Not long
after that, I joined the Young American Singers. We were a group of about 30 young
people who performed as openers for some of the biggest names of the day.
We opened for Bob Hope, Al Hurt, Englebert Humperdinck and many others. Once I
joined those guys, I never looked back.
What types of songs and music did the group perform?
Basically, what you would call the Great American Songbook. Classics going back to the
40’s, but with a large focus on the 60’s.
Did you tour often?
We toured almost non-stop. We went to Japan twice, which was incredible. Imagine a
young kid going to Japan as a singer! We were in Las Vegas a lot. We would go to Vegas
for month-long stretches of 7 day a week performances. We opened for people like
Debbie Reynolds, Harry James and even Monty Hall!!
Who are some well-known celebrities you’ve performed with?
I mentioned a few, but one of the highlights of my career was being able to open for
Frank Sinatra. Our group, The Kids Next Door, was invited to perform as part of a
benefit concert in San Jose. The concert had Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, and Don
Rickles, among others. It took me a lot of nerve, but I did ask Frank for a photo and he
was happy to oblige.
|Marvin Robinson & Herb Alpert|
Have you always been a singer or did you work in the music industry in other
I worked at Capitol Records in marketing and merchandising. I wanted to know what the
other side of the business was like. I had a chance to meet a lot people. Paul McCartney,
Tina Turner, Michael Jackson and many more.
How did you connect with The Smokehouse to become their live entertainer?
Well, I went in as a customer because I heard it was a low-key and classy place to have
dinner and a drink. Trish Turner was singing at the time and I was amazed by her talent.
As time went on I started becoming a regular and eventually was singing duets with
Trish. When she moved on, the restaurant asked if I wanted to take the entertainment on
solo and the rest is history! I’ve been there for 10 years and it’s been incredible. I get to
perform songs that I love and songs that belong in a classy and traditional setting like The
What does the future hold for you?
I’m going to continue to perform for seniors. I give folks the chance to relive their
younger days by singing the songs they grew up with and fell in love with. I love to
promote harmony and good vibes through music. I’m working on a Lou Rawls Tribute
that I’m going to be performing in casinos in Southern California. I’ve always had a
connection with Lou Rawls and I want to honor that connection by keeping his music
Any last words or stories?
Elvis gave me a ring! Our group was on a flight back from Hawaii and Elvis was on the
same flight with his family. As it turned out, our choreographer had worked on several of
his movies so they knew each other. He came back to meet our group and talk to us and
he noticed me admiring one of his rings. He said, “You admire it more than I do so I want
you to have it”.
I still have the ring.
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