Willard Robison


Willard Robison

From Wikipedia

Willard Robison (September 18, 1894 – June 24, 1968) was an American vocalist, pianist, and composer of popular song, born in Shelbina, Missouri. His songs reflect a rural, melancholy theme steeped in Americana and their warm style has drawn comparison to Hoagy Carmichael. Many of his compositions, notably “A Cottage for Sale“, “Round My Old Deserted Farm”, “Don’t Smoke in Bed”, and “Old Folks”, have become standards and have been recorded countless times by jazz and pop artists including Peggy Lee, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Mildred Bailey. “A Cottage for Sale” alone has been recorded over 100 times.

In the early 1920s, Robison led and toured with several territory bands in the Southwest. He met Jack Teagarden in this period, whom he befriended. In the late 1920s, Robison organized the Deep River Orchestra, later hosting a radio show entitled The Deep River Hour in the early 1930s.

During the 1920s, Robison recorded extensively for Perfect Records, with scores of vocal recordings accompanying himself on piano (displaying his rather eccentric stride piano style), as well as “Deep River Orchestra” recordings using standard stock arrangements (including many popular and obscure songs, as well as his fox trot arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue on both sides of Perfect 14825 and Pathe 36644.

In 1926-1927, Robison recorded an interesting series of 8 moody foxtrots with the umbrella name of American Suite:

  • After Hours (American Suite No. 1) (Perfect 14728/Pathe 36547) 10/1/26
  • Piano Tuner’s Dream (American Suite No. 2) (Perfect 14743/Pathe 36562) 10/22/26
  • Darby Hicks (American Suite No. 3) (Perfect 14744/Pathe 36563) 10/22/26
  • The Music Of A Mountain Stream (American Suite No. 4) (Perfect 14755/Pathe 36574) 11/22/26
  • Tampico (American Suite No. 5) (Perfect 14755/Pathe 36574) 11/22/26
  • Mobile Mud (American Suite No. 6) (Perfect 14756/Pathe 36575) 10/22/26
  • Deep River (American Suite No. 7) (Perfect 14774/Pathe 36593) 11/22/26
  • Harlem Blues (American Suite No. 8) (Perfect 14821/Pathe 36640) 4/20/27

He recorded for Perfect & Pathe from 1926 to 1928. Between 1928 and 1930, he recorded for Columbia, Harmony and Victor. He also recorded a session in 1937 for Master Records.

Jack Teagarden recorded a critically praised album of Robison’s songs in 1962 entitled Think Well of Me. Robison died in Peekskill, New York in 1968, aged 73.

List of notable compositions

  • “‘Round My Old Deserted Farm”
  • “‘Tain’t So, Honey, ‘Tain’t So”
  • A Cottage for Sale
  • “Don’t Smoke in Bed”
  • “Down to Steamboat, Tennessee”
  • “Guess I’ll Go Back Home (This Summer)”
  • “Harlem Lullaby”
  • “I’m a Fool About My Mama”
  • “In A Little Waterfront Cafe”
  • “It’s Never Too Late to Pray”
  • “Old Folks”
  • “The Devil is Afraid of Music”
  • “Deep Elm (You Tell ‘Em I’m Blue)”
  • “Peaceful Valley”
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