Sadly, he is not one of New Orleans’ native sons. But you can’t win ’em all. Quite a talent though!
Frank Isaac Robinson (born December 28, 1938), known in his early career as a musician as Sugar Chile Robinson, is anAmericanblues and boogie-woogie pianist, singer, and later psychologist, whose career began as a child prodigy.
Robinson was born in Detroit, Michigan. At an early age he showed unusual gifts singing the blues and accompanying himself on the piano. According to contemporary newsreels he was self-taught, and he managed to use techniques including slapping the keys with elbows and fists. He won a talent show at the Paradise Theatre in Detroit at the age of three, and in 1945 played guest spots at the theatre with Lionel Hampton, who was prevented by child protection legislation from taking him on tour with him. However, he performed on radio with Hampton and Harry “The Hipster” Gibson, and also appeared as himself in theHollywood film No Leave, No Love, starring Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn.
In 1946, he played for PresidentHarry S. Truman at the White House, shouting out “How’m I Doin’, Mr President?” – which became his catchphrase – during his performance of “Caldonia“. He began touring major theatres, setting box office records in Detroit and California. In 1949 he was given special permission to join the American Federation of Musicians and record, his first releases on Capitol Records, “Numbers Boogie” and “Caldonia”, both reaching the BillboardR&B chart. In 1950, he toured and appeared on television with Count Basie, and appeared in a short film ‘Sugar Chile’ Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet. The following year, he toured the UK, appearing at the London Palladium. He stopped recording in 1952, later explaining:
“I wanted to go to school… I wanted some school background in me and I asked my Dad if I could stop, and I went to school because I honestly wanted my college diploma.”
Until 1956 he continued to make occasional appearances as a jazz musician, billed as Frank Robinson, and performed on one occasion with Gerry Mulligan, but then gave up his musical career entirely. Continuing his academic studies, he earned a degree in history from Olivet College and one in psychology from the Detroit Institute of Technology. In the 1960s, he worked for WGPR-TV, and also helped set up small record labels in Detroit and opened a recording studio.
In recent years he has made a comeback as a musician with the help of the American Music Research Foundation. In 2002, he appeared at a special concert celebrating Detroit music, and in 2007 he traveled to Britain to appear at a rock and roll weekend festival. In the last Dr Boogie show of 2013, Sugar Chile Robinson was the featured artist, with four of his classic hits showcasing amid biographical sketches of his early career.
Here’s a lagniappe video: