Robert Gordon, Singer Who Spawned a Rockabilly Revival, Dies at 75

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Robert Gordon, who became the most visible face and name associated with the rockabilly music revival of the late ’70s and ’80s, died today, Oct. 18, 2022. The cause and place of death have not been divulged. Gordon was 75.

Gordon’s death was reported in Variety, which cited the singer’s record label, Cleopatra Records, as a source. The Variety report noted that Gordon’s family had recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to assist with his battle with acute myeloid leukemia.

A final album, Hellafied, is scheduled for release Nov. 25, and reunites Gordon with British guitarist Chris Spedding, who collaborated with Gordon in the singer’s early days.

Robert Ira Gordon was born March 29, 1947, in Bethesda, Md., and was infatuated with the sound of Elvis Presley during the 1950s. Gordon then discovered other early rockers who fell into the style now known as rockabilly, including Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Billy Lee Riley.

Robert Gordon performing live at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, N.Y., Dec. 18, 2021 (Photo by Greg Brodsky, used with permission)

Gordon first recorded with a band called the Confidentials in the mid-’60s, but he later said did not identify with ’60s rock music. He moved to New York City in 1970 and as punk-rock dawned in the midst of that decade, he gained some local recognition with the band Tuff Darts, which was popular at CBGB and other local venues.

After a meeting with record producer Richard Gottehrer, Gordon teamed with primal rock ’n’ roll guitarist Link Wray, of “Rumble” fame, and switched his style to one that drew upon the early rock ’n’ roll he favored, particularly rockabilly. The singer and guitarist recorded Robert Gordon with Link Wray for the Private Stock label, which gave them a charting single with “Red Hot,” originally recoded on Sun Records by Riley. It peaked at #83 in Billboard in 1977.

Gordon and Wray followed that album with Fresh Fish Special before going their separate ways. That album featured Elvis Presley’s backup singing group the Jordanaires, and included a cover of the Bruce Springsteen-written track “Fire,” which featured Springsteen on keyboards. (Another cover of that track, by the Pointer Sisters, had the commercial glory, reaching the top 10 in 1978; Gordon’s version did not chart.)

Related: The Stray Cats also brought rockabilly back into style

Gordon signed with RCA Records in 1978 and released Rock Billy Boogie, with British guitarist Chris Spedding replacing Wray. It became Gordon’s highest-charting album but still missed the Billboard top 100, stalling at #106. Gordon recorded two more studio albums and a live set for RCA before the label dropped him, with only one single, a cover of Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someday, Someway,” charting.

In later years, Gordon continued to release albums sporadically, and toured regularly, teaming with guitarist Danny Gatton for some time. Gordon also reunited with Spedding for a period but never crossed over to mainstream success, even when the rockabilly revival he helped spark spawned numerous like-minded bands.

Watch Robert Gordon (with Chris Spedding) sing “The Way I Walk” in 1980

Related: Musicians that we’ve lost in 2022

Jeff Tamarkin

2 Comments so far

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  1. dennisl
    #1 dennisl 18 October, 2022, 17:25

    The album ‘The Humbler’ with Gatton backing Gordon is a must for any guitar player. It is an astonishing example of Gatton’s supernatural technique and style.

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  2. HighPlainsGrifter
    #2 HighPlainsGrifter 19 October, 2022, 02:00

    Robert Gordon and Link Wray were one of
    the scenes that I had always wished that
    I could have attended.
    “”Explosive” one of a kind performance
    to take in, and you would never forget it.

    Reply this comment

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