Husband, father, and solo artist John “J.R.” Robinson has accomplished quite a bit during his lifetime. He was born in Creston, Iowa four days after Christmas in 1954. He was influenced by his late parents optometrist Dr. Jack Robinson and Helen Sloan. He began with instruments at a very young age; piano at 5 and drums at 8. His professional career started at the tender age of 10 when he started his own band. After graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston, he played with several well-known artists of the time. He went on to become the most recorded drummer in history, playing for the studio recording of “Off the Wall” for Michael Jackson. The extensive list of names he’s played with would wow even a crowd at the Grammy’s! His repertoire contains music recordings on albums performed by famous recording artists including: Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Natalie Cole, Meryl Haggard, Ray Charles, Herby Hancock, the Pointer Sisters and Barbara Streisand. He’s been drumming and touring with Barbara Streisand since 1993. With Streisand, he just completed the “Timeless” World Tour of Australia and the United States.
To add to his list of albums, he has also has quite the list of recordings for movie and television. These films are not B-movies, not by a long shot. Perhaps you have heard of a little movie called Pirates of the Caribbean 2? Robinson has played tracks for this movie and other big blockbuster hits like Hercules, Independence Day, South Park, America’s Sweethearts, and Team America. His first Grammy was awarded to him in 1983 with Rufus and Chaka Khan for “Ain’t Nobody.”
John just released his album “Funkshui” from his recording studio in Thousand Okas, CA. He is currently working on several other projects with his band, TRW. Possibly the greatest accomplishment of his career so far is his release of two signature series snare drums out with Yamaha. He was also involved in creating what is known as the Flying Dragon pedals by Yamaha. These left- or right-footed pedals are as visually pleasing as they are easy and fun to use! These pedals are connected in the middle with a design on either side of each pedal. They also sport glow-in-the-dark stripes which is good for the lighting in a dark, smoky club.
While JR does give lessons to up-and-coming artists, he has so much business going on that his teaching schedule is currently filled! Even though he has little time nowadays to devote to teaching drumming, he is now accepting applications for private lessons on his website, johnjrrobinson.com. He does take time every other semester to teach “Studio Techniques” at the Music Academy in Los Angeles.
A funny anecdote from his days playing with Quincy Jones can be found on his website and goes something like this:
Once, while working in a session for the great Quincy Jones, on “The Dude” several guys in the studio were laughing at JR’s drum kit. When he asked what they were laughing at, they pointed to the kit. He peeked over the riser and looked down and there was a fully stripped-down drum set with only kick, snare and high hat. There were no toms or cymbals! One of the managers came up to JR and said “Quincy doesn’t want any toms and cymbals on this record!” John was remarked to have said: “Ok, Whatever Q wants, Q gets!”
I suppose that is the correct way to go about appeasing those you’re drumming (or generally working) for! They liked him enough to invite him back time and again and he developed his own niche within the community.
His website features a myriad of information and photos of his many drumming engagements. His “news” link sends you to pictures and information about upcoming events and current projects he and his band are undertaking. The upcoming schedule shows him doing a Yamaha clinic several places in Japan, then back to the states for a concert in Los Angeles. There’s also an area for fans to contact him and ask questions about his life and music or just to leave a note about what an inspiration his music has been to you in your drumming career.
Nowadays, JR spends most of his time with his wife Debbie and son Jack, named after John’s late father. They are the typical “rock star” family, with Dad visiting his son’s school and bringing his drum kit for all the students to practice on. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a famous drummer as a dad?