The Life and Music of Bobby Day

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Introduction

American rock n roll and R&B singer/songwriter Bobby Day was a former member of the L.A.-based Hollywood Flames (who was known for their hit single “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” in 1957) and the Satellites, entering the 60s music era. The songs he wrote, such as “Over and Over” and “Little Bitty Pretty One” has been covered by several artists, notably Thurston Harris. During the late-50s music era he achieved his one and only hit “Rockin Robin” that peaked at #2 on the pop chart. The 60-year old Day died of cancer July 27 1990. His classic rock n roll was definitely considered as one of the oldies music gems.

Bobby Day’s early musical career

Best remembered for his smash hit “Rockin Robin” in 1958, the American rock n’ roll and R&B musician Bobby Day was born Robert James Byrd on July 1, 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas. Day relocated to Los Angeles, California when he was 15 years old. In 1949, he initially led the R&B group Hollywood Flames, one of Los Angeles’ top performers during that time. The group enjoyed some hits including “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” in 1957.

After that, Day formed his own group called the Satellites, releasing original classic rock n roll tune “Little Bitty Pretty One.” The song was soon covered by Thurston Harris who surpassed the original in terms of chart performance (#6 pop, #2 R&B) in 1957. Clyde McPhatter’s version was issued in 1962 and registered on the pop chart at #25 while Jackson 5’s version peaked at #13 on the same chart in 1972.

Day was also a member of the duo Bob and Earl, where he used his real name Bobby Byrd. In 1963 the duo scored a minor hit with “Harlem Shuffle,” which was sampled nearly 30 years later by House of Pain in their breakthrough hit single “Jump Around.”

“Rockin’ Robin” – Day’s only major hit as a recording artist

Billed as Bobby Day, he was signed as a solo recording artist to Class imprint in 1957. He scored a Top 10 Billboard hit with “Rockin Robin” the following year. It became Day’s only major hit, peaking on both pop and R&B chart at #2 and #1 respectively. The million-selling single was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA.

Day also wrote the song “Over and Over” which he also recorded in 1958. It almost made the Top 40 pop chart. British pop group the Dave Clark Five released their own version which topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965.

Day’s death and legacy

Day passed away due to cancer at the age of 60 in Los Angeles, California on July 27, 1990.

One of his songs, “Beep-Beep-Beep” may not have made the charts by the time it first came out. However, it was later used as a soundtrack music for Kia the Sorento TV ad in 2012-2013.

The Music of Bobby Day

Bobby Day’s music combines elements of rock and roll, R&B, and doo-wop. His songs have silky, soulful vocals, memorable melodies, and bouncy, frequently hand-clapped rhythms with soaring harmonies in the background. His success on the R&B and mainstream charts is partly attributed to the infectious grooves of his songs. Here are some of Bobby’s most well-known hits that made him an iconic name.

1. Rockin Robin – Bobby Day’s 1958 single for Class Records, titled “Rockin’ Robin,” was initially written by Leon René as “Rock-In Robin” under the alias Jimmie Thomas. It reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed at the top of the R&B sales chart for one week, making it Day’s most successful single. In 1972, Michael Jackson released his own hit cover for his gold-certified solo album Got to Be There, which also featured the song’s original version as a B-side. It was the album’s top seller, reaching the top spot on the Cash Box Singles list and the top two spots on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard soul singles chart. 

2. Over and Over – Bobby Day recorded this song as Robert James Byrd under the guise of his stage name. In the same week, Thurston Harris’s cover debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958; Doris Day’s rendition also made its way onto the chart. The song’s protagonist is only sure about having fun at a party once he sees a stunning beauty. Although the singer tries to ask her out, she is waiting for her date. There will be “over and over” attempts, he said. In 1965, the Dave Clark Five, one of the earliest British Invasion bands of the mid-1960s, recorded the most popular version of the song. Over and Over” was the group’s twelfth Top 40 hit in the United States and their only number one.

3. Little Bitty Pretty One – The song “Little Bitty Pretty One” was written by Bobby Day and first recorded in 1957. It was the same year that Thurston Harris made the song famous. Harris’s version peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Best-Sellers chart and No. 2 on the R&B chart. Both versions were produced by Aladdin Records (based in Los Angeles, California) and featured the Sharps on background vocals. Bobby Day’s cover in Canada made it to No. 11 on the CHUM chart. It “has gone on to become one of the best-loved oldies of the late ’50s,” as Bryan Thomas puts it. The hummed intro to this song has made it famous. It was included in the comedy/fantasy films Little Monsters (1989) and “Matilda” (1996).

4. Young Girl – The song “Young Girl” by Bobby Day, recorded in 1962 and released under the title “Please Tell Me Now,” was also a hit. In 1962, Class Records issued it as a single. Despite the song’s uplifting tune and speed, its lyrics describe the story of a man tempted by a little girl who is too young for him. The lyrics have been criticized for normalizing an unhealthy connection between a much older guy and a much younger woman. Despite the negative impressions about the song, Bobby Day’s “Young Girl” was a commercial success, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B charts. Gary Puckett, whose 1968 rendition of the song became a hit, is just one of many singers who have covered it over the years.

5. Wheel of Fortune – The doo-wop group The Cardinals released the first version of the song “Wheel of Fortune” in 1952. Bobby Day’s 1957 rendition, however, is the one that made him famous. Day’s “Wheel of Fortune” peaked at # 2 on the R&B chart and # 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of his most successful singles. Day’s silky vocals and infectious melody accompany words that ponder fate and life’s ups and downs. Even though Day kept making music throughout the ’60s and ’70s, he could never replicate the commercial success of “Wheel of Fortune.”

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