Rock and Roll and R&B singer and songwriter Bobby Day was best known for his only major hit “Rockin’ Robin” recorded in 1957 on the Classic Label. In 1958, the single, written by Leon Rene under the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas, reached no. 1 on the R&B chart, no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and sold over one million copies. Day was a multi-instrumental artist, music producer, singer and songwriter.
Robert James Byrd was born July 1, 1930, in Fort Worth, Texas. HIs mother was Julie Jennings. He moved to Los Angeles at age 15 and began performing with the Hollywood Flames at the Otis’s Barrelhouse Club in Watts, Los Angeles. The club opened in 1948 and was co-owned by Johnny Otis, Bardu and Tila Ali.
In 1949 Day made his first recording, “Young Girl” with the Hollywood Flames on the Selective Label. The song was released in 1950. Day had minor music success as lead singer of the Hollywood Flames during the 1950s, performing under the stage name of Bobby Day. Their hit song “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” which he wrote, reached no. 11 on the R&B charts in 1957. Day formed his own group, the Satellites, which backed him on “Little Bitty Pretty One” released in 1957. From 1957 to 1959, Day and Earl Nelson performed as the duo Bob and Earl. In 1960, he and Earl recorded “Gee Whiz,” and in 1963, “Harlem Shuffle” under his real name, Robert Bryd. Thirty years later, House of Pain sampled parts of it in their hit single “Jump Around.”
Best known for his songwriting ability, Day wrote and recorded “Little Bitty Pretty One” but it was made popular by Thurston Harris whose version hit no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1958. The single was also recorded by Frankie Lymon in 1960 followed by Clyde McPhatter in 1962. The Jackson Five recorded the song in 1972 where it reached no.13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and no. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart. Day wrote and recorded “Over and Over” that climbed to no.40 on the pop chart in 1958. The Dave Clark Five, an English Rock & Roll band in 1958 made their own version which hit the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965. Among other songs he wrote and recorded were “The Bluebird, The Buzzard and the Oriole,” and “That’s All I Want” in 1959. Day recorded on several record labels including Rendezvous, RCA, Sure-Shot, and Jama Records.
Day appeared on several variety shows in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s including American Bandstand and The Midnight Special. Both were live music variety shows featuring performances by popular artists, interviews of celebrity guests, and teenagers dancing.
Bobby Day died of prostate cancer at age 60 on July 27, 1990, in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife Jackie and their four children.