FREE BIRD! The Return of Robb

August 24th, 2011

Okay, I’ve been talking with Robb about writing a series of blogs on whatever schedule appeals to him, about his post-Bread life.  And he’s said yes.  (That’s Robb at the age of nine above, and he already had an attitude.)

So few of us have had the experience of being a rock star that I thought you’d all enjoy Robb’s memories of being in one of the world’s biggest bands, and one that had more than the usual share of triumphs and troubles.

So here’s the first piece, in which he backs up a bit — not as far back as this photo — and begins the tale.   Ninety percent of this is as new to me as it is to you.

Heeeere’s Robb:


Tim has asked me to write some stuff about my transition out of the Pleasure Fair period and into the beginnings of Bread; subsequently some rock ’n roll tales. He calls it a ‘series’. I don’t like that word. ‘Series’ sounds like work, minimums, deadlines. I know his tricks. He’s trying to suck me into his dismal life where you are constantly banging on a keyboard, muttering to yourself and counting words to see if you’re anywhere near the 8,000 you need for the day.

I have a very nice life, thank you very much, raising two promising but complicated children, drumming my fingers, and getting a song cut every five years or so. It takes up most of my energy trying to convince my dear wife that Jesus did not help her find that parking spot or that ripe watermelon. This debate has gone on for twenty three years and I’m happy to report that exactly nothing has been accomplished so far. So, you see I am busy.


Actually, the fact that I am sixty eight and still locked in mortal combat with a fifteen and a sixteen year old is itself a by-product of rock ‘n roll. Try being a balding, twice divorced forty five year old attempting to lure a gorgeous twenty four year old babe into your web. No chance, right? Drop the rock ‘n roll card and BAM! You’re having babies at fifty three. There’s Jesus again, getting even with you for all the perks you got when you were in the band.

Robb and Maddy, 1988

I was going to tell you the story of the Belfry Hotel, our ultimate rock ‘n roll moment, but I can see now it’s going to have to wait. I’m going to have to go back, way back. Might even turn into a series. Damn it Tim, you win again.

Okay, so… beginnings. I had gone on for my first fifteen years with a mind pretty much uncluttered by anything resembling a thought. It was too full of insecurities and resentments to allow room for any of that. And as for a plan for the future… please! But as you know, when you’re a junior in high school they begin testing you; SATs and the like, and, in my school, they also gave you an ‘interests’ test. I scored very well on the verbal portion of the SATs and was even selected to do some competitive testing against other promising kids in Central California. (Later, I needed these small victories to compete with Tim. After all, he had Askit Basket.)

When the testing whirlwind began to abate, I was sent to my counselor to get it all summed up for me. Mr. Withers was equipped with a card that enabled him to get to the bottom of the whole complex careers question. It had five jobs listed on it. Score well on the mechanical section and you’re a… mechanic. Duh. Math: engineer. Space relations: carpenter or architect. Verbal = lawyer. Teaching was the catchall fifth category. Up until that moment I had not given a fraction of a second’s thought to any consideration of being a lawyer. I only had one question: do lawyers make a lot of money? Mr. Withers raised his eyebrows and whistled. Done! I went forth from that meeting confident that I was going to be a lawyer.

There actually was one hiccup. The results from the ‘interests’ test came in. Music was off the charts. Wow! That might even be better. I went to the music teacher, Mr. Odell, and told him I might like to be a professional musician expecting to be warmly welcomed into the brotherhood (I was, after all, first chair alto sax). His face blanched into a skeletal rictus of fear and he began backing away as if I were waving a gun at him, hands protectively fending off some unseen threat, whining ‘no… no…’ When he saw my disappointment, he began dissembling. “What I mean is… music is a fine avocation, but don’t even think about having it as a career.”

I walked away, sadder, wiser, into the arms of my beckoning legal future.

16 Responses to “FREE BIRD! The Return of Robb”

  1. EverettK Says:

    This is such a wonderful blog.

    We hear fascinating stories from fascinating people, and almost never anything from Tim.

    How good can it get?

    I still think Askit Basket is something you pick up at Burger King.

    (I’m back from vacation, back in my regular dungeon, so why should I be nice to the Dungeon Master? After all, what has HE done for me lately?)

    Thanks for the intro tale, Robb, you’ve got me hooked! (But being a career musician, you wouldn’t know anything about hooks, right?)

  2. Delaney Royer Says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. Dad, Matt looks like you in the picture from when you were nine. It’s all in the lips.

  3. munyin Says:

    I love the pictures. Which baby are you feeding?

  4. Robb Royer Says:

    That’s Delaney. She looks like a newborn so I guess the year is 1994.

  5. Usman Says:

    Robb, that was great, enjoyed it a lot.

    As to the series, yes we’re hooked as are you. Now when do we get to the girls.

  6. Laren Bright Says:

    Okay, I know what Bread is (though I am currently gluten-free). But what’s Askit Basket? (And do I really want to know?)

  7. Robb Royer Says:

    Soon, boys, soon. Girls are something you have to build up to.

  8. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Wonderful, seems like a meditation on how you got here. Kids keep you young. I have to laugh about the high school counselor-it was the fifties, and the years of the grey flannel suits. But Rock and roll was a glimmer-Elvis was suspect, and to our elders, the thought of doing anything in music or the arts was horrifying. I look forward to more of your thoughts.

  9. Suzanna Says:

    Well, Robb, I hope your music teacher realized his mistake when you became a successful musician and never discouraged another student.

    A young friend of ours told my husband that when he went to his high school counselor for testing one of the occupations that was suggested was florist. He just finished his graduate degree in History from Oxford.

    The moral of this story: don’t listen to ’em!

    Thanks, Robb, enjoyed learning more about your life!

  10. Robb Royer Says:

    Lauren, for an explanation of what Askit Basket was, please refer to my July 14 blog, last paragraph. Mike Hallinan later corrected my spelling. By the way, I, too am gluten free, or as I like to put it, allergic to bread. Ironies abound.

  11. EverettK Says:

    Rob said: …allergic to bread. Ironies abound.

    Too funny. You can’t make this stuff up. (Well, maybe Tim can…)

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Robb fans —

    I love this. I get to put up really good writing with almost no effort whatsoever and sit back and watch my readership grow. Or someone’s, anyway.

    I loved this post when Robb send it to me, and even now, after all the intensive rewrite I did, I still love it. Not a word remains of the original, but I like to think I kept the spirit intact.

    Okay, seriously, shouldn’t Robb write a book? In fact, he could write my next one. (Rim shot.) I actually think he’d write a terrific book if he were willing to do as I do, “constantly banging on a keyboard, muttering to yourself and counting words to see if you’re anywhere near the 8,000 you need for the day.”

    Well, 1,000, anyway.

    Suzanna, the florist story is hilarious. Laren, to keep you from having to read more of Robb, “Ask-It Basket” was a weekly live television show I was on when I was 12 or something in Washington, DC. We went on at something like 8 Saturday AM, and my parents, God bless both of them, pried themselves out of bed every week and drove me there, in spite of the fact that they had very Irish Friday nights.

    Keep hondling Robb — I want this series to go for months, and I’m not kidding. I’m dying to hear this stuff.

    And Everett, your turn with the bucket is coming.

  13. EverettK Says:

    I’m more worried about my turn without the bucket…

  14. John Lindquist Says:

    This is great. I can’t wait for Part 3 to happen, as engrossed as I am.

    Robb and Tim: Both of you (and numerous others I see here) belong on “Says You“, a weekly “words and whimsy” show on NPR – at least a guest shot on the panel once in awhile. One has to hear it to believe it.

    One cannot live by bread alone. Pomegranate meringue pie – maybe.

  15. Usman Says:

    John, one cannot also live without a bucket — please, someone tell that to Tim. I need my bucket.
    Robb, we’ve built upto the girls; what do you want — the Mona Lisa.

  16. Michael Zimbert Says:

    Royer: so you wanted to be a li..or.. I mean lawyer? Defend the wrongly accused… perhaps the… “I thought it was a good idea.. to go into the bank with a note… “I am pointing a gub.. at you”
    (woody.. perhaps Seans best thinking) truth is if “felony stupid” did not exist.. I as well as every DEA agent, Judge, persecutor.. I mean prosecutor and the host of everyone else would be unemployed. You chose well Royer. I may have stories.. but you got LYRICS…. Song for Maddy… gets me tearful…. beautiful… words, changes.. depth of feeling….and you shared it with us… HUGE Robb… stuff you did with Michael Smotherson amazing voice…. Finnigans… Michael is a voice and the piano and hammond work that you turned me onto… I love his style… and Sean… could always relate to him on many levels… and you…. on guitar…. always was told.. its not the notes you play that count….. its the notes you leave out that count…. (tell me where that quote came from… I of course incorporate by reference…. and I will fly out with Wade… in Oct.)

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