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News » Harlem's Street Party Falls Silent

Harlem's Street Party Falls Silent

21 March 2008
After 61 years in business, a Harlem landmark is gone.

Since 1946 Bobby Robinson owned Bobby's Happy House (used to be located on the corner of 125th St. and Frederick Douglass Boulevard), which bacame a neighborhood hot spot for music for 61 years and became nearly as much of an important Harlem landmark as the Apollo Theater.

In the '50s and '60s, he established several record labels, some in partnership with his brother, Danny Robinson. Among them were Red Robin Records in 1952, Whirlin' Disc Records in 1956, Fury Records and Everlast Records in 1957, Fire Records in 1959, and Enjoy Records in 1962.

Having enjoyed healthy local sales with doo-wop and blues discs on his "Robin" and "Red Robin" labels in the early to mid-1950s, he launched "Fire" and "Fury" as vehicles for rhythm and blues and rock and roll artists, most of which were produced by him in New York, but some were produced by others and acquired by him in various Southern cities.

Robinson produced numerous million-selling records by such notable performers as Wilbert Harrison, The Shirelles, Lee Dorsey, and Dave "Baby" Cortez. He produced Gladys Knight & the Pips' first hit, "Every Beat of My Heart". Robinson also produced several of Elmore James' greatest records. King Curtis's "Soul Twist" was the first release of his "Enjoy" label, and over twenty years later, he released the highly successful hit, "Iím The Packman (Eat Everything I Can)" by The Packman, on the same label. In the late 1970s, he was the first music man to record this strange new sound out of the Bronx called hip-hop.

But Kimco, a real estate giant that owns properties such as the Concourse Plaza and Centerreach Mall, has bought the northwest corner of 125th St. and Eighth Ave. and asked tenants to leave, including Bobby's Happy House.

Robinson's daughter Denise, is determined to preserve her father's life work and is looking for a new location for the store. She reflected on the change in the neighborhood.

"The change is good but it's sad that everyone is being put out of the neighborhood. After you've stood the test of time, they make you leave," she said.

Harlem is certainly less happy without Bobby's.

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