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Robin Hall

Biography

Biography (Courtesy of The Balladeers site, 2005).

Robin Hall (b. June 27, 1936; d. November 18, 1998)
Robin was born in Edinburgh in 1936, but spent most of his early years in Glasgow and was a direct descendant of Rob Roy Macgregor, and of Mungo Park, the explorer. His mother had been an opera singer and Robin was nurtured on a generous diet of classical music and music hall songs. Robin contracted polio as a child and during his lengthy convalescence his interest in all types of music flourished.

As a teenager, he played with a traditional jazz group, studied the piano, and spent his spare time digging up American folk songs and investigating the folk material of his native Scotland. Hall studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and worked briefly as in actor in repertory theatres. Robin went to London in 1957, armed with a large repertoire of folk songs and a guitar. While in England he recorded a series of EP's for "Collector Records", which are now very hard to find and highly priced. In the 60's, Robin became a bit notorious and controversial for insisting on wearing his Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament badge on the BBC's Tonight Show, for which he was widely criticized. Sadly, Robin died on November 18, 1998, at the age of 61. Another great folk singer that lived life to excess, lost at an early age. Robin married and divorced twice and was survived by three children.

I am an unashamed Robin Hall and Jimmie McGregor fan, but I've found very little information on them elsewhere. Vintage Hall & McGregor records, in particular Robin's early EP's, are among the hardest to find and most expensive. This leads me to believe that there are more of us out there—legions of Hall and MacGregor fans. Robin and Jimmie came along during a period when folk music was at its zenith, and in the UK they were among the first folk stars. I never saw them perform, but listening to them is sheer pleasure and I, for one, am glad they came along.

Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor are remembered as one of Scotland's most popular folk duos. They first teamed up in January 1960 after meeting in Vienna, where the two were given much encouragement by Paul Robeson, who was playing at the same concert.

After making their first appearance on BBC's Tonight, they subsequently appeared five nights weekly for the next 14 years. The release of the Decca single “Football Crazy” in 1960 received a great deal of airplay and became one of their most popular songs, which they updated on one their last albums, 1975’s Scotland’s Best—on the Beltona Brand. In the early sixties Robin and Jimmie regularly (though not exclusively) performed as part of the Galliards, a quartet made up of Hall, MacGregor, Shirley Bland and Leon Rosselson. Jimmie and Shirley married in the mid 50's and subsequently were both members of the City Ramblers. Leon Rosselson was responsible for all of the of the group's arrangements. Leon went on to become one the UK's best songwriters and solo performers.

From 1961 to 1964, Robin and Jimmie performed (with and without The Galliards), appearing regularly on radio, and are particularly remembered for the series Hullabaloo. They went on to tour the world, record more than 20 albums, and appear on countless television programs. Other series' that brought them great acclaim and recognition were The White Heather Club, which they hosted for five years, and Out and About with Robin and Jimmie. With superb harmonies, Hall and MacGregor’s large repertoire of songs, many of which they introduced during this period, have gone on to become folk standards; and yet their contribution to the folk scene has gone seemingly unnoticed in many circles. In 1981 the duo called it quits, primarily Robin’s decision; he had never enjoyed good health, and didn’t really like performing.

After the split, Robin and Jimmie both enjoyed successful careers in broadcasting, Jimmie in particular. Robin won two national radio awards, for best presenter and best documentary, for Radio Clyde’s The Sing Song Streets, a program about Glasgow told through songs, stories and children's games. Meanwhile MacGregor wrote three folk song books, did some solo work, and become very prolific in television with shows that include The West Highland Way, MacGregor’s Gathering and Macgregor Across Scotland.

(See Jimmy MacGregor - from the same author).



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