Arthur ‘Bunny’ Robinson Transcended Musical Boundaries
Arthur 'Bunny' Robinson, one half of the duo of Skully and Bunny, transcended musical boundaries when he recorded in duet with his partner the first song in Jamaica's popular music during the post-mento period. It has to be taken seriously because the recording, Give Me Another Chance, kick-started the Jamaican boogie-influenced songs, which had an important bearing on the development of ska. Needless to say, ska, in turn, became the foundation on which all the succeeding genres - rocksteady, reggae and dancehall - were built.
According to Bunny, who I spoke with from his residence along Crook Street in Jones Town, weeks before his passing on May 10, "Dem time it was pure mento-calypso and foreign artiste you have. The only local artiste dem times was the calypsonians. so when we come wid this song, it was like a new thing," Bunny said.
Done between 1953 and 1954, the recording rocked places like Darling Street, Salt Lane, and surrounding areas in west Kingston whenever it was played on the popular sound systems of the day. According to Bunny, the radio stations rarely played it, but it was a must-play from juke boxes across the corporate area.
The duo's follow-up, Till The End Of Time and I Love You, were equally impressive, as were further collaborations in the 1960s and 1970s in a Shirley and Lee style. Then for a while, both men went their separate ways, with Bunny having a few impressive solo pieces in the rocksteady and ska styles on his Peanut record label. They included Jah Children, Just Because, and No Water. It was symbolic that Peanut should have been chosen as his label as peanut vending was his passion and livelihood. He was perhaps better known for that than for his music.
His professional approach in the music business overflowed into his peanut-vending business as Bunny executed his craft in a dramatic way. He pioneered the peanut-throw-up and money-thrown-back style of selling in which packets of peanuts were flung from the bottom of the bleachers area at The National Stadium to buyers in the upper rows. Bunny became such a regular fixture at football games at Sabina Park during the 1960s and at the National Stadium during the 1970s up to the early 2000s that the authorities allowed him free access to the venues. He was privileged to have sung the national anthem at a couple of Premier League Football games.
Bunny began his career singing in duet with Noel Simms as 'Simms and Robinson' on the Vere Johns talent show in the early 1950s. Lord Tanamo heard them rehearsing and took them to see a rich Indian named Baba Tewara, who, in turn, took them to The Stanley Mottas Studios, where they did their first recording.
Among his awards are a Distinguished Award in 1999 from Miami Dade County (Florida) for his services to music and a badge of honour from the Jamaican Government in 2004 in recognition of his dedicated and supportive service to Jamaican sports. Arthur 'Bunny' Robinson, who would have been 82 years old on June 19, died exactly three months and six days after his partner, Skully.