H. Robinson Cleaver
(Updated February 2016 with three video links on Youtube)
(1906-1987) Photo courtesy Alan Ashton.
Robinson Cleaver, or “Robbie” as his friends knew him, was one of the most exciting and prolific theatre organists anywhere. He was as popular in England as Sydney Torch and Quentin MacLean.
He started playing the organ at age 8 and graduated from the Royal College of Organists. He and his wife, Molly, were the “Jesse and Helen Crawford of England” on the stage, except Molly played
on piano and Robinson played on the organ. He also recorded with a group called The Organ, The Dance Band and Me, making numerous records with them as well as his own solo recordings.
The H. Robinson Cleaver Fan Club was founded in 1938 and Robbie was its President until his death in July 1987. This club is now known as the Theatre Organ Club.
Robinson Cleaver did not become known in the United States because his 1952 American releases were very slow and boring. What a tragedy! His rhythm was dynamic and his dexterity was exciting; his
registrations were varied and scintillating. He also played slower pieces with great sensitivity. Robinson was equally adept in classical organ music as well. He was the “Lenny Dee of the theatre organ”.
Normally a theatre organist could not be on this site as this is an electronic organ web site. All his recordings were on pipe organs, both theatre and classical. However, he owned a Hammond organ from
the early years and performed on Hammond frequently. My sources informed me that his drawbar settings were flawless and he understood the instrument perfectly.
New February 2016
Robertson was believed in the States to be a rather 'slow' player. However this appears to have come about due to recordings produced for the States to be of very slow tunes and not a fair example of his work.
Thanks to Steven Shaw for sending me information about the links to these Videos links on Youtube of three performances by Robinson, demonstrating that he was a much livelier organist
than he he was credited for, especilally in the United States.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaArTdMfGcQ Robinson plays this merry medley on the Compton, New Studio Organ On the
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC2rT4x-_hc Robinson plays Thunder & Lightning Polka at the magnificent 3/14 Wurlitzer in the Tower Ballroom Blackpool.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaArTdMfGcQ Robinson and his wif, Molly at Wurltzer and piano at the Granada Theatre Clapham Junction in Decmber 1943.
Special thanks to Alan Ashton for additional information and the photo. Please note this photo is under copyright and may not be reproduced.