Friends celebrate Rockin’ Robin, giant of Kent music who died last year

Image of a man playing the fiddle and a woman playing an accordian outdoors
Mo Mojo celebrates Rockin' Robin's legacy with Cajun rhythm and a smile. Wendy DiAlesandro/The Portager

About 175 musicians and friends of Rockin’ Robin Montgomery gathered at Kent’s Plum Creek Park on Sunday for a celebration of life to honor a great musician gone too soon.

Born Robert Paul Montgomery on June 1, 1948, “Rockin’ Robin” died of heart issues on Aug. 18, 2020. Covid concerns, though, delayed the celebration of life until last Sunday.

Attendees enjoyed a potluck dinner and musical tribute as many of Northeast Ohio’s finest musicians sent heartfelt notes to Robin, who they said surely must be listening.

A lifelong Kent resident, Robin was a noted blues musician who played and recorded with artists across the region. His honky tonk blues piano sound was instantly recognizable to a legion of fans and friends.

Among Sunday’s artists were pianist Mike Samson, drummer Erik Diaz, and guitarists Brad Smedley, Bob Frank, Ed Amon, Kerry Kean, and Roger Phillips. The Bluestones, with whom Robin frequently played, presented a short set led by band leader Jim Fox and guitarist/vocalist Donny Baker. The night’s fiddlers included Bill Lestock, John Reynolds, Ed Eakin and Holly Brunswick. Also on stage were Leigh Ann Wise (triangles), Jim Miller (Irish flute), Sam Rettman and Bob Frank (harp), Jen Maurer (vocals, guitar, accordion), George Lee (bass) and Rick Feinberg (banjo).

A photo montage featuring Robin and many of his fellow musicians was accompanied by “Robin Ain’t Here No More,” a tailor-made tribute written by the Spyder Stompers, Jack DiAlesandro and Kevin Richards. The video, available on YouTube, features Ray DeForest on acoustic bass, Ray Flanagan on harmony vocals, Roy King on percussion, Meredith Pangrace on accordion, and Kevin Richards on guitar and vocals

The celebration of life was masterminded by Laura Mazur, who enlisted the help of a small army of volunteers, including friends, Kent Scout troops 253 and 257, and residents of Miller House and Freedom House. Acme Fresh Market in Kent, Woodsy’s Music, City Bank Antiques, Acorn & Evergreen Florists and Bainbridge Swing Dance provided monetary or in-kind donations. John Reynolds ran the stage, and RT Mansfield served as sound man.

Many of the musicians shared memories of Robin, who had a legendary memory of all things and all people related to music. He is buried with his parents in Kent’s Standing Rock Cemetery.

A program printed for what was termed “Robin’s Day” provided a fitting epitaph: “A generous man. A gifted musician. A positive man. A man of his word. A friend to many.” 

Robin was all that, and more. Rest easy, old friend.