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Robbie Rae’s first taste of the music industry was when he was still a child in Wales, singing soprano in a choir, as his father had done. When he was 14 he was discovered by a local producer, then signed by Decca records, and was soon touring with his brother Martin throughout Europe.
He recorded a version of “The Lord’s Prayer” in Welsh, which was banned by the BBC because of what they considered ‘blasphemy.’ Nonetheless, his talent landed him his own TV variety show in London about six years later, when he met St. Thomas, Ontario’s Cherrill Yates. Originally from England, she’d moved with her family to Canada as a child, then moved back to England to study music at Cardiff College of Music in Wales. She was on tour at the time with her group, The Comic Opera, when they were invited to appear on his TV show. Before long (reportedly after only three days) they were engaged.
She then prompted him to move back to Canada with her, and the duo were noticed playing in a lounge by reps from Dixon-Propas Productions, who was handling some of Toronto’s biggest acts at the time, including Triumph. They signed a deal with A&M Records in ’76 and released three pop singles, “Don’t Shut Me Out,” “Sign on the Dotted Line” and “Oh Me, Oh My”. The next spring, on advice from their management team to reinvent themselves, they recorded the 1956 Doris Day hit “Que Sera Sera” into a dance track, cracking the top 40 at the height of the disco craze in ’77. That song earned them a Juno Awards nomination for best selling single. Encouraged by the promise, the label executives whisked the duo off to Manta Sound Studios in Toronto. Along with a team of session players and writers, producers Harry Hinde and Cliff Edwards, formerly of The Bells were brought in. The result was the self-titled debut lp, featuring “Que Sera Sera,” along with three other singles among the 10 total songs – “Are You The Boy?,” “All Kinds Of People,” and “To Love Somebody.” Several 45 rpm and 12″ remixes hit all the discos in North America, pushing the album gold.
They were rushed back to Manta Studios for their ’79 follow-up DANCING UP A STORM, again produced by Hinde. The first single was “A Little Lovin” (Keeps The Doctor Away).” The Raes were all the rage, and the bubbly, infectious first single peaked at No. 5 on Billboard’s club playlist, but only managed to reach No. 61 on the pop charts. Legend has it that the song stalled because of a typing error in Billboard magazine. It supposedly showed the record sliding down the charts, when in fact it had climbed two positions. The error panicked A&M execs, who yanked promotion on the record. Still, “I Only Wanna Get Up and Dance” was soon released as the next single in various 12″ formats for the DJs to play. But again, execs were disappointed when it only managed to reach No. 47 on the magazine’s club play list. Nonetheless, the duo had a very successful set of mini-tours in the US and in Europe, appearing on such hit TV variety shows as Soul Train and American Bandstand.
1980 was an interesting year for the duo. They were offered the chance to host their own variety show on CTV that season, which drew respectable numbers. Before teh end of teh season they were offered a chance to extend that gig to five years. They turned it down on what would turn out to be bad advice from the label execs at A&M who thought it would affect sales. Still, they were nominated for a JUNO that year for most promising group. They released TWO HEARTS that same year, but changing music tastes equalled little faith from the label, who didn’t even market it Stateside.
With no label support and declining popularity the duo was dropped, straining their personal lives. They divorced in 1982. Cherrill released a single for A&M while still using the Rae last name – “I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” backed by a remake of “Gonna Burn My Boogie Shoes.” She remarried and continued to perform in several acts around the Toronto scene, including Backstreet, Rae And Rockit, her own lounge act The Cherrill Rae Trio. In 2002 she began performing for tourists with Carnival Cruise Lines.
Robbie meanwhile tried to make it as a solo artist, reinventing himself as an adult pop star – releasing several unsuccessful adult pop singles over the next few years on several labels as 45s, 7″ and 12″ singles, including “Finger On It,” “Something About Your Girl That I Like,” “Rachael,” “Hold On To The Night,” “Lorelei,” and “Take No Prisoners.”
In ’89 he hooked up with Jim Gilmour and Steve Negus from Saga for their Gilmour-Negus Project lp on Virgin Records, using his real name Robert Bevan. Through the ’90s he fronted his self titled band which did the circuit on the Toronto club scene, then moved to Dubai where he landed a steady gig entertaining American troops. In 1999, he moved to Thailand where he opened his own bar, allowing him to sing whatever and whenever he wanted. On Boxing Day, 2004, Robbie was one of dozens of people reported missing during the tsunami disaster that hit the village of Phuket. He was located a few days later and resumed work at his bar, the Tai Pan Club. He passed away in February 2006 as a result of liver and kidney problems at the age of 52.
THE RAES (1978) Que Sera Sera
Are You The Boy?
All Kinds Of People
To Love Somebody
Don’t Shut Me Out
Oh Me, Oh My
When I’m Dead and Gone
A Little Down
DANCING UP A STORM (1979) A Little Lovin’ (Keeps The Doctor Away)
Only Want To Get Up And Dance
Gonna Burn My Boogie Shoes
Honest I Do
Don’t Turn Around
Don’t Make Waves
TWO HEARTS (1980) Love It Up Tonight
I Don’t Care
Give A Little Bit More
One Sided Love Affair
That Once In A Lifetime
Kiss and Tell
Ask Me To Dance