“Keith Robb; With the Intruders and Beyond”
A Short History of the Intruders:
- Intruders, early years
The Intruders were formed in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the spring of 1964. The earliest members included Jim Frost, John Burns, Randy Russell, Tom Geistert, and Tim Leuliette. By the summer of 1965, the members were Tim Leuliette (guitar), Doug Mull (bass and vocals), Keith Robb (guitar and vocals), and Jim Frost (drums). This lineup lasted until spring of 1967 when Bob Fodor was added, playing the Vox Jaguar organ. They also kept a road manager named Curt Hitchcock.
Before Keith Robb joined in the summer of 1965, the Intruders had already appeared on a local TV program on WZZM called “The Dick McKay Show.” They had also recorded two songs in May of 1965 at Dave Kalmbach’s Great Lakes studio in Sparta. The tunes were originals, including a vocal named “Oh, Kathy,” written by Doug, and Tim Leuliette’s instrumental named “Spacewalk.” The recordings were never released on vinyl, yet acetates were given to D.J.’s Dick McKay and Jack Hoppus, who gave “Spacewalk” some airplay.
The Intruders performed on McKay’s television program several times. Typically, they pre- recorded a song and then went to the TV studio and were video-taped for the show while lip-syncing. During the live TV broadcast, they would step in after their tape was aired for a quick introduction and interview with Dick. On July 4, 1965, Dick invited the Intruders to play “Space walk” live on his TV show, broadcast from the WZZM studio in Muskegon. The featured musicians on that show were The Righteous Brothers, who lip-synced one of their songs.
Keith Robb Career History (with the Intruders):
- Keith Robb with the Intruders
While Keith was in the Intruders, from the summer of 1965 to late 1967, they performed their own versions of songs such as Talk Talk, Eight Miles High and Pipe Dream, as well as selections from the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Searchers, and the Lovin’ Spoonful.
The Intruders wrote only a few songs during Keith’s time with the band, yet they recorded numerous cover tunes. In December of 1966 they met at Phil Robert’s East Grand Rapids basement recording studio and produced fourteen songs in one afternoon. They recorded all their songs in one or two takes on two-track tape, doing the instrumental parts first, followed by the vocals. Phil eventually opened another studio on Leonard N.W., called Midwestern, behind John Kik’s music store.
Keith Robb in Phil Robert’s basement studio
The Intruders kept busy performing around Michigan. They played numerous times at The Place, once backing up The Music Explosion, who had a hit called ” Little Bit of Soul.” They were at The Pit, located at the YMCA in downtown Grand Rapids. Many of their engagements were dances at the 44th Street and Michigan and Fuller Street Armories or at the Cannonsburg Ski Lodge, as well as schools such as South, Ottawa, Forest Hills, Creston, and GRJC. They played at fraternity parties at U of M, MSU, Ferris, and other colleges, as well. In the summer of 1967 they performed in front of Ganto’s, playing three shows per day for one week, to celebrate the grand opening of Eastbrook Mall. Most of the time they were on the road, though, at the Club Ponytail in Petoskey, the Sweet Note in Big Rapids, Mad Anthony’s in Saugatuck, The Beach Bash in Grand Haven, The Hideout, Johnny’s Bandstand, the Poe Club in Holland, and the Thunderbird Lounge in Muskegon.
Advertisement for Intruders performing at The Place
Keith enrolled at Ferris State College in the summer of 1967 and attended until the fall of 1970. It was there that he became lifelong friends with blues guitarist Al Thayer and was exposed to country blues music. Both Al and the blues were to become huge influences to Keith’s future musical career.
Keith Robb’s Music Career after the Intruders
In late 1967, Keith left the Intruders and was replaced by guitarist and vocalist Dave Pryce. At that point the band’s name was changed to The Root Beer Stand Band, and Tom Davis was added as the drummer. Dave and Tom eventually joined Aris Hamper’s Phlegethon.
Keith moved west for a few years right after leaving college and finally settled in Reno, Nevada. In the mid-70s he moved back to Grand Rapids and joined a heavy rock band called Chrome Textile Knaves, doing tunes by bands such as Free, Bad Company and Led Zeppelin. The band featured singer John Emil Justin, who later performed in the New England area as Emil Nitrate, as well the late guitarist Ed “Clayton” Powers. Roger Bradford was their drummer.
Keith (on left) with Chrome Textile Knaves
In 1979 Keith met local legendary blues musicians Jimmy Steigmeyer and Frank Salamone. During the late 60s and early 70s Frank and Jimmy performed as “Suitcase,” an acoustic blues music outfit, playing at local clubs and opening for concerts at Fountain Street Church and Grand Valley State College. Frank was a major influence on Keith.
Keith sang and played with a blues band named Jake the Shake from 1979 until 1981. This group included Al Thayer on electric and slide guitar and vocals, Jack Klienheksel on harmonica and vocals, Roger Bradford on drums and John Rousch on bass. Keith provided vocals and electric guitar in this format. In 1981 Jim Steigmeyer asked Jake the Shake to help him create a “big city“ blues band. Al Thayer and Keith provided sax on several numbers, in addition to their customary roles on guitar. Keith eventually decided that it was time to leave and Jimmy took over the band, renaming it the Jimmy Stagger Band.
Keith Robb at the microphone with Jake the Shake 1980
During the 80s Keith worked full time and played in a band two weekends per month. He also kept a small farm, growing organic feed for goats and chickens while maintaining a half- acre garden with his wife.
In 1984 John Vrieling, the ex-drummer for Cabbage Crik, asked Keith to play bass with his new group called the Fabulous Eastones. They performed 50s and 60s music such as doo-wop, pop, soul and Motown. Keith’s friend Al Thayer joined and provided tenor sax and congas. They played regularly at the Bostwick Lake Inn as well as numerous other venues. The band featured two male and two female singers, implementing four -part harmonies. Keith left this band in 1989.
The Fabulous Eastones (Keith is second from the left with the sax)
Around 1999, Al Thayer, Jack Kleinheksel, John Vrieling, Keith, and sometimes fiddle player Asa Briggs started a group named Hula Dogs. They played primarily at private parties. Their musical fare included acoustic and electric blues, bluegrass, old country and old country blues, rockabilly, and Cajun; basically all types of ‘Americana.’ Asa played fiddle. Al played banjo, Cajun accordion, acoustic, electric and National steel guitars. John Vreiling added drums or ‘doghouse’ bass. Jack doubled on harp or electric bass. Keith supplied electric and acoustic guitars, electric bass, and mandolin.
Keith playing guitar on stage with the Hula Dogs
Though Asa died in 2009, and the band name has been retired and the members occasionally change, some of the Hula Dogs still play together privately, but primarily for fun.
At 62, Keith is married with three children and six grand daughters! He is working full time, fixing amplifiers during his spare moments, and still thoroughly enjoying his music.
All photos supplied by Keith Robb
Conversations with Keith Robb and Kim Rush from 2011
Jim Frost interview concerning the Intruders, which was copyrighted and originally printed on www.60sgaragebands.com, by Mike Dugo
Excerpts from Grand Rapids Rocks website (Jim Frost interview)