Thursday, July 09, 2009

Robbie Rae - Welsh King of Disco

You've probably never heard of him but he was the Welsh King of Disco. Robbie Rae (real name: Robert Bevan) was originally from Resolven. As a child he released a Welsh-language version of the Lord's Prayer which was deemed blasphemous by the BBC and banned. Later he formed his own pop band called Roundabout and hosted a TV show.

One of the guests on this show was Canadian singer Cherill Yates. The pair fell in lurve and decamped to Canada. There they formed singing duo The Raes and began releasing singles. Their first Canadian hit was a disco-inflected version of Doris Day standard Que Sera Sera. The pair also hosted a successful TV show entitled: The Raes Variety Hour.

Things really got interesting in 1979 when their second album Dancing Up a Storm was released by A&M in the States. A single taken from the LP, A Little Lovin' (Keeps the Doctor Away), went top 5 on the Billboard Dance Chart. Receiving healthy airplay - particularly on the east coast - it entered the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 61. To capitalise on this success The Raes embarked on a US tour and even made appearances on prestigious TV shows like Soul Train and American Bandstand. The duo rubbed shoulders with the likes of Diana Ross, Grace Jones, Roberta Flack, Boney M, Gloria Gaynor and Abba. They also hung out in super clubs like Studio 54 and the Limelight.

Unfortunately, their follow-up single (I Only Wanna) Get Up And Dance only made it to number 47 in the US Dance chart. With their popularity on the wane the strain on the Raes' marriage increased and the couple divorced circa 1980. As a musical act The Raes were now finished. Robbie quickly launched a solo career before joining an outfit called GNP who actually released one LP, Safety Zone, on Virgin Records. After the demise of this project Robbie became a cabaret/club singer, eventually re-locating to Thailand where he ran a bar. He died in Phuket in 2006.

In disco-fan circles (such circles do exist, honest) The Raes are still held in high esteem, especially their two US dance hits. Check them out on YouTube.