Robin Sylvester was born in grey, post-war London. His music education came by working with a professional boys' choir whose patron was the very distinguished composer Benjamin Britten. As a result, he was recording at Abbey Road about the time the Beatles began working there in the early '60s. As the English music scene exploded in the mid-'60s, he found the Marquee Club, where in 1965 he saw the Yardbirds with Spencer Davis Group (Stevie Winwood, 16, was the vocalist) opening. It was a good time- he also the Beatles and Stones that year, and Jimi Hendrix in January 1967 at the Marquee in one of his first English shows. With memories like this, it's not surprising that he began picking up instruments - first the guitar. Soon he discovered that the school double bass is tuned the same as the bottom four strings on the guitar...inspiration!
Between what we would call high school and college, he turned professional, playing on recording sessions. Then one day in 1969, aged 18, he was in the right place at the right time. An engineer failed to show for a session, and from then until 1974, Robin earned his paleness by living the studio nightlife, acting as chief engineer in a small studio and recording blues (Rory Gallagher), jazz (John Surman), and pop (the Move, Mungo Jerry).
He came to the U.S. in 1974 as part of a band backing bluesy diva Dana Gillespie, and returned to London with a fretless jazz bass, a '67 Telecaster, a large bag of hard-to-find James Brown records - broke but very happy and dying to get back to the states.
Alternating between Top 40 gigs and engineering, he settled in San Francisco in the late 1970s and found gigs with Steve Seskin, Marty Balin, and the late legendary saxophonist and producer Steve Douglas, with whom he worked on sessions with Little Richard, Dylan, Ry Cooder, and Phil Spector, among others.
Finally, in 2003, he heard from his old friend Mark Karan that there was a band called RatDog that needed a bass player…
Robin Sylvester photo by Susana Millman