British Columbia·Photos

Red Robinson, Vancouver DJ who interviewed Beatles and other rock 'n' roll giants, dead at 86

Longtime broadcaster, show promoter and advocate for rock 'n' roll in Vancouver, Red Robinson, has died, according to his family.

Robinson, who began career in 1954, credited as 1st DJ to play rock 'n' roll on regular basis in Canada

DJ Red Robinson poses for the camera outside.
Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame member Red Robinson has died at age 86. (

Longtime broadcaster, show promoter and advocate for rock 'n' roll in Vancouver, Red Robinson, has died, according to his family.

In a statement posted online, Robinson's family said he passed away, after a brief illness, on Saturday — two days after his 86th birthday — shortly after 8 a.m. PT.

"We're so glad we got to spend his final moments with him, and having his brother Bill there made it extra special,'' said his family in the statement.

Robinson began his radio career in 1954 at Vancouver's CJOR, after making a prank call to the station pretending to be actor Jimmy Stewart, who was in town at the time filming a movie.

The B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame credits him as the first DJ in Canada to play rock 'n' roll music on a regular basis.

His website says Robinson jumped to Vancouver CKWX station in 1957, where he met American singer Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. He went on to interview the Beatles and even called Johnny Cash a friend.

Red Robinson on stage with the Beatles in Vancouver.
Robinson is pictured on stage with the Beatles in Vancouver in 1964. (Bill Cunningham for the Red Robinson Collection)

For Michael Godin, also a radio host and producer, Robinson will always be remembered as his best friend. They first met when Godin moved to Vancouver in 1986. 

"Red and I just connected, we both have this amazing love of radio," said Godin. 

The two shared an office space for over a decade. Godin recalls he and Robinson would sometimes drive to White Spot on their lunch breaks and get curbside service in the car while listening to the radio. 

"He would open the door in his very Red, bombastic way and he'd say 'good morning monsieur!'" said Godin. 

Godin had plans to visit Robinson on Saturday morning, just hours after he passed. He is thankful they were able to talk on the phone two days earlier, on Robinson's birthday. 

"One of the things that's so wonderful about Red was just how giving he was. He didn't have to know the person if they wanted to stop and chat on the street."

A picture of Buddy Holly and Red Robinson together.
Robinson is pictured with Buddy Holly in Vancouver in 1957. (Rolly Ford for the Red Robinson Collection)

Robinson was inducted to the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2000, retiring from radio in 2007.

He received the Order of British Columbia in 2016, and was also the recipient of the Canada 125 award and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal.

The City of Vancouver declared March 30, 2017, Red Robinson day in honour of his 80th birthday to recognize his work in bringing some of the biggest acts of the '50s and '60s to Vancouver.

A picture of Elvis Presley being interviewed by journalists with Red Robinson in the foreground.
Robinson with Elvis Presley in Vancouver in 1957, (Rolly Ford for the Red Robinson Collection)

When Al Murdoch started working in radio when he was 19 in the mid-1980s, he was grateful for how Robinson took him under his wing. 

"Sometimes you don't want to meet your heroes because they might be disappointing, but this guy was not disappointing," said Murdoch. 

 Murdoch said Robinson was always full of energy, and one of the nicest people he has ever met. 

"I learned so much from him not only about the business, but just about life. Being a nice human being," said Murdoch. 

Red Robinson with Roy Orbison .
Robinson with Roy Orbison. (Craig Hodge for the Red Robinson Collection)

Robinson married his wife Carole in 1963. They had two daughters Kellie and Sheri, and a son Jeff, who died in 2003 of Crohn's disease at the age of 33.

The family said in the statement on Saturday that despite Robinson's busy life and persona, he always also had time and energy for them.

"Most people knew our Dad as a rock' n' roll DJ, a TV personality, an ad agency owner, a spokesperson, or through his philanthropic work. He was larger-than-life in a lot of ways, but to us he was a devoted father and grandfather, a loving husband to our late mom Carole, and a loyal friend to everybody," the statement read.

With files from The Canadian Press