Robbie Montgomery

Robbie Montgomery (born June 16, 1940) is an American soul singer. She is noted for being one of the original Ikettes in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in the 1960s. After her tenure as an Ikettes, she became a "Night Tripper" for Dr. John. Montgomery was a backing vocalist for acts in the 1970s, including Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones and Joe Cocker.[1] Montgomery later became a successful restaurateur and star of the award-winning reality series Welcome to Sweetie Pie's.[2]

Robbie Montgomery
Birth nameRobbie Marie Montgomery
Also known asMiss Robbie
Born (1940-06-16) June 16, 1940 (age 79)
Columbus, Mississippi
OriginSt. Louis, Missouri
GenresR&B
Occupation(s)Singer, restaurateur
LabelsTeena Records, Modern Records, Mirwood Records, Uni Records
Associated actsIke & Tina Turner, the Ikettes, the Mirettes, Dr. John

Early LifeEdit

Robbie Marie Montgomery was born on June 16, 1940, in Columbus, Mississippi, to Ora Gray and James Montgomery. They lived with her great-grandmother, Miss Pathenia, who was American Indian.[3] When she was six years old, her family moved to St. Louis, Missouri.[3] She grew up in the Pruitt-Igoe projects as the oldest of nine siblings.[4][5] Montgomery was raised a Baptist but is now a Methodist, she sang in the church choir. Montgomery attended Curtis Elementary School and graduated from Pruitt High School.

Music careerEdit

"Ike was a business man and a professional and Tina was an employee, just like we were employees. Being around Ike, we called it the Turner University because we learned so much. A lot of the stuff Ike taught us about business, I’ve applied to my own business: being on time, being prepared, and being professional. And I think Tina runs her ship today with some of the things Ike taught too."

Robbie Montgomery (2012)[6]

Montgomery and two neighborhood friends, Frances Hodges and Sandra Harding, started a doo-wop singing group called the Rhythmettes, and they started appearing in talent shows.[4] A local singer named Art Lassiter hired them as backup singers and they became the Artettes. Lassiter sang with bandleader Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm. Turner wrote a song, "A Fool in Love," for Lassiter.[7] When Art Lassiter didn't show up for a recording session at Technisonic Studios in March 1960, Turner took the Artettes and had them accompany his backup vocalist Little Ann (Tina Turner) on the track.[3]

"A Fool In Love," released in July 1960 on Sue Records and became a hit, peaking at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Billboard Hot R&B Sides.[8][9] Turner formed the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, but with a new group of backup singers: Delores Johnson, Eloise Hester, and Jo Armstead. Montgomery was pregnant and unable to tour. After having her baby in 1961, Montogmery toured with blues musician Earl Hooker before she returned to Ike & Tina.[3] During her hiatus she sang with the group Benny Sharp & the New Breed who had another female vocalist named Jessie Smith.[10] Montgomery and Smith along with Venetta Fields (a gospel singer from Buffalo) formed the first official incarnation of The Ikettes.[11] In 1962, Montgomery released her first single,"Crazy In Love" / "Pee Wee" on Turner's Teena record label.[7]

The Ike & Tina Turner Revue performed a grueling schedule of one-nighters on the Chitlin Circuit in the segregated south, and recorded constantly,[2] but Montgomery recalled those timed fondly. "We had good times. We would gamble, sing, dance, all the way to the next gig," she told St. Louis Magazine.[3] In 1962, Turner relocated the Ike & Tina Turner Revue to California. In 1965, the Ikettes released two of their biggest hits on Modern Records, "Peaches 'N' Cream" (Pop #36, R&B #28) and "I'm So Thankful" (Pop #74, R&B #12).[12] As an Ikette, Montogmery performed on the American television shows American Bandstand, Hollywood A Go-Go, and Shindig!.

Montgomery, Smith and Fields left the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in 1965. After trying unsuccessfully to continue using the name the Ikettes under management of Tina Turner's sister, Alline Bullock, they changed their name to the Mirettes after their new label Mirwood Records.[13] Their single release did not chart and they later signed with Revue Records. In 1968, they had success with the single "In the Midnight Hour" (Pop #45, R&B #18).[14] They sang on The Lost Man soundtrack produced by Quincy Jones in 1969.

Montgomery eventually left the Mirettes to join Dr. John as a "Night Tripper" in the 1970's. She provided backing vocals for variety of acts including Barbra Streisand, Debbie Reynolds, Joe Cocker and Stevie Wonder.[3] In the 1970's she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis which required lung surgery and derailed her singing career.[15]

In 1986 and 1987, Montgomery toured Europe with former members of the Kings of Rhythm, including Jimmy Hinds, Clayton Love, Billy Gayles, Erskine Oglesby, Stacy Johnson and Oliver Sain, as part of the St. Louis Kings of Rhythm.[16][17] The band was officially appointed as ambassadors for the City of St. Louis.[18]

In 2018, Montgomery released her debut album, Miss Robbie's What They Call Me, her first release in 40 years.[2] The EP includes songs that are mixture of soul, blues and country. Montgomery worked on the project with St. Louis producer/engineer Carl Nappa.[15]

Sweetie Pie'sEdit

After Montgomery's lung collapsed, which prevented her singing, she moved back to St. Louis from California and became a dialysis technician.[3] Eventually she took her mother's soul food recipes, and created a soul food restaurant, Sweetie Pie's, run by herself and her family. The first restaurant, on West Florissant Avenue in Dellwood, opened in 1996.[19] Montgomery hires men out of prison looking for jobs to work in her restaurant.[4]

Welcome to Sweetie Pies, a reality show which focused on Montgomery running her soul food restaurants, premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network on October 15, 2011.[20]

In 2015, Montgomery was featured the book The People's Place: Soul Food Restaurants and Reminiscences from the Civil Rights Era to Today. Montgomery told author Dave Hoekstra that managing her own restaurant gave her new appreciation for her former boss Ike Turner. "Back then we all thought he was mean. You had to rehearse. He had his rules. You couldn't have runs in your stockings. But now that I am running a business I know exactly where he was coming from." Before Turner died in 2007, he visited Sweetie Pie's and tipped Montgomery fifty-dollars.[5]

In 2016, Montgomery sued her son Tim Norton for stealing money and violating her Sweetie Pie’s trademark to open competing restaurants.[19] In 2017, Montgomery filed a motion to enforce a settlement agreement.[21]

AccoladesEdit

In the 1980s, Mayor Vincent Schoemehl appointed the St. Louis Kings of Rhythm, which included Montgomery, ambassadors for the City of St. Louis.[18]

In 2010, George Lombardi, the director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, presented Montgomery with a plaque honoring her for her willingness to help ex-offenders.[4]

Welcome to Sweetie Pie's won Best Reality Series at the NAACP Image Awards in 2013 and 2016.[22][23]

Personal lifeEdit

Montogmery had a son, Andre Montgomery (1961-1995), with Art Lassiter.[3] Her grandson, Andre Montgomery Jr. (1994-2016), who was featured on her show was shot and killed in 2016.[24]

Montogery's son Tim Norman was born in 1979. He manages Sweetie Pie's restaurant on Manchester Avenue in St. Louis. In 2018, Norman was arrested for an incident in 2017 where he was accused of punching his ex-restaurant employee.[25]

DiscographyEdit

SinglesEdit

  • 1963: "Crazy In Love" / "Pee Wee" (Teena 1701)

AlbumsEdit

  • 2018: Miss Robbie's What They Call Me

Featured as an Ikette/MiretteEdit

Backing vocal creditsEdit

BooksEdit

  • Sweetie Pie's Cookbook: Soulful Southern Recipes, from My Family to Yours (2015)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Taylor, Betsy (August 22, 2007). "Soul food chef Robbie Montgomery known for more than her cooking". The Metro West Daily News.
  2. ^ a b c Kasten, Roy (October 10, 2018). "Ms. Robbie Montgomery Just Released Her First New Music in 40 Years". Riverfront Times.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Cooperman, Jeannette (February 26, 2010). "A Conversation With Robbie Montgomery". St. Louis Magazine.
  4. ^ a b c d McClellan, Bill (December 8, 2010). "Sweetie Pie's owner believes in second chances". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  5. ^ a b Fenske, Sarah (September 22, 2015). "Sweetie Pie's Featured in New Book, The People's Place". Riverfront Times.
  6. ^ Obie, Brooke (April 16, 2012). "[INTERVIEW] OWN TV's Miss Robbie Cooks Up a Hit with "Welcome to Sweetie Pies"". Ebony.
  7. ^ a b Ike Turner, Nigel (1999). Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner. London: Virgin Cawthorne. ISBN 1852278501.
  8. ^ "Billboard Hot R&B Sides" (PDF). Billboard: 42. August 15, 1960.
  9. ^ "Billboard Hot 100" (PDF). Billboard: 36. October 17, 1960.
  10. ^ Braun, Barrett (January–February 1990). "Benny Sharp & The Sharpees" (PDF). The Blues Letter: 4.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  11. ^ Tina Turner, Kurt Loder (1986). I, Tina: My Life Story. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780688059491.
  12. ^ "The Ikettes Chart History - Hip-Hop/R&B Songs". Billboard.
  13. ^ Baumgart, Malcom. Original sleeve note from The Ikettes — Fine, Fine Fine (1986).
  14. ^ "The Mirettes Chart History". Billboard.
  15. ^ a b Johnson, Kevin C. (October 11, 2018). "Robbie Montgomery of Sweetie Pie's is nervous but excited about overdue debut record". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  16. ^ Kasten, Roy. "Stacy Johnson, Singer with Ike Turner and Benny Sharp and the Sharpees, Has Died". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 2019-12-21.
  17. ^ Olson, Bruce R. (2016). That St. Louis Thing, Vol. 2: An American Story of Roots, Rhythm and Race. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-4834-5797-0. OCLC 967779163.
  18. ^ a b Baugh, Bob (June 27, 2018). "Jimmy Hinds: The Sound of St. Louis". KDHX.
  19. ^ a b Kirn, Jacob (July 27, 2016). "Sweetie Pie's founder accuses her son of theft, trademark infringement". St. Louis Business Journal.
  20. ^ "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's". IMDb.
  21. ^ Froeb, Ian (March 2, 2017). "Court filing suggests potential Sweetie Pie's lawsuit settlement is in limbo". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  22. ^ Schremp Hahn, Valerie (February 1, 2013). "'Welcome to Sweetie Pie's' wins Image Award for best reality series". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  23. ^ Lincoln, Ross A. (February 6, 2016). "The 2016 NAACP Image Awards Winners: 'Creed', 'Black-Ish' Clean Up While 'Compton' Wins Best Film". Deadline.
  24. ^ "Grandson of Sweetie Pie's owner killed in St. Louis shooting". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 15, 2016.
  25. ^ "Tim Norman Of 'Welcome To Sweetie Pie's' Arrested For Assault Of Restaurant's Ex-Chef". Black America Web. August 28, 2018.

External linksEdit