Bob Robbins (1944–2022)
aka: Robert Spears
Bob Robbins became a fixture of Arkansas radio in 1967, when he began working for KAAY in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1979, Robbins moved to KSSN 96 FM, Arkansas’s top country station. Robbins stayed with KSSN until the end of 2013. After that, he was heard on classic country station 105.1 “The Wolf.” In 1996, Robbins was named Broadcast Personality of the Year by the Country Music Association. In 2008, he was inducted into the Country Radio Broadcasters’ DJ Hall of Fame.
Bob Robbins was born Robert Spears in Auburndale, Florida, on May 16, 1944. His father died from cancer when Spears was one month old. Spears, his siblings, and their mother were living on a farm in Ashford, Alabama, in 1954; that Christmas Eve, Spears’s mother died, and the children were split up. Spears was taken to a Baptist children’s home, where he was adopted by an air force officer. His new father took him to bases in Tampa, Florida, and Shreveport, Louisiana, and they moved to Morocco, which is where Spears got his first radio job. Sergeant Bill Miller of Armed Forces Radio hired the fourteen-year-old to spin records, and Spears later became a regular DJ playing soap operas and shows such as Gunsmoke and As the World Turns. In his twenties, Spears did a tour with the U.S. Navy. He then worked making windows for mobile homes.
In 1967, Spears received a phone call from a friend at Top 40 radio station KAAY in Little Rock. One of KAAY’s employees, who had worked under the name “Rob Robbins,” had died in an accident, and Spears agreed to fill the position, taking the name Bob Robbins. He worked for KAAY until 1979, when he moved to Little Rock–based KSSN 96 FM. Robbins stayed with KSSN for the bulk of his career. While he was at KSSN, the station won many awards, including the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Marconi Award for Best Medium Market Station and the Arkansas Broadcasters Association’s Most Admired Station Award in 1990. In 1991, KSSN was named Billboard’s Country Radio Station of the Year and received the Country Music Association’s Station of the Year Award. In 1996, Robbins was named Broadcast Personality of the Year by the Country Music Association and led KSSN to another Marconi Award from the NAB.
On March 4, 1977, he and his wife, Susan, were married; they had a daughter and a son. Robbins also had a son from a previous marriage.
On April 7, 1982, after leaving work, Robbins was approached by two men who claimed they had a flat tire. When he tried to help them, inspecting the supposed flat tire, one of the men, Roosevelt Nelson, assaulted Robbins with a baseball bat. Robbins was severely injured in the attack, with damage to his nose, cheeks, and jaw. After an anonymous tip, the Arkansas State Police captured Nelson and his accomplices, who revealed that they had been paid by Bob Troutt to either kill Robbins or make it so he could not speak again. Troutt, who had previously been a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat and an aide to Governor Orval Faubus, was angry with Robbins for leaving his DJ job at Troutt’s Kountry Klub to form BJ’s Star-Studded Honky Tonk with partners Bill McArthur and James Nelson. Troutt, Roosevelt Nelson, and their accomplices were eventually tried and convicted; when Nelson came up for parole, however, Robbins spoke on his behalf.
Robbins was also featured on television, with Bob Robbins Outdoors, a half-hour hunting and fishing show starring Robbins, airing beginning around 2004. He also appeared in dozens of commercials. He and his wife lived on a large farm in Sheridan (Grant County).
Robbins died on May 21, 2022.
For additional information:
“Being Big Daddy: KSSN’s Bob Robbins Shares the Joys of Grandparenting.” Little Rock Family, August 30, 2011. Online at http://www.littlerockfamily.com/post/26370/being-big-daddy-kssns-bob-robbins-shares-the-joys-of-grandparenting (accessed May 21, 2022).
Koon, David. “Bob and the Bat: The Day the Music (Almost) Died.” Arkansas Times, May 21, 2004. Online at https://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/bob-and-the-bat/Content?oid=964848 (accessed May 21, 2022).
———. “King Bob.” Arkansas Times, May 21, 2004. Online at https://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/king-bob/Content?oid=964612 (accessed May 21, 2022).
Lancaster, Grant. “Famed Country DJ Robbins Dies at 78.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 22, 2022, p. 2B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/may/21/arkansas-radio-icon-bob-robbins-dies-at-78/ (accessed May 23, 2022).
Cody Lynn Berry
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