Robert Gordon made quite a name for himself in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s as a solo artist. The rockabilly crooner took his baritone voice to a successful recording career that included the hit “Flying Saucer Rock ‘n Roll” and a cover of Springsteen’s “Fire.”
But before he donned the ‘50s hair style, Gordon was actually in on the ground floor of the New York City punk movement as front man for the band Tuff Darts.
Tuff Darts was a staple at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City in the early and mid-70s, part of the influx of groundbreaking bands of the era like The Ramones, Patti Smith, Television and Stiv Bators’ Dead Boys. The Darts opened several shows for The New York Dolls with Gordon at the microphone.
Gordon fronted the band for one of their earlier recordings, “All for the Love of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and appears on vocals with the Darts on the “Live at CBGB’s” compilation album released in 1976.
However, with his own solo aspirations Gordon left the group and went solo, soon becoming a staple on industry music magazines of the era like “Circus” and “Hit Parader.” He seemed destined for stardom had not alcohol abuse slowed his rise.
Tuff Darts continued without him. Gordon was replaced by Tommy Frenzy, who was then a regular in the Big Apple and Westchester County club scene. With Frenzy at the helm, the Darts released their only major label release, a self-titled debut album put out in 1978.
The band’s biggest song was the punk-titled “Your Love is Like a Nuclear Waste,” a song whose sound hinted more at the New Wave movement to come than the raunchy punk scene it came from.
Tuff Darts had several links to the punk and New Wave scenes. Co-founder/guitarist Jeff Salen had played with Marky Ramone in the band Jayne County and the Backstreet Boys, and with Tommy Ramone in Butch — therefore having played with both men who later took up drumming duties with the Ramones.
Johnny “Bullet” Morelli, who later played in Cyndy Lauper’s band, also drummed for Tuff Darts at one point. The band reunited and played a few gigs in 2002.
Gordon continues to perform as a rockabilly solo artist.
(NOTE: This is part of an occasional Listening Room series I’ll be doing on noted rockers and where they came from. JF)
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