Rob Robin has left his mark on weather forecasting in Southwest Louisiana.
The veteran broadcaster, now mostly retired, ruled the weather slot on KPLC-TV from 1971-86 with monster ratings, zany terms (“drizzily drips, icckypooh weather”) and an obsession for weather — and how it worked.
Former KPLC General Manager Jim Serra, whose career paralleled much of Robin’s time at the station, said Robin approached weather forecasting “like a college professor.”
“ ‘You had to pay attention. Those (weather) graphs and maps, no one else did that. He used actual metrological symbols. He wanted to educate his viewers — and he was not very tolerant of people who did not learn,” Serra said.
Robin said his unique style was a result of educating himself about weather from an early age.
“I was self-taught, so I drew those maps by hand so I could tell people how weather worked so that they could understand the dynamics of forecasting. There were no computers.”
A typical 30-minute television news program is subject to the commercial load; more commercials, less time for news, sports and weather. Weather got maybe three minutes unless something big was happening.
Robin changed that at KPLC.
“Russell (Chambers, KPLC owner) gave me complete control of my image,” he said.
Serra confirmed Rob always got more time — he didn’t take orders from anyone but Russell.
“As a result, he defined what weather coverage should look like,” Serra said.
Robin was born in the middle of World War II in Omaha, Neb. His family moved to Los Angeles, where he graduated from high school.
“I built a little weather station in my bedroom,” he said. “I had a wind vane, thermometer, anemometer (measures wind speed) and a hygrometer (measures humidity). My idea of fun was going to the National Weather Service office (in L.A.) and just hanging out.”
Something else other than weather stimulated Robin’s childhood. When he was seven, Les Paul changed the sound of
popular music forever.
“He broke all the rules. In the Big Band era, you had maybe a couple of microphones a distance from the band. Paul used a bunch of microphones right in front of the musicians. He and Mary Ford had one hit after another. They were the first artists I was attracted to. Paul learned to mix things; Mary Ford could have six different voices on the same song.
“Then Paul invented the Gibson guitar; ask anyone who plays music about those guitars, they are classic,” Robin said. “Rock ’n’ roll (which came next in a big way in 1955) used all their technology to mix.”
Following high school, Robin enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was assigned to the Amarillo (Texas) Air Base, an ideal site for a weather junkie.
“That area is prone to tornados and violent thunderstorms. I loved it; I was a storm chaser before there were storm chasers,” Robin said.
Serra confirmed the extreme storm turbulence in the Texas Panhandle: “You better know what you’re doing when you chase storms out there.”
A fellow airman was Art Bell, who became a legend in rock radio. One night, Robin and Bell converted Bell’s HAM radio into a bootleg radio station on the base.
“We plugged the transmitter into a turntable and KMED Radio was born (Robin was in a medical unit, thus the call letters). We had about 500 oldies, all 45 RPM, and we worked two hour shifts every night.
“Bell was a genius! I became one of three jocks and also the weatherman,” Robin said.
A career in broadcast was born.
After his discharge in 1966, Robin sent out tapes, one of which went to Johnny Janot at KLOU here — and he was hired.
“That was a great radio station; I was a (disc) jockey and the weatherman,” Robin said.
That was also when Rob Robin — his stage name — was born.
He was recruited to KPLC in 1971 and the legend began.
“I had NO (his emphasis) television experience! But Russell gave me a free hand and let me develop my own autonomy,” Robin said.
He stayed at KPLC until 1986 when Chambers sold the station. As a going away gift, Chambers transformed a room in Robin’s house into a broadcast studio. It is tiny, maybe 12 feet by 12 but neat as a pin.
Chambers also bought KYKS Radio and Robin was back on the air, a spot he held for the next 24 years. He tried retirement in 2011 but when McNeese launched KBYS-FM (88.3) in 2015, Robin was back on the air with a Goldies Show.
The show, 2-6 p.m. on Sundays, is 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and some later music “if I like it,” said Robin, who has a vast, encyclopedic knowledge of music. He broadcasts the show from his home.
He is still skinny, certainly kinetic with a full mop of gray hair. Everything in his home speaks to extreme order and cleanliness.
He and his Golden Retriever Ruby, his best friend, walk four miles every day.
“Not all at once, but every day,” Robin said.
Serra said that most broadcasters — when they’re good — try to move up into bigger markets where the money and perks are better. Not Robin.
“He is incredibly unique; he has been amazingly loyal to this community,” Serra said. “He thought he had a real responsibility to our audience, that, over time, he was convinced that he landed where he always wanted to be. He is the single-most interesting person I have ever worked with.”