“It’s the people,” said Robert Larrabee about the driving force behind his 30-plus year career as a tribute artist, singer and songwriter.
Larrabee will be at the Invermere Royal Canadian Legion October 14 and 15 to wow the crowd with interpretations of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Tom Jones , Garth Brooks and more performers.
He has done a succession of performances in town over the years and each time, “It’s like a homecoming week”, he said. “I love it. I love the valley.”
Larrabee knows the area well. He lived in Invermere from the age of ten to 15, hunting and fishing, exploring the area with his step dad, taking in “the amazing scenery”. Those experiences are dear to Larrabee, who noted the contrast between working in cities and returning to “the pristine environment” of the valley. Amidst adventures in nature, as Larrabee was driving with his stepdad in his 1970 Chev truck, they listened to artists such as Roy Orbison, Tom Jones and Neil Diamond on 8-track cassettes. Those early influences pointed him in the direction he took a few years later.
Larrabee has loved performing since he was a young lad. “I was the kid who had a comb in his room, pretending to sing,” he remembered. He’d listen to Elvis tunes on his record player.
When he was about 21 and living in Edmonton, Larrabee would perform on weekends at the residence of his girlfriend and her family. His talent as a singer caught the ear of his audience. “You have to be a singer with a voice like that,” he was told.
With prompting from his girlfriend and her family Larrabee started performing at bars and taverns with in-house bands even though he “was scared to death”. Those jitters didn’t come through in his music though. He’d “get up and sing an Elvis song and the crowd would go crazy!”
“One night I did a performance at the Rodeo Club and then went and sat with my girlfriend. The waitress came over and sat on my lap and was so excited about my performance.”
That got Larrabee thinking… “If I could do this – be so happy – and get paid…The thing is, it made people happy. I’d never experienced people clapping and it was overwhelming – in a good way.”
One time, Larrabee took part in a singing competition at the Rodeo Club. He made it to the finals. “I was approached by an agent, who asked if I wanted to perform with a band.
Up to this point, Larrabee owned and operated a landscaping business. After that offer, he sold it and moved happily into the world of performing full time in 1985. He performed with the band, then got into dinner theatre, where he learned improv, keeping the audience focused. “We had a musical cast; that’s how I learned to do it. We had so much fun together. All those elements – sketch comedy, the music aspect, the wardrobe aspect.”
Larrabee transferred those skills to the shows he’s been performing for years ,coast to coast: ‘Robert Larrabee Live, An
Evening with the Legends’. He has also performed in London, England and Sydney, Australia.
These days, Larrabee has slowed down his pace. “I’m semi-retired now. I go out in the fall and play in the communities where I know people.”
On factor that remains the same though, is making people happy. “To this day that’s part of… what I do that I appreciate the most,” he said.