|Birth name||Roberta Lester|
|Also known as||Roby Charmandy|
|Born||March 23, 1925|
Megargel, Texas, United States
|Died||June 14, 2005 (aged 80)|
Burbank, California, United States
|Labels||Liberty, Warner Brothers, A&M, Disney|
Robie Lester (March 23, 1925 – June 14, 2005) was an American voice artist, singer, actress and author, best known as the voice of "Miss Jessica" in the Rankin/Bass animated special Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, the singing voice of Eva Gabor in Disney's The Aristocats and The Rescuers and as the original "Disneyland Story Reader" for Walt Disney Records read-alongs.
Lester was born in Megargel, Texas and raised in Northern Ontario, Canada. After a few years in Detroit, she joined the US Army Air Corps before attending UCLA with a major in music. In Hollywood, she worked with Henry Mancini and Herb Alpert, recorded for Liberty, Warner Brothers and A&M, and sang demos for songwriters. At A&M Records Lester recorded one of her most frequently heard, though uncredited, contributions—the back-up vocals for the Sandpipers' 1966 hit "Guantanamera".
Work in commercials
Lester was one of the busiest voice-over artists in early 1960s commercials, working in many commercials for Kelloggs breakfast cereal. She was first heard as both of Toucan Sam's infant nephews, with Sam played by Mel Blanc. She also voiced one of the two battling Smackin' Brothers for Sugar Smacks, and sang the commercial's jingle.
Story reader for Disney
In the early 1960s, Disney songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman brought Lester to the attention of Disney's in-house record label. Lester's voice was heard as narrator and singer on dozens of Disney's children's records. One such record was The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion which also featured the voices of Thurl Ravenscroft and Ron Howard. Her singing voice was heard on the song "Hippity Hop" from the Disney album Peter Cottontail and Other Funny Bunnies. Beginning in 1965, Lester was the "Disneyland Story Reader" on records where she read the stories, acted out all the parts and reminded children to "turn the page" in their accompanying booklet. Her famous phrase "...when Tinker Bell rings her little bells like this (wind chimes)...turn the page" was heard by countless children of a generation. She also provided the voice of Piglet on some of the early Winnie the Pooh records. In Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, authors Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar state, "It is impossible to calculate how many lives Robie Lester touched by singing, acting, and narrating on more individual Disneyland records than any other performer.
Television and movies
One of her most famous roles was as "Miss Jessica", the schoolteacher who becomes Mrs. Kris Kringle (Santa Claus) in the 1970 Rankin-Bass TV special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. In the Christmas special, Lester sang a powerful ballad entitled "My World Is Beginning Today" in which her character literally lets her hair down and comes to the aid of her future husband, Kris Kringle.
Robie Lester provided the singing voice for Vera Ralston in Accused of Murder and for Eva Gabor's animated characters in Disney's The Aristocats (Dutchess) and The Rescuers (Miss Bianca). Other credits included vocal performances in House of Bamboo and Lisbon (both as Roby Charmandy), The Three Lives of Thomasina, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, The City That Forgot About Christmas, Devlin, and The Funny Company (as Polly Plum). She also contributed uncredited vocals to other films and television shows, and had small roles in The Sword of Ali Baba, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, That Girl, and Night Gallery.
Lester spent her final years in Fillmore, California fund raising and crusading for animal rights. She published two novels: The Twenty Dollar Christmas and Heaven's Gift. She also gratefully discovered a fan base that had grown up with her work. Her last voice performance was in 2002 for the Adventures in Odyssey radio series.
Robie Lester died on June 14, 2005 of cancer at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, California at age 80. She was married to producer Geoff Eccleston, had one daughter Mindy, and three grandchildren.
Her autobiography, Lingerie For Hookers In The Snow: An Audiography Of A Voice Artist, was published in 2006.
- "Give"/"Too Late" (Century 714, 1955) (as Roby Charmandy)
- "With You Where You Are"/"Listen To The Wind (My Love)" (Liberty 55033, 1956)[a]
- "My Love And I"/"Whispering Guitar" (Liberty 55083, 1957)[b]
- "I'm Sorry, I Want A Ferrari" / "It Takes Love To Make A Home" (Mira 112, 1959)[c]
- "The Chimney Sweep"/"The Tree And The Sea" (Cascade CA-5901, 1959)[d]
- "The Ballad of Cheatin' John"/"The Miracle Of Life"[e] (Lute L-5904, 1960)[f]
- "Train To Satanville" / "She'll Never Let Him Go" (Musikon 102, 1961) (as Gin Gillette)
- "Green Flamingo"[g]/"Another Show Another Town" (Chattahoochee CH-680, 1965)
- "One Step Away From Heaven"[h]/"Little Star" (Dot 45-16798, 1965)
- "The Party's Over"[i]/"Wait For Him" (Interlude 201, 1966)
- Terribly Sophisticated Songs: A Collection of Unpopular Songs for Popular People (Warner Brothers Records B1210, 1958) -- "I'm Filled With That Empty Feeling" & "Just My Sol"
- The Whimsical World of Irving Taylor (Warner Brothers Records WS 1352, 1959) -- "Domestic Wine"
- The Charles H. Stern Agency, Inc., Presents the "In" Sound (Private Press, 1967) -- jingle samples
- About, Volume 3: Fairy Tales ꞏ Poems ꞏ Songs (Columbia CR 21535, 1968) -- "Sleepy Time", "The Owl and the Pussycat", "Wynken, Blynken and Nod", "Calico Pie"
- The Aristocats and Other Cat Songs (Disneyland Records 1333, 1970) -- "Scales And Arpeggios", "She Never Felt Alone", "Siamese Cat Song"[j]
- House Of Bamboo Soundtrack (Intrada Records ISC 30, 2006) -- "House Of Bamboo" and "Be Still, Little Voice"
- Cult Hits of the 1960s, Volume 5 (Fervor Records, 2013, Internet release) -- "Ever Blue" and "A Life To Live Over" (both previously unreleased)
- Bubbling Under: The American Charts 1959-1963 (Fantastic Voyage FVTD212, 2016) -- "The Miracle of Life"
- Discography Notes
- The "Reviews of New Pop Records" section of the December 15, 1956 issue of Billboard magazine reviewed both tracks. For "With You Where You Are" the magazine noted, "Here's a harmony dual-tracking job by the gal on a bouncy tune. Songstress has an easygoing style with potential to break thru on future sides." On "Listen To The Wind": "The new thrush offers a slightly mystical, minor-key ballad that has charm. Organ backup makes the whispering wind sound."
- Both tracks "with the Spencer-Hagen Orchestra." From the "Pop Talent" section of the July 1, 1957 issue of Billboard magazine: "Another important chunk of talent blooms here. First, Miss Lester pours out healthy emotion on the pretty tune with a strong lyric. Song has a tasty arrangement and it's in the teen groove. Flip is a charmingly chanted waltz. Sides are strong and the talent figures to move out on these and on future wax."
- B-side by The Gould Singers; both sides with Danny Gould and Orchestra. Both songs from the 1959 film Never Steal Anything Small.
- "Reviews of New Pop Records" section of the February 16, 1959 issue of Billboard magazine said of "The Tree and the Sea", "Miss Lester offers a sweet-voiced interpretation of this pretty ballad with choral effects and the concerto sound in the piano. Gal has pleasant sound somewhat in the Gogi Grant style. Comments on "The Chimney Sweep" follow: "This is an interesting medium-rhythm tune with Miss Lester again coming thru in good style with an interesting percussion sound in the backing. A talented thrush." Both sides written by Al De Lory and Joe Van Winkle. Also released in France on America 45 M 52 in 1959.
- Although originally released as the B-side song, "The Miracle Of Life" on the Lute label "bubbled under" at #107 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for April 25, 1960. Also tabbed as a "Good Sales Potential" item in the March 28, 1960 issue of Billboard magazine with comment, "An inspirational side. Lyric carries a message -- the miracle of life. Chick's vocal is a good one, backed by violin and chorus." Song written by Morey Bernstein.
- Also released on Finer Arts FA-1004 (1961), Polydor (UK) NH 66963 (1961), and Landa 681 (1962). Flip side "The Ballad of Cheatin' John" written by Don Ralke and By Dunham.
- "Pick of the Week" by DJ Bob Hudson of WCIN in the May 29, 1965 issue of Billboard magazine. Written by Wayne Shanklin, eden ahbez, and Lee Esmond. Flip side "Another Show Another Town" written by Van Winkle-Darian. Both tracks produced by J. R. Shanklin.
- Performed on Shivaree January 8, 1965 (episode #50).
- From the 1956 musical Bells Are Ringing.
- A 1996 CD reissue (Walt Disney Records 60904-7) titled Songs From The Aristocats includes only "She Never Felt Alone".
- "Saluting Disney's Record-Setting Story Reader, Robie Lester |". cartoonresearch.com. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
- Some sources incorrectly cite place of birth as Michigan.
- Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar (2006). Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records. Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. p. 95. ISBN 1-57806-848-7.
- Hollis, Tim. "Topher's Breakfast Cereal Character Guide". Retrieved June 22, 2015.
- "Movie Dubbers list". Retrieved June 26, 2015.
- "IMDB page on Robie Lester". Retrieved June 22, 2015.
- Eccleston, Robie Lester (1996). The Twenty Dollar Christmas. Fillmore, CA: LGLG Publishing. ISBN 978-1585004874.
- Eccleston, Robie Lester (1999). Heaven's Gift. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-0965490801.
- "The Odyssey Scoop - Robie Lester profile". Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- Some sources incorrectly state age at death as 75.
- Lester, Robie (2006). Lingerie for Hookers in the Snow: An Audiography of a Voice Artist. Albany, NY: BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1593930585.
- "My World Is Beginning Today" audio at Rankin/Bass Site
- Robie Lester Obituary
- Review of Lingerie For Hookers In The Snow at ClassicImages.com