Xylophone Man 1931-2004

Words: Jared Wilson
Tuesday 06 July 2004
reading time: min, words

Nottingham's most legendary busker Frank Robinson has died...


Xylophone Man was without a doubt one of the most bizarre yet famous musicians in Nottingham.

After fifteen years on the streets he was instantly recognizable to a wide range of the public. More so than any local politician, member of the council and perhaps even the cities footballers.

When I went to university (down south in Exeter) and nervously explained to the new people I met that I came from Nottingham I was usually greeted by a recognition of Robin Hood or "Is that up north?" The only other thing that (three different) people, who had visited the city on shopping trips remembered, was a peculiar man who busked (badly) with a Xylophone in the city centre.

He was undisputedly Nottingham's favourite busker and was for the last decade. This is no mean feat in a city that also contains Sam Lindo, the Muddy Waters lookalike from near Broadmarsh Centre. Put bluntly, Xylophone Man was not famous for his musical talent. Despite the fact before the end he broadened his range to the odd Christmas carol. His bizarre and excitable approach to his instrument was much the same as would a child's be, had they just received it for Christmas. This is probably why we loved him...


We spoke to Frank last year: 

What's your real name?
Frank Robinson.

How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?
21 today. No, I'm 72 years young.

How long have you been busking in Nottingham?
It's coming up to fifteen years now. I started at the end of the eighties. I've never done it anywhere else!

Who are your musical inspirations?
(Pause. Xylophone man looks at me a bit blankly.)

Your... erm favourite musicians. The people that inspired you to pick up the Xylophone.
I like a bit of Elvis. A bit of The Beatles. Maybe even a little bit of Van Morrison.

So no Xylophone players then?
No. I don't know any apart from me.

Have you always had the same Xylophone?
No. I've got through a few in my time. This one's my favourite though!

Whereabouts are you from in Nottingham?
I was born in Cotgrave and I still live there. I've lived all my years there.

What are you going to be doing for Christmas?
Well I don't really know yet. I'm a quiet man really. I keep myself to myself. All my family have passed away and I haven't got any people. I'll just be relaxing at home I suppose.

Do you support any of the local football teams?
Yeah. I look out for them both, but I've always been a Forest fan.

Can you remember when they were kings of Europe in '79?
They were awesome years. Trevor Francis was a legend! Definitely some of my best memories. Shame they're not really up to it at the moment.

Do you play any other instruments apart from the Xylophone?
I can play a little bit on the guitar and a little on the piano, but not really. I don't pretend that I'm Mozart, I'm just having a bit of fun and keeping people entertained. I get to meet a lot of people as well, which is good.

And with that Xylophone Man covertly signals to us that the interview is over. He starts to hit the little metal plates, with his rubber-ended stick and LeftLion eventually gets the hint that having journalists hanging round is bad for his business.

A picture of Xylophone Man adorns the Nottingham gallery at the bottom of Nottingham Castle. His legend has been passed around the city and even the country. He was also a bloody nice bloke, if a little eccentric. Frank Robinson made his mark in the city, with his own special talent for entertaining the public. LeftLion would never have felt complete had we not done this interview...

Frank, may you  rest in peace. Love LeftLion xx


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