NOW living a quiet life in rural Shropshire - former Black Country club boss Mike Hamblett has been reflecting on some of his momentous moments running the legendary Robin R'n'B Clubs.

Like the time American singer/songwriter Chaka Khan waltzed into the original Merry Hill club and joined fellow American soul and jazz musician Howard McCrary on stage at the venue - and the time Hollywood movie legend Steven Seagal had fans queuing round the block at the Robin 2 at Bilston for a chance to see the action star perform with his blues band.

Legendary blues rock singer/songwriter Joe Bonamassa, Trapeze, Canned Heat, rock guitarist Nils Lofgren, Spike from The Quireboys, Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, Carol Decker from T'Pau, Go West and former 80s pop star Belinda Carlisle are among the diverse array of famous names to have graced the Robin stages which were both opened by Mike’s good friend Noddy Holder from Slade.

Recalling one of his personal favourite gigs at the original Robin, which featured Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople, Mike said: "It was mid summer and it was so hot in there - there was no air conditioning in those days. He was awesome and he was one of my heroes. There was just something special about it."

And that can be said about the original Robin, which Mike took the bold decision to open at the back of the old Robin Hood pub at Quarry Bank in April 1992 after running a successful PA hire business.

The intimate venue, a former Citizen's Theatre, became a mecca for live music fans, with the slogan 'keeping music live' becoming somewhat legendary in its own right.

It was never a plan to open the club, just an opportunity, Mike recalls - and he admits: "It was a huge risk but it worked."

The venue went from strength to strength, welcoming top artists from around the world.

Mike told how he'll never forget the time funk legend Chaka Khan rocked up on the car park at the Robin R'n'B Club and made an impromptu appearance on stage with Howard McCrary in 1994. He recalls: "It wasn't a busy night as Howard was not that well known in the area and who should walk in but Chaka Khan. Her sister was going out with Howard McCrary and she got up and sang - then shocked everyone present by replacing the drummer. It was one of those magic nights I will never forget."

Not content to rest on his laurels - and amid fears the expansion of Merry Hill would threaten his livelihood - Mike began looking for a second venue in the late 1990s.

Before long he found an old drill venue in Mount Pleasant, Bilston, and in 1998 it opened as the Robin 2.

It proved a fortuitous move as the original Robin had to close its doors for good in 2003 to make way for further development at Merry Hill.

Sadly it was development that never came and the space occupied by the old Robin where music legends once shone on stage remains unoccupied to this day.

The Robin 2, however, really took off and Mike even opened a restaurant, bar and hotel on the site. The new Robin went on to become an award-winning club and performers who loved playing at the original venue made the second their spiritual home.

It even played host, on two occasions, to Hollywood star Steven Seagal and his blues band. Mike recalls: "After loads of emails we got Steven Seagal into Bilston. We had all the TV and radio down here, it was just incredible."

Amazingly Mike kept a record of every single artist that ever played at both venues and this can be found in his book 'Keepin' Music Live - My Story by Mike Hamblett' which details how from humble beginnings he created a mini music empire in the Black Country.

The book charts Mike’s childhood growing up in Cradley Heath then Quarry Bank, his school days, his time as a rock band drummer and early working life as a project engineer for GKN Sankey before he started the business that would keep him busy seven days a week for 26 years.

Just as the opportunity presented itself to start the club - Mike’s eventual departure was equally unpredicted.

Businessman and former strong man Fraser Tranter made him an offer for the business in 2017 and he "didn't think anything would happen from it" but the following year he decided it was time to hand over the reins to someone else with a passion for keeping music live.

It has now been just over 12 months since he decided to sell the Robin although he carried on helping out for some months to ensure a smooth transition to the new owner.

Mike said: "I couldn’t go on forever. I honestly haven't stopped since the day I left school. When I got to 65 I thought it was probably the right thing to do."

Although he added: "I can't believe the last 25 years have gone - they seem to have gone so quickly."

Mike's book is available to buy online from or by emailing, priced £20.

It is also available at Waterstones in Wolverhampton.