‘Rockin Robin’ Bell remembered for a strong love of music
“Rockin Robin” David J. Bell Sr. is being remembered for his love and knowledge of music as well as his charity and volunteer work.
Described as a “people person,” Bell, 75, died Jan. 22 at his Altoona home.
Although he retired after 33 years as a machinist for Norfolk Southern, Bell was best known as the traveling DJ Rockin Robin and for his music knowledge, especially the1950s and 1960s.
Bell began his work as a DJ in 1984 and performed at many area venues for about 25 years, said good friend Bill Wilkinson, another traveling DJ known as The Wizard.
The two met while Wilkinson, now a resource officer for the Altoona Area School District, was working at JCPenney.
“He knew who I was. He said he wanted to talk to me, he wanted to be a DJ. I was the one who got him started,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said Bell had an extensive collection of music.
“He had pretzel cans full of all of the original 45s put out from the 1950s and1960s,” he said. “The guy had a ton of records, a ton of pretzel cans filled with music.”
Bell’s knowledge of the 1950s and1960s music was incredible, friends said.
“He knew everything about each song and the artist,” Wilkinson said.
Bell worked as a DJ at parties, sock hops and car shows throughout the area, and still had the equipment he bought from Wilkinson in the 1980s.
It still works and looks pretty new,” he said.
“He loved spinning records and entertaining people,” said Bell’s wife, Patricia. “He was a happy go lucky guy.”
Bell and Wilkinson did one show together as a fundraising event in the early 2000s.
“It was Rockin Robin and the Wizard, one of the best times we ever had. The guy was a class act and had a heart of gold,” Wilkinson said. “He was bigger than life.”
Tim Doyle, a local record collector, was a good friend of Bell’s and the two took trips together to find records.
“We both liked records and 1950s and 1960s music. He would play all over the place. I would go and listen to him. He was an easy going, super nice guy,” Doyle said.
While Doyle collected records as a hobby, Bell looked for records to play.
“I found the Keystone Record Collectors Club in Columbia near Harrisburg, it was like a flea market with records. We started going down there together,” Doyle said.
Bell had the opportunity to meet a number of celebrity musicians over the years, such as Freddy Cannon, Lesley Gore, Tommy James and the Shondells, Dion DiMucci, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Bell also was known for his charity and volunteer work.
He was a regular volunteer at the St. Vincent DePaul Society Food Bank, where he was part of a team that packed boxes.
“He made sure the boxes were something out of the ordinary,” director Don Belsey said.
“He made sure there were extras in the boxes for the kids. He put part of his soul into every box that he packed,” Belsey said. “He would do things to make peoples lives a little easier.”
Belsey described Bell as a “people person, he would give you the shirt off his back and never ask for anything in return.”
Bell was active in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, where he was a fixture at the church’s summer festival.
“David was very outgoing and friendly, he was very talkative, once he had your ear it was hard to get away,” said the Rev. Frank Scornaienchi.
“Every Saturday he was the DJ on 11th Street,” Scornaienchi said. “He played all of the oldies. He was the last DJ who used vinyl.”
Belsey said Bell was “a good soul, a good man, who will sorely be missed.”
A funeral mass for Bell was celebrated Jan. 27 at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.