Marty Roberts, of lounge duo Marty & Elayne, dies at TK AGE
Marty Roberts, one half of the irrepressible and enjoyable lounge duo Marty & Elayne – the beloved LA partnership that has serenaded everyone from Frank Sinatra to Nicolas Cage and stole the 1996 film “Swingers” under Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau – died of cancer on Thursday. He was 89 years old.
The news was announced Tuesday on Marty & Elayne’s Facebook page. Roberts died at the home of his daughter Hali Gillin in Henderson, Nevada.
“My mother and I are devastated by her loss and no one can ever take her place,” Gillin wrote. “He had a joke and a smile (a smile is free, he would say!) for everyone he met and was the kindest, most dedicated man in the world.”
The Dresden Room in Los Feliz was Marty & Elayne’s living room, and the space they made of it was sublimely that of Los Angeles. For nearly 40 years, six nights a week, the married couple put on a show: Marty singing and playing drums and double bass; Elayne on piano and flute, gently rolling it up while harmonizing it.
“We are creatures of the night,” Marty told The Times in 2004. “By the time most people finish their Fridays, we’re just getting up.”
They wore matching jumpsuits with a spatial touch. The married couple never seemed to be part of a wave of hipster kitsch; instead, the times had finally come back for them.
Martin Roberts was born on April 10, 1932 in New York. “Brooklyn or the Bronx, he lived in both,” Elayne told The Times last week.
They met in Los Angeles in 1970, when Elayne was a 16-year-old pianist/singer who needed a drummer for a concert at the Alhambra. Married just four months later, they started playing in a combo at the Melody Room on the Sunset Strip, earning a living in jazz. They’ve recorded with LA jazz personalities like Jack Sheldon, Med Flory, Red Callender and Conte Candoli, Marty’s drumming fusing swing with West Coast cool. They played in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Palm Springs.
“He loves Frank Sinatra and has every record Frank has ever made,” Elayne said. She said she played at Gene Autry’s club in Palm Springs in the mid-’70s.
“The owner said Frank had to sit in front, with all his entourage, and Marty, because he sings like Frank, said, ‘You really embarrassed me!’ Marty adored him, but Marty has guts, he was never afraid of anything.
The couple took their number to Los Feliz, first to Michael’s (later called the Derby) and then to the Dresden Room.
A new, young crowd was arriving at the lavish nightclub, especially after the pair appeared in a 1990 Tom Petty video, ‘Yer So Bad,’ and they made the most of the culture clash, singing jazz tunes – always Marty’s true love – and cocktail classics, but mixing it up with Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and whatever else they thought the room could handle.
It could take a lot. One night, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea helped them out on a version of Santana’s “Evil Ways.” As the crowds got bigger and louder, they followed, veering into almost experimental passages. Dresden was a safe space and no two nights were alike.
An appearance in the independent film “Swingers” would make them world famous, in a way. The film, which launched the careers of Vaughn, writer/actor Favreau and director Doug Liman, beat the drums for a cocktail-culture/swing-dance revolution that came and went.
Marty & Elayne, however, would play for celebrity fans (actors Cage and Julia Roberts, director David Lynch, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane) and tourists, bachelor parties of young girl and jazz lovers, night after night, for decades.
In 2020, Marty suffered a heart attack, and it slowed him down, but only some. A month later, he was playing drums again. At the couple’s Los Angeles home, they recorded music last fall, according to Elayne.
“We recorded a whole bunch of stuff up until a month ago, and it sounded great,” she said.
In due time, Elayne told The Times, there will be a memory. It will be, she says, in the Dresden Room.
Marty is survived by his wife Elayne, daughter Hali and granddaughter Destiny.