“The first I’d heard about the award was when a staff member for the Atlanta Society of Entertainers called to advise me that I was being nominated for Entertainer of the Year,” Robinson said. “My immediate reaction was to suggest that they nominate someone else. I actually tried to talk them out of it. They laughed and said, ‘No way.’ Of course I was very flattered. I’ve played behind some of the other Entertainer of the Year recipients and they are all such talented people. I am just really grateful to have the opportunity to be included in that group. Now that I’ve actually won the award and have gotten literally hundreds of notes from great musicians all over the state of Georgia, it’s been something of a confidence builder — especially after all these years. I never expected anything like this.
“As for being the first female drummer to ever win this award, that is also a great honor. Drummers rarely ever win an award for Entertainer of the Year. Since I was one of the very first women to make a living as a drummer, I guess you could say it’s the crowning achievement of my career as a musician. Today there are quite a few great female drummers, but back in the 1970s this was not only unusual, it was highly controversial. I often caught flak from men who thought there was no way a woman could play the drums.”
Nominated for the award by the Atlanta Society of Entertainers, Robinson received the honor after collecting the most votes from the public. She said she and the Pawn Shop Pickers — the group that she performs with that won Band of the Year — garnered a lot of support from the VFW Post 5408 in Acworth, where they play the second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
“She’s a very good musician and there are very few female drummers around. She is one of the few. [So] it certainly is [wonderful],” Atlanta Society of Entertainers Co-director Phyllis Cole said about Robinson winning the show’s top award. “And she’s liked by everybody. There are some people that have egos that are just so big, not Donna. Donna is willing to share with everybody.”
Also an accomplished songwriter, Robinson has recorded many career highlights over the past 38 years, some of which include being inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011, playing at the Grand Ole Opry, seeing her song recently hit No. 1 on the CMG Global Radio Network, and performing shows with George Jones, Ronnie Milsap, Barbara Mandrell and Alabama.
“I wanted to play drums in grammar school in the 1960s when I was in sixth grade but my parents strongly objected, saying ‘girls don’t play drums,’” Robinson said. “So I ended up playing trombone. ... I played trombone until high school, when I finally got a set of drums for Christmas after several years of beating on mom’s pots and pans and the dashboard in the car. ... What I enjoy most about playing drums is the incredible amount of physical coordination and mental focus required to play really well.
“There is something about it that just clears your mind of all the other ‘chatter’ and stress. You forget about everything except the independent but coordinated control of your hands and feet. Each foot and each hand is playing a different rhythm pattern simultaneously. I find it stimulates my thinking and has helped me develop excellent, quick-thinking skills. It also seems to have helped me develop strong analytical skills as well. I can’t really describe it. There is nothing else quite like it. In my younger days learning a new pattern was as exciting as riding the roller coaster at Six Flags.”
She continued, “And playing the same song with other musicians in a band or an orchestra is a bonding experience like no other. Everyone’s mind is focused in the same place at the same time. It’s just something that you have to experience to really understand. Because of this, musicians seem to bond as friends in ways that other professions simply cannot do. And frankly, I’ll be 60 years old in a couple of years, so this truly is what keeps me young at heart. I play better now than I did when I was 30 and it’s a great feeling to continue to progress and get better even as I get older. I like to joke that I’ll be the only girl drummer in the nursing home one of these days.”
For more information about her music, visit Robinson’s and Pawn Shop Pickers’ Facebook pages.