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Marty Roberts of Marty & Elayne Has Died. Walk Down Memory Lane With The Beloved Dresden Jazz Duo

Elayne and Marty Roberts—aka Marty & Elayne—recently celebrated their 35th anniversary at the Dresden.
((Photo courtesy of the artists))
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A note on their official Facebook page Tuesday night announced the death of Marty Roberts of Marty & Elayne fame. Together with his wife Elayne, Marty had performed for decades at the Dresden.

What follows is an interview with the couple first published on April 12, 2016:

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Earlier this month, LAist dropped by the Dresden (our first time in a long while) to sip a Manhattan and watch iconic L.A. lounge performers Marty & Elayne (Roberts) celebrate their 35th anniversary as the establishment’s house band.

We chatted with the husband-and-wife team—decked out in matching aqua-and-black sequined outfits—for a few minutes before they stepped out to play the packed room. The diminutive, bubbly Elayne and the flirtatious Marty were thrilled to play for the standing-room-only audience of regulars and newcomers alike. They remember hanging out at the Dresden years ago, before they began their nightly residency, and it wasn’t exactly a happening spot. “About 15 people would be a crowd here on the weekend,” Marty says. How times have changed.

LAist asked Marty & Elayne a few questions about their lives, career and some of the best voices to work the room with them:

A man drums on a woman's head with brushes in a black and white image.
Vintage photo of Marty & Elayne.
(Courtesy Marty & Elayne)

On how they met...

Elayne, who sings, plays the keyboards and and flute, starts their “meet cute” story: “I had been going with a drummer and we broke up, and my girlfriend told me about Marty. She said, ‘I met this drummer from New York…. The way she talked about him was the way she talked about my ex, so I thought...I’d like to meet him.” Marty, who shares the vocal duties with Elayne as well as plays the drums and upright bass, interrupts (they do this a lot to each other): “I got good PR from the girlfriend.” Elayne picks up the story. She asked Marty to come over with his drums to rehearse for a gig in El Monte. “He said, ‘I’ll come over but I won’t bring my drums…’ (she waits a beat) and I said, ‘Oh God, another ladies man. Just what I didn’t need.’”

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Before the Dresden...

The Dresden has been in operation since 1954, and Marty & Elayne began performing nightly in the lounge in 1981. They were regular performers up the street at Michael’s Los Feliz restaurant, which operated from the 1960s to the early 1990s, in the space that was previously home to a chicken restaurant and the fourth of the Brown Derby restaurants. (In 1992, it became The Derby, a swing dance nightclub that was featured in the film Swingers.)

About that movie 'Swingers'...

We asked about the impact the film had on their career, and Elayne says, “It became like this...” gesturing to the big room. “Nuts. People were standing the rain with umbrellas, and I couldn't believe it.” Marty adds, “I looked out the door and thought, ‘They’re ridiculous... I wouldn’t stand in the rain.’” “They were tipping the doorman to get in,” Elayne says incredulously.

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On guest performers with great voices...

“Adam Levine from Maroon 5,” Elayne says without hesitation. “He sang ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’ He knocked me out. His voice was so beautiful. The other one was Seth MacFarlane. He has a beautiful voice.”

The one song that they’ll never tire of playing

As Dresden and Marty & Elayne fans know, the duo changes its set list frequently to include both old and new tunes. But there is a song that they’ll never get sick of playing: “A Night in Tunisia,” Elayne says. “It’s a Dizzy Gillespie tune,” Marty adds.

Watch them perform

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