Marty Roberts of lounge duo Marty & Elayne has died aged 89

Marty Roberts, one half of the irrepressible, people-loving lounge duo Marty & Elayne — the beloved LA partnership that serenaded everyone from Frank Sinatra to Nicolas Cage and stole the 1996 film Swingers, directed by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau — died of cancer on Thursday. He was 89.

The news was announced Tuesday on Marty & Elayne’s Facebook page. Roberts died at his daughter Hali Gillin’s home in Henderson, Nev.

“My mother and I are devastated by his loss and there is no one who could ever take his place,” Gillin wrote. “He had a joke and a smile (smiles are free, he would say!) for everyone he met and was the kindest, most self-sacrificing man alive.”

Martin & Elaine

Marty & Elayne perform at the Dresden Room.

(John Fleenor / ABC)

Los Feliz’s Dresden Room was Marty & Elayne’s living room, and the space they made of it was a lofty Los Angeles space. For nearly 40 years, the couple have put on a show six nights a week: Marty sings and plays drums and stand-up bass; Elayne on piano and flute, teasing him gently while harmonizing.

“We are creatures of the night,” Marty told The Times in 2004. “When most people finish their Friday, we’re just getting up.”

They wore matching space-age overalls. The couple never seemed part of a hipster kitsch craze; instead, the times had finally returned to them.

Martin Roberts was born on April 10, 1932 in New York City. “Brooklyn or the Bronx, he’s lived in both,” Elayne told the Times last week.

A young Marty and Elayne Roberts

A young Marty and Elayne Roberts.

(By Hali Gillin)

They met in Los Angeles in 1970 when Elayne was a 16-year-old pianist/singer who needed a drummer for a performance at the Alhambra. Just four months later, they married and began playing in a combo at the Melody Room on the Sunset Strip, earning a bit of jazz. Recording with LA jazz figures like Jack Sheldon, Med Flory, Red Callender and Conte Candoli, Marty’s drums fused swing with West Coast cool. They played Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Palm Springs.

“He likes Frank Sinatra and has every record Frank has ever made,” Elayne said. She shared a story about playing at Gene Autry’s club in Palm Springs in the mid-’70s.

“The owner said Frank had to sit up front with his entire entourage, and Marty, because he’s singing like Frank, said, ‘You really embarrassed me!’ Marty adored him. But Marty has guts – he’s never been afraid of anything.”

He sang “That’s Life” for Sinatra. For Elayne, she told the Times, he often sang Frank’s “All My Tomorrows” (Belong to You). “He sang it to me. That’s why I liked it. He sang it so beautifully.”

The couple performed at Los Feliz, first at Michael’s (later called Derby) and then at the Dresden Room.

A new young crowd flocked to the ritzy nightclub, particularly after the pair appeared in a 1990 Tom Petty video “Yer So Bad,” and they made the most of Kulturkampf, singing jazzy tunes – always Marty’s true love – and cocktail classics, but with Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and everything they thought the room could take.

It could take a lot. One night, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea assisted them on a version of Santana’s “Evil Ways.” As the crowd grew larger and louder, they joined in, turning into almost experimental passages. The Dresden was a safe place and no night was like the other.

Marty and Elayne Roberts.

Marty and Elayne Roberts.

(Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic)

A guest appearance in the indie film “Swingers” would make her world famous in a way. The film that launched the careers of Vaughn, writer/actor Favreau and director Doug Liman banged the drums for a cocktail culture/swing dance revolution that came and went. Suddenly there were lines lining Vermont Avenue. “I looked out the door and I was like, ‘You’re being ridiculous,'” Marty told LAist in 2016. “I wouldn’t stand in the rain.”

The lines faded, but Marty & Elayne kept playing, for celebrity fans (actors Cage and Julia Roberts, director David Lynch, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane) and tourists, bachelorette parties and jazz lovers, night after night , for decades.

In 2020, Marty suffered a heart attack that slowed him down, but only partially. A month later he played drums again. At the couple’s Los Angeles home, Elayne says they recorded music just last fall.

“We recorded quite a lot of stuff up until about a month ago and it sounded beautiful,” she said.

In due course, Elayne told the Times, there will be a reminder. It will, she assures, be in the Dresden Room.

Marty is survived by wife Elayne, daughter Hali, and granddaughter Destiny. Marty Roberts of lounge duo Marty & Elayne has died aged 89

Caroline Bleakley

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