Blount Press Row

‘Just A Country Girl’

Former Lady Governor ‘Robinella’ places family above music

Robin Tipton Bailey conducts an interview as son Beau, 3, surfs the booth at Southland Books. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Mom took an early lead, but Cash, 9, is making a comeback.


He just got Boardwalk.

Great Caesar’s ghost!

He just got Park Place.

Stick a fork in this one. It’s done.

Robin Tipton, William Blount Class of 1993.

Then, as she did countless times as a champion hurdler and all-district volleyball player at William Blount High School in the early 1990s, Robin Tipton Bailey rallies.

Bailey is having lunch with sons Cash and Beau, 3, at Southland Books on Broadway. Beau’s at the next table. Monopoly isn’t his thing, so he wanders over and strikes up a conversion with Claire, 6, whose family is in town from New Orleans.

They’re best friends in minutes. Beau’s real smooth. Then Claire slips him an M&M, and it happens.

“Oh, no!” Bailey said. “Don’t give him any M&Ms. He’ll turn into the Hulk!”

Too late.

The big guy is unleashed, sound effects and all. Claire seems quite impressed.

They leave to go check out some books in the children’s section as Claire’s older brother, Donavan, 8, joins Cash at the Monopoly table as a consultant.

Cash breaks into storytelling during the Monopoly battle.

Cash brings us up to speed on the popular reality show “Duck Dynasty.”

“Si has a hunting poodle!” he said.

Beau and Claire find a book they like and settle in for a good read.

Bailey’s on a roll now, and it’s over pretty quickly. Cash packs up. Beau bids Claire, farewell. Beau and Cash grab a fresh, Limonata sparkling water for the ride, and they’re gone.

These are the days Bailey, better known as popular recording artist “Robinella,” dreamed of when she decided to take a break from the music business.

Born Robin Ella Tipton, Bailey grew up “just a country girl,” she said.

She combined her first and middle names to form the pseudonym “Robinella” when she began performing professionally.

Her father, Jerry, was the song leader at the local church growing up, and Robin readily joined in. She was an accomplished athlete by high school, a dominant performer in the hurdles on the track and an all-district, frontcourt player in volleyball her senior season in 1993.

“The thing I loved about Robin was, No. 1, her attitude,” William Blount track coach Chris Frary said. “She always had that smile on her face. She had a very good work ethic and she was such a competitor.

Tipton, front row far right, as an all-district volleyball player at William Blount.

“She was one of the best female athletes we had here during those years.”

Bailey, the person, he added, was even better.

“I still remember the happy-go-lucky, always-joking-around Robin from high school,” Frary said. “Great kid. She’s one of that small group of kids, as teachers and coaches, you know comes along only so often in a career.”

Bailey auditioned for the William Blount Singers, the school’s elite choir, but didn’t make the cut. She was named the choir’s secretary instead.

As a student at the University of Tennessee, Bailey met jazz pianist, guitar player and mandolin virtuoso Cruz Contrares, Cash’s father, in one of her classes. They would later marry. One evening, Contrares suggested they form a group and see what happened.

“He said, ‘Hey, we can start a band and make some money,’” Bailey said. “I said, ‘No we can’t.’”

It wasn’t long before “Robinella & the CC Stringband” was a hit locally. Touring followed, the group playing to bigger and bigger crowds. The band hit the big time with an appearance on the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” show.

Cash had arrived by then, and Bailey said she grew increasingly uncomfortable with life on the road. Cash was basically a car-seat commando until he was 3. It wasn’t how she wanted him to grow up.

Cash demonstrates his bike handling skills.

“When Cash came along, I had to spend more time on responsible things,” Bailey said. “More and more, it’s about your kids. If you’re doing it right, it’s got to be about your kids. You can’t do it all. I wish you could, but you can’t.”

Beau cools down with a Limonata.

Beau came along after Bailey cut back on touring.

“I begged to have a brother,” Cash said. “Every time I went to bed, I prayed it was a boy.”

Prayers answered, the pair has been inseparable right from the start.

“We got a text and a picture, and it said he was born,” Cash said. “He was like laughing and smiling and stuff.”

Cash is a Little Leaguer. He’s got his mom’s speed.

Beau’s too young for sports yet, but he seems destined for football. He has a natural relish for running into things. It tickles him. Plus, there’s the Hulk thing to consider.

The coolest thing about his mom isn’t her professional singing career, Cash said. It’s watching her work in the yard.

“Most moms are like normal moms,” he said, “going to work everyday with that phone thing in their ear. My mom’s driving a Bobcat in the backyard.”

Bailey still performs locally. She hasn’t ruled out returning to the music business full-time, but there’s no rush. Cash wants a rematch, and Beau and Claire are looking more and more like a long-term deal.










































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