From Tina Turner to Sweetie Pies | Robbie Montgomery and black excellence

February 8, 2021

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Although perhaps best known these days as the mind behind St. Louis institution Sweetie Pie’s restaurant, Robbie Montgomery’s public life extends back decades. She began her career touring with certified hit-makers such as Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones before starting her current chapter as a restaurant owner. The soul singer and soul food lover sits down today to discuss how early struggles fueled her ongoing pursuit of happiness.

0:47 Rhythm and Blues

Over a long and colorful career in entertainment, Robbie Montgomery has collected a cornucopia of unforgettable stories. She recounts her time as a cornerstone of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, providing vocals on some of the act’s most iconic hit records. This time in her life was bittersweet, as the indignity of segregation defined these years as much as any critical acclaim. Barred from “polite society” in the 60s, the collective became an extremely tight-knit unit on the road. The poignant experience helped shape her musical career.

3:57 The Toughest Crowd

After her time touring with the Turners, Robbie took her talents to Los Angeles hoping to break into steady work as a backup singer. She left her hometown of St. Louis with an up-and-coming blues singer named Earl Hooker, but VIP treatment remained far from universal. Despite also working with Nancy Sinatra, Barbra Striesand, and other white artists, systemic racism continued to limit her lifestyle at every turn. With a limited number of lodging options, she was often forced to sleep in the backseat of a car between bookings.

5:27 A Tumultuous Affair

Asked to pinpoint the moment she fell in love with music, the R&B mainstay looks back on fond memories of singing with her local choir. Although she never envisioned the successful career to come, she made lifelong connections through the church. She met the father of her child performing small gigs with other choir alumni, who in turn introduced her to Ike Turner. The mercurial superstar-to-be recruited a number of friends into his band, including his eventual wife Tina. Robbie was a central part of the group, but found her prospects limited.

7:26 Bringing it Back Home

After spending years sharing a stage with musical royalty, Robbie Montgomery returned to her native St. Louis for the next phase of her career. Using her newfound freedom to pursue other passions, she reconnected with another of her oldest loves: home cooking. Armed with a book of her mother’s most beloved recipes, she opened the first Sweetie Pie’s restaurant in her hometown. She speaks on taking an active role in its daily affairs, making frequent appearances in the kitchen and even greeting guests at the front of the house.

13:02 Still Taking Center Stage

As any OWN viewer knows, Sweetie Pie’s is also the subject of a popular docuseries airing on the network. Now in its 9th season, “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” shines the spotlight on everyday operations at the restaurant. In her domain, Robbie is known as much for the tough love she shows her employees as she is for the soul food staples that bring visitors from hundreds of miles around. In a compelling closing, she opens up about how the show impacts her public perception, meeting Oprah, and her lifelong commitment to evolution.

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