Bobby Curtola Lights Up Parry Sound

Bobby Curtola at the Stokey Centre.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham
Photo: Bobby Curtola at the Stokey Centre

Parry Sound, Ontario, on Georgian Bay in the scenic 30,000 islands, is the birthplace of Canadian treasure and hockey legend Bobby Orr. It’s safe to say that Bobby Orr pretty much is omnipresent in the town. Everywhere you go are reminders of him, pictures, signs and a museum. But for one night, August 15th, 2013,  the town belonged to another Canadian legend, another Bobby, Bobby Curtola!

Curtola and his five piece band of brothers The Sensational Hot Rods, slipped into town for a one night concert. The show was at the Stockey Centre on Bay Street in Parry Sound, a beautiful newish venue seating about 750 people. Coincidently the Stockey houses the aforementioned Bobby Orr’s Museum and souvenir shop.

Pulling up to park for the event we noticed how full the parking lot was and a glance inside the lobby let us see a huge crowd milling about, chatting excitedly about the concert. With only three or four weeks of lead time, the Stockey was sold out for The Bobby Curtola Show. Amazing how his legion of fans adore him, or I should stay, STILL adore him, fifty years into his remarkable career.

Curtola’s first big hit, the gold record selling Fortune Teller was released to radio in 1962. That’s over 50 years of staying power. This was pre Beatles, JFK was still alive and the expression “if they can put a man on the moon why can’t they…..” was not part of our everyday vocabulary.

As the lights went down and the band, The Sensational Hot Rods, featuring Eljer, the bandleader on guitar and vocals, Buffer on bass and vocals, Wailin on guitar, baritone sax, fiddle, trumpet and vocals, MoMan on drums and vocals, Frankie V on keys and vocals  and Tommy Horricks on flute, harmonica, sax and vocals took the stage, the anticipation was palaple and after a warmup solo number, they introduced the man everyone had come to see, “Ladies and gentlemen, Canada’s rock ‘n’ roll legend…. Bobby Curtola…”

Bobby Curtola and the Sensational Hot RodsBobby Curtola and the Sensational Hot Rods

The really cool part is Horricks and Bobby have known each other since grade 6 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and one day as the two young boys stood on the hill looking down at the bay Tommy said to Bobby. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” young Bobby said “ I’m going to be a singer!” And there they are, 50 years later sharing a stage. Awesome!

Curtola took the stage and rocked out “Wildwood Days” for the cheering fans and suddenly we were all back in sixties. The crowd of adoring fans and some newbies, too young to have seen Bobby the first time around , were all clapping and singing along to the hits, “Three Rows Over" ( And Two Seats Down), “ Aladdin”, “Don’t You Sweetheart Me”, “Hitchiker” and classics like “Donna”, “Diana” and “ My Girl”.

Curtola paid tribute to the stars he met along the way on his journey. The highlights were “ What A Wonderful World” that Bobby dedicated to the man whom he opened for and the man who was responsible, in some ways, for getting him to Las Vegas, Louis “ Satchmo” Armstrong. There was a moment to remember when Bobby dedicated a song to the troops and did Elvis’ “ American Trilogy”.  Again, an old friend. Bobby met and befriended Elvis during his Vegas days. In fact there is a funny story that when a fan from Canada was introduced to Elvis,  Presley said “Canada huh? Do you know Bobby Curtola?” Priceless.

He thanked all his loyal fans for showing up and let them know  “I wouldn’t be here without you. We were all kids together back in the good old/bad old days and to see you guys here warms my heart and I want you all to know how much I love and appreciate you!!”

Chris CurtolaChris CurtolaCurtola then dedicated a song to his long time publicity and marketing person and close friend Sandy Graham from Entertainment Music Group. He said “I want to sing this for a great friend and business associate , a song I recorded called “Sandy”. This one is for you for all you do.”

Bobby Curtola believes in tradition and loyalty. You need look no further than his legion of loyal fans whom Bobby cherishes and always makes time for and knows them all by name and thinks of them more as old friends than fans. Also his management is a matter of lineage. Bobby was originally managed by Maria Martell and is now ably managed by her grandson and Bobby’s son Chris Curtola, who works tirelessly and seems to have the same energy as his dad. The legacy continues.

The sold out crowd couldn’t have asked for more and Bobby Curtola left them smiling, singing and buzzing about the great night they had.

After the show Bobby met with some of his fans and some friends of mine who were there, Marvin and Becky Haggith  from King City, met Bobby and chatted with him. Although he was being pulled to meet everyone, Bobby took his time. I got a text from Marv that said it all  “He is an amazing guy. It seemed he was content to sit and tell stories as though we were the only people in the room. Quite a talent. We won’t forget the experience!”

So Bobby Curtola keeps rockin’ and lighting up the stages wherever he goes. To paraphrase a George Jones song “He don’t need your rockin’ chair, he’ll do his rockin’ on the stage.”

Rock on Bobby C, see you out there!