Bobby Vee 1943-2016
Submitted Courtesy of Rob Durkee
Cashbox Magazine USA
There’s one very special plaque on display in my Mediabase 24/7 office. It was awarded to me April 7, 1989 to commemorate my final day as an on-air DJ. It was given to me at a send-off party that evening. It was a gold record with my signoff slogan as the title: “I Know It’s Only Rock And Roll—But I Like It.” The artist on that gold record was my airname, “Rockin’ Robin Scott.” Underneath, in a beautifully engraved box, it said “From Your Friends at WAYY Radio and Bobby Vee.” Bobby couldn’t make it that night but his thoughtfulness and popularity as one of the upper midwest’s most revered singers for many years has never been forgotten by me.
That’s why it’s so very difficult for me to report that Robert Velline, a/k/a Bobby Vee, died Monday (October 24, 2016) at the age of 73. He’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease in recent years.
Bobby Vee got his big break as a fill-in singer in the wake of the tragic “Day The Music Died” plane crash of February 3, 1959, that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and the pilot, Roger Peterson. Bobby performed with his two-week old band, the Shadows, at the Moorhead (Minnesota) National Armory, not far from his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. That big break was the first chapter of a career that landed him over 40 hits, mostly in the 60’s.
Bobby Vee would help put the songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin on the music map. While “(Will You Love Me) Tomorrow” by the Shirelles was the King-Goffin team’s first #1 earlier in 1961, Bobby would have the second...and he told me that when he recorded it that “I KNEW it would be a hit.”...Yup, “Take Good Care Of My Baby”...
Of all the hits Bobby Vee had, he said this one from from 1963 was his favorite...”The Night Has A Thousand Eyes”...
(Speaking of 1963, that year gave us my favorite Bobby Vee song of all time...”Charms”)
This was Bobby Vee’s biggest seller, a #3 hit in 1967...
In the early stages of his career, Bobby Vee had to fire one of the Shadows’ members in an economic move. That singer was then-18-year-old Robert Zimmerman...who today is better known as Bob Dylan, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Here’s still many more memories of Bobby Vee...
“What Do You Want?” — His second hit and followup to “Susie Baby,” which was his only hit with his group the Shadows. “What Do You Want?” was only about 1:37 long. Very short.
“Devil Or Angel”—His breakthrough Top 10 hit that reached #6. It was a remake of a Clovers song. The flip side, the song Liberty Records thought would be the hit, was also a remake...”Since I Met You Baby” (originally a 1956 hit for Ivory Joe Hunter).
“Rubber Ball” — Another #6 hit...and the oddity was one of the song’s co-writers. Aaron Schroeder was no mystery....but “A. Orlowski” was. As it turned out,..Anne Orlowski was the maiden name of the mother of the song’s other co-writer, Gene Pitney.
“Stayin’ In”—The only top 40 hit ever about a detention, it only reached #33. Ironically, when rapper Young M.C. ALSO reached #33 with “Principal’s Office” in 1990, then-“American Top 40” host Shadoe Stevens told the story of “Stayin’ In.” That single's B side fared even worse by reaching #61...but “More Than I Can Say” became a #2 remake for Leo Sayer 19 years later in 1980. While this single didn’t fare well, as Shadoe duly noted, the followup more than made up for it...Bobby Vee’s biggest hit, the #1 “Take Good Care Of My Baby.”
“Run To Him” — A #2 hit that was supposed to be given to the Everly Brothers. However, as Bobby told me, the writers put the song on Bobby’s stack of possible songs. Thus, Bobby got a hit “because they put the song on the wrong stack!”
“Walkin’ With My Angel” — The flip side of “Run To Him” only reached #53, but it became a turntable hit and classic. The key was the pounding beat heard at the start. As Bobby told me, one of his studio musicians simply stomped his feet on a thick board...”and at the start of that record, you can hear him walking on that board.”
Oh, one more thing. Bobby Vee didn’t turn down “This Diamond Ring” because he said the song was never offered to him. Gary Lewis, who got the #1 hit with the song, told me in an interview that he believed Bobby, saying that was merely a case of mind games being played by producer Snuff Garrett.
Bobby Vee had 14 Top 40 hits, 6 gold singles and 2 gold albums.
Editor’s Notes: The passing of American Teen Idol Bobby Vee hit hard in the hearts of the Cashbox Magazine team both in Canada and the USA. The ‘Bobbys’ were so instrumental in the sound and success of the rock ‘n’ roll era – Bobby Darin, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee. Sadly noted Bobby Vee died the same was born the same year and left us the same year as Canada’s own Bobby Curtola. I would like to think that Darin, Vee and Curtola are harmonizing together in Heaven. What a sound that would be to hear.