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Spotlight Artist - Bobby Vinton

 

Bobby VintonThe spotlight is on Bobby Vinton also nicknamed "The Polish Prince" due to his Polish ethnic background.  Vinton's love for music started at an early age as his parents who gave him his weekly allowance of 25 cents after practicing his clarinet.

He formed his first band at the age of 16 and played around the clubs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  His hometown of Cannonsburg named two streets in his honor, Bobby Vinton Boulevard and the shorter adjoining Bobby Vinton Drive.

After two-years service in the U.S. Army, when he served as a chaplain's assistant, Vinton was signed to Epic Records in 1960 as a bandleader: "A Young Man With a Big Band". The break for the Epic Records contract came after Vinton and his band appeared on Guy Lombardo's TV Talent Scouts program. Two albums and several singles were not successful however, and with Epic ready to pull the plug, Vinton found his first hit single literally sitting in a reject pile. The song was titled "Roses Are Red (My Love)". Vinton had to do his own promotion for the song; he bought 1,000 copies and hired a young woman to deliver a copy of the record and a dozen red roses to every local disc jockey. It spent four weeks at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Arguably, his most famous song is 1963's "Blue Velvet", originally a minor hit for Tony Bennett in 1951, that also went to No.1. 

Bobby Vinton on Shindig December 2, 1964

  

Twenty-three years later, David Lynch named his movie Blue Velvet after the song. In 1990, "Blue Velvet" climbed to the top of the music charts in Great Britain, after being featured in a Nivea commercial. In 1964, Vinton had two #1 hits, "There! I've Said It Again" (a #1 hit in 1945 for Vaughn Monroe) and "Mr. Lonely". Vinton wrote "Mr. Lonely" during his chaplain's assistant service in the U.S. Army in the late 1950s. The song was recorded during the same 1962 session that produced "Roses Are Red" and launched Vinton's singing career. It was released as an album track on the 1962 Roses Are Red (and other songs for the young & sentimental) LP. Despite pressure from Vinton to release it as a single, Epic instead had Buddy Greco release it and it flopped. Two years and millions of records sold later, Bobby prevailed on Epic to include "Mr. Lonely" on his Bobby Vinton's Greatest Hits LP. Soon DJ's picked up on the song and airplay resulted in demand for a single release. "Mr. Lonely" shot up the charts in the late fall of 1964 and reached #1 on the charts on 12 December 1964. Epic then released the LP Bobby Vinton Mr. Lonely, giving the song a unique claim to fame since it now appeared on three Bobby Vinton albums released within two years. The song has continued to spin gold for its composer in the 45 years since it hit #1.

Noteworthy is the fact that Vinton continued to have big hit records during the British Invasion, scoring 16 top ten hits, while Connie Francis, Ricky Nelson, the Shirelles and other major artists of the early 1960s struggled to reach even the Top 30.

In 1965, Vinton continued his "Lonely" success streak with the self written "L-O-N-E-L-Y". "Long Lonely Nights" peaked at #12 and spawned an album, Bobby Vinton Sings for Lonely Nights. Vinton's self written 1966 hit, "Coming Home Soldier", was a favorite on request shows on the American Forces Network during the Cold War and Vietnam era, often called in by soldiers about to board the Freedom Bird that would take them back to the "Land of the Round Doorknobs". 1967 saw Vinton's lush remake of "Please Love Me Forever" reach #6 and sell over a million copies. His 1968 hit, "I Love How You Love Me", surged to #9, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold record by the RIAA.

In the 1970s, the "Polish Prince" continued to hit the Top 40, notably with "Ev'ry Day of My Life", produced by Jimmy "The Wiz" Wizner and CBS recording engineer Jim Reeves, which peaked at #24 in January, and "Sealed With a Kiss" hitting #19 in June, 1972. The next year, Epic Records decided to drop Vinton from his contract (despite the notable success of these two hits), claiming that his days of selling records were over. Undeterred, Vinton spent $50,000 of his own money on a self-written song sung partially in Polish: "My Melody of Love". The suggestion for the song came from Vinton's mother. After Vinton was turned down by six major labels, ABC Records bought Vinton's idea, and the result was a multi-million selling single that hit #3 on the Hot 100, #2 on the Cashbox Top 100 chart, and #1 on the AC chart in 1974. A gold album, Melodies of Love, followed as well as more Top 40 pop hits ("Beer Barrel Polka" and "Dick And Jane" in 1975), a successful half-hour variety show The Bobby Vinton Show (which aired from 1975 to 1978), which used "My Melody of Love" as its theme song; ABC Records subsequently released an album of songs performed on the show. In 1978, CBS TV aired Bobby Vinton's Rock N' Rollers a one hour special that achieved top ratings. Earlier in the decade, he also starred in two John Wayne movies: Big Jake and The Train Robbers.

Billboard Magazine called Bobby Vinton "the all-time most successful love singer of the 'Rock-Era'". From 1962 through 1972, Vinton had more Billboard #1 hits than any other male vocalist, including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. In recognition of his recording career, Bobby Vinton has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6916 Hollywood Blvd.

 

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