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Spotlight Artist - Bobby Vee

 

Bobby VeeThis month's spotlight is on Bobby Vee. He was born Robert Thomas Velline on April 30, 1943 in Fargo, North Dakoto.

Bobby Vee's career began amid tragedy. On "The Day the Music Died" (February 3, 1959), the three headline acts in the line-up of the traveling 'Winter Dance Party'---Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper---were killed, along with 21 year old pilot Roger Peterson, in the crash of a 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza v-tailed aircraft near Clear Lake, Iowa, while en route to the next show on the tour itinerary in Moorhead, Minnesota. Velline, then aged 15, and a hastily-assembled band of Fargo, North Dakota, schoolboys calling themselves The Shadows volunteered for and were given the unenviable job of filling in for Holly and his band at the Moorhead engagement. Their performance there was a success, setting in motion a chain of events that led to Vee's career as a popular singer.

In 1963, Bobby Vee released a tribute album on Liberty Records called "I Remember Buddy Holly". In the sleeve notes accompanying the album, Vee recalled Holly's influence on him and the events surrounding the tragic death of Holly thus: 'Like so many other people, I became a Buddy Holly fan the very first time I heard him sing. I've been a fan ever since and I guess I always will be. I remember a few years ago when Buddy was scheduled to appear at a dance in my home town of Fargo, North Dakota. It was going to be a big event for the whole town, but even more so for me. I was anxiously looking forward to seeing Buddy in action.'

  'The day he was to arrive disaster struck, taking Buddy's life, along with the lives of two other fine singers, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. The shocking news spread through Fargo very quickly. The local radio station broadcast a plea for local talent to entertain at the scheduled dance. About a week before this, I had just organized a vocal and instrumental group of five guys. Our style was modelled after Buddy's approach and we had been rehearsing with Buddy's hits in mind. When we heard the radio plea for talent, we went in and volunteered. We hadn't even named the group up to that time, so we gave ourselves a name on the spot, calling ourselves "The Shadows". We appeared at the dance and were grateful to be enthusiastically accepted. Soon afterwards, I made my first record. It was called "Suzie Baby" and I was pretty lucky with it; it was a fair-sized hit.'

Vee concluded, 'For some time now, I have wanted to make an album in tribute to Buddy, but I wasn't sure it was the proper thing to do. However, during the past year, I have received many requests to do such an album. These requests came not only from my fans and from DJs, but also from Buddy's loyal following---still a large group of devoted fans. It.... gave me the confidence to do the album. From "Suzie Baby" to this present album, I have made many records, but I have never forgotten Buddy Holly and his influence on my singing style and my career.'

"Suzie Baby," an original song penned by Vee that nodded towards Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" was his first song for the Minneapolis-based Soma Records in 1959; it drew enough attention and chart action to be purchased by Liberty Records, which signed him to their label later that year. His follow-up single, a cover of Adam Faith's UK number 1 "What Do You Want?", charted in the lower reaches of Billboard in early 1960; however, it was his fourth release, a revival of The Clovers' doo-wop ballad "Devil or Angel", that brought him into the big time with U.S. buyers. His next single, "Rubber Ball", was the record that made him an international star.

Vee's 1961 summer release "Take Good Care of My Baby" went to No.1 on the Billboard U.S. listings and number 3 in the UK Singles Chart.[1] Known primarily as a performer of Brill Building pop material, he went on to record a string of international hits in the 1960s, including "Devil or Angel" (U.S. #6), "Rubber Ball" (1961) (U.S. #6), "More Than I Can Say" (1961) (U.K. #4), "Run To Him" (1961) (U.S. #2), "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" (1963) (U.S. #3), and "Come Back When You Grow Up" (U.S. #3). When Vee recorded "Come Back When You Grow Up" in 1967, he was joined by a band called 'The Strangers'.

Vee was also a pioneer in the music video genre, appearing in several musical motion pictures as well as in the Scopitone series of early film-and-music jukebox recordings. He is a 1999 inductee of the North Dakota Roughrider Award. He is mentioned in the movie No Direction Home, regarding his brief musical association with Bob Dylan and Dylan's suggestion that he was 'Bobby Vee' after Vee's regional hit.

EMI/UK released 'The Very Best of Bobby Vee' on May 12, 2008. This package charted in the UK top five. On January 17th 2011, EMI/UK released 'Rarities', a double CD package with 61 tracks, many of which had been previously unreleased, others included alternate takes and first time stereo releases, also tracks from the 'Bobby Vee Live On Tour' album minus the 'canned' audience.

On March 28th, 2011 Bobby Vee became the 235th inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Despite the circumstances of his debut, Vee went on to become a bona fide star, and regularly performed at the Winter Dance Party memorial concerts in Clear Lake. Sadly Bobby Vee passed away October 24, 2016 after battling Altzheimers.

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