Bobby Curtola Canadian Music Icon
grew up listening to the music of Bobby Curtola, a Canadian rock ‘n’ roll legend
whose hit songs dominated the airwaves in Canada and the United States in the
1960’s and whose concerts in Las Vegas and other major centers around the world,
have sold out in the decades which followed. Few artists achieved the star
status and the staying power of Bobby Curtola, during a time when the British
Who could have foreseen that a teenager growing up in an Italian family in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada and who skated on an outdoor skating rink to songs playing from WLOS radio station in Chicago would only a few years later, find himself as the focal point of adoration from loving music fans in Canada and the United States from east coast to west coast?
Today’s artists who are either signed to a music label or have experienced the pitfalls of contracts, which often strip artists of their rights, will salivate at the type of relationship and agreement that Bobby Curtola enjoyed with his managers Basil and Dyer Hurdon who wrote his songs.
“It was the first year of high school and it was
September 1959, Basil’s son went to the same school as me and he was in grade
twelve. He told his dad about me and before I knew it, I was invited to sing on
one side of a record. How this happened I don’t know (he says with gratitude in
his voice). So there I was invited up and I got to sing “Hand In Hand With You,”
with the Buddy Edwards Trio, They (the Hurdons) pressed it on their own label
Tartan Records and they sent it out to all of the deejays.
Bobby Curtola was sixteen years old when he released his
debut record, on January 27th, 1960 and by February of the same year
the single “Hand and Hand With You,” and the LP were hot items. In March the
soon to be teen idol was asked to appear on stage with Bob Hope in
“At the end of the song, we had a huge standing ovation and so much so, that Bob (Hope) came to the dressing room, because he wanted to meet this kid. He congratulated me and from that time on, I opened many shows for Bob and he was a great friend,” says Curtola.
The 1962 hit song “Fortune
Teller,” changed Bobby Curtola’s life. “Up to that point, people would remember
the song and half remember the guy who was singing it. What was different about
“Fortune Teller,” was Del-Fi Records and Bob Keane (Ritchie Valens), had seen
the action that had happened with us. With “Fortune Teller,” a guy named Red
Robinson sent it to some of his pals in
“It was a great time, because my friend Bobby Vinton had “Roses Are Red,” out at the time. He is a great performer and a great friend. We used to joke about it, and he would say that he was tired of telling people that he didn’t record “Fortune Teller,” and I said, I was tired of telling them that I didn’t record “Roses Are Red.” He told me that he was signing it (“Fortune Teller”) anyways and I said me too (autographing “Roses Are Red”). We had great fun and the camaraderie in those days was unbelievable. The story that is never told about those days is the tremendous disc jockeys who had all the fans in those cities; Al Boliska (Toronto), PJ the Deejay in Winnipeg and Barry Boyd in Edmonton, Red Robinson (Vancouver), Frank Cameron on the east coast, “Hound Dog,” in Buffalo. How could I forget my good friend “Wolfman Jack,” who knew how to promote and he took it to another step? He was incredible and I was on his show many times. Those guys had a fan base that was bigger than any of us recording artists. They literally introduced us to their fans and they communicated with their fans. Those deejays had their pulse on the music business. They picked the playlist and they directly related it to the fan response. To me that’s an untold story that needs to be told, because you can’t really understand the music business if you don’t understand how the grassroots support came from the people who were listening to radio. These guys did actually present us to the people in each of those markets. Today when you make a record, there is no regional response to it. It is so challenging, because there are only so many spots on the record charts,” in talking about the deejays it is easy to detect the gratitude in Curtola’s voice.
It is well documented that those in the entertainment industry who experience much success early in life, often struggle later in life, and yet Bobby Curtola has somehow sidestepped those issues and wherever you go or whoever you talk to in the music business they will tell you that Bobby Curtola is a class act.
“To have a chance to do this,
when I came from
Bobby Curtola has enjoyed 25 gold singles in
Chad Allen and the Reflections, which then became Chad Allen and the Expressions before finally morphing into the legendary rock band The Guess Who, was one of the bands which toured with Curtola, during the time when “Shakin’ All Over,” became a big hit.
“Shakin’ All Over,” he says, “I worked really hard with all of my deejay friends
to get airplay for that record. It helped being on tour and history just took
over. I am very proud of being instrumental in some of those early days. I
remember going to a high school to listen to Burton Cummings play, because we
wanted to have a piano player for the next tour.
“I put the band Crowbar together. Kelly Jay was a musical conductor of mine and The Ascots were dear friends of mine. We got together for a tour and the rest is history for them too. Because I was out there pounding the beat, I got a chance to play a little bit, but it was frustrating for some of the guys in those early days,” he remembers.
In 1972, Bobby Curtola experienced another highpoint in
his career when he signed a lucrative contract with the Hughes Hotel chain. He
recalls how that came about, “I opened for Louis Armstrong in
As a brief aside, Curtola takes a moment to relate some
humorous incidents, which took place during his performances in
During his lifetime Bobby
Curtola has received The Order of Canada, the highest civil honor that a
Canadian can receive, his friends have included Chubby Checker, Jerry Lew Lewis,
Bobby Vinton, Wolfman Jack, Dick Clark and many more. A year ago he performed in
He says, “It is always hard for artists to continue to have hit records, because usually you fall into a formula. There you are singing on the elevator and one day you are singing in your hometown or in your school gymnasium. Then it goes to another floor and the doors open and you are singing the same songs and it’s the world. It doesn’t make sense when you are doing it and all of a sudden you sing and you point and that’s what you do. You are really trying to figure out the success that you are having in the middle of it happening, because you really don’t know. Something happens and it comes together and it did for me. The song “Fortune Teller,” really is about my life. I never thought, “Fortune Teller can you see / What my fortune’s going to be on your crystal ball / Have you got a thing for me.”
“I am still singing, the shows never went away and we still sell out everywhere that we go. My life changed a little and I was lucky enough to be the father of some great boys. The music never went away and I am still doing all of that stuff. For a lot of people I am the new “old face” out there. They have heard of me and some still remember me. It never went away and all I can do is to say thank you.
On June 5, 2016 Bobby Curtola passed away, seven years after this interview was conducted. You made us all proud to be Canadians Bobby Curtola. Thank you.
This interview by Joe Montague published April 15, 2009
is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine © All
Rights Reserved. All photos the exclusive property of Bobby Curtola and
are protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved
This interview by Joe Montague published April 15, 2009 is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine © All Rights Reserved. All photos the exclusive property of Bobby Curtola and are protected
by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved