“I punched my buddy in the nose after lunch”…Wha?…Hunh? Yep, that’s what the man said, that man? Robert Velline! However you know him as Bobby Vee, and that is the opening line of lyric from his fourth hit single “Stayin’ In” you may not remember him as well as some of the other Bobby’s, Jimmy’s Billy’s, or Frankie’s but Bobby Vee enjoyed 38 chart hits, 10 of them hitting the Top 20….And between 1960 and 1967 that’s more than the other Bobby’s, Jimmy’s and Billy’s combined….But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. By the time you heard about Bobby “Cold Cocking” his best friend “In the cafeteria” Bobby already had 2-3 international smashes and it’s only 1962…Yeah in a little less than two years Bobby, was a certified international “Teen Idol!…Yes, the girls were swooning and fainting, but we all privately couldn’t resist the infectious quality and consistent appeal of the songs he would choose to record! Check this out, and admit it, you have at least one of these in your collection…Devil or Angel…”Rubber Ball”… “Take Good Care Of My Baby”…The nose punching “Stayin’In”…..The night has a Thousand Eye’s…”Run To Him” and in the later years “Come Back When You Grow Up Girl” “Please Don’t Ask About Barbara”and “Love you more than I can Say” Yes, way before Leo Sayer!….Staggering and we owned all of them!…Bobby Vee alone paid the rent and kept the lights on at the Brill Building! His earliest hits were penned by Gene Pitney and John D. Loudermilk with the great Carole King and Jerry Goffin delivering his later smashes…
Ah, but the plot thickens, Bobby’s Idol and influence was the great Buddy Holly, In fact the B-Side to “Rubber Ball was Bobby’s cover of Holly’s Everyday”….With many radio programmers believing it was Buddy, they began playing it confusing matters and distracting record buyers from “Rubber Ball” Bobby’s incredible A side! Furthermore Bobby’s hit “More Than I Can Say” was written by two of the members of Buddy’s band The Crickets, Sonny Curtis and Jerry Alison!
But here is the saddest, ironic and most important connection between Bobby Vee and Buddy Holly. You are all familiar with “The Day The Music Died” when a plane carrying Buddy, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens crashed after takeoff in a winter storm in Feb. of 59! Killing all four passengers on board. The plane was en route to Moorhead Minneapolis for the first of a 24 day tour called “The Winter Dance Tour. At that point Bobby had released a regional record he wrote called “Susie Baby” a record that was clearly inspired by Holly’s “Peggy Sue,”
as you can imagine the promoter of The Winter Dance Tour was panicking…24 dates to fill and NO BAND! But the promoter heard “Susie Baby” on the radio and called Bobby ( although he was still Robert Velline) and offered him the job, Bobby and his band “The Shadows” we’re in Fargo North Dakota, so they packed up their gear and headed to Moorhead where they headlined the second night of the ill-fated tour and several nights thereafter. These dates are considered the most important period in young , 15-year-old Bobby Vee’s career for two reasons. He was offered a record deal on the spot by Liberty records and he met a piano player named Elston Gunnn…yes, that’s Gunnn with 3 N’s…Gunnn had heard about this incredible band called The Shadows with a front guy who did a mean Buddy Holly, Elston was out of work and he approached Bobby to be the piano player for The Shadows. Total Strangers Bobby asked who Elston had worked with? Elston replied by saying he just got off a tour with Conway Twitty!. Bobby needed a piano player, but he was also familiar with who was on tour and where, and he was sure that this odd guy Elston may not be telling “The Whole Truth” but…..Bobby hired him regardless, Elston Gunnn was now the piano player in Robert Velline and The Shadows. The two quickly became friends with Elston, fresh out of high school and nearly three years Bobby’s senior became a kind of mentor to Bobby and his musical direction. Things went well, but didn’t last for more than six months, ya see Elston could only play in the key of “C”
Yes dear reader, here’s the payoff Elston’s real name is Robert Allen Zimmerman…YES! Bob Dylan!
Through the years Dylan has sung the praises of Bobby Vee and on several occasions performed Bobby’s “Susie Baby”….
Bobby spoke infrequently but respectfully about his relationship with Dylan and they remained friends until we lost Bobby Vee from complications due to Alzheimer’s in 2016……Here’s “Stayin In” https://g.co/kgs/qezXuL
Were you a Bobby Vee fan?…We know you love Dylan!….Strange bedfellows, INDEED!