In the fall of 1959, sixteen-year-old high school student Bobby Curtola went from pumping gas at his father’s garage in Thunder Bay, Ontario, to the life of a Teenage Idol. Who would have known that within a year he would go from playing in his basement band “Bobby and the Bobcats” (who played Lakeview High Assemblies) to recording his first hit single “Hand In Hand With You.”
The “45” was recorded at a radio station in Thunder Bay and it was released in January 1960. By February it was sent to radio stations nation-wide, starting first in Winnipeg and then Halifax to the Rock’n’Roll DJ of the Maritimes, Frank Cameron at CHNS radio. Next it was sent to Regina, then Kingston, to DJ Brian Olney at CKWS radio and CFUN radio’s Red Robinson in Vancouver. Edmonton and Calgary stations were playing it next and it made its way into the Ottawa Valley ending up in Toronto in June. The response was immense and with his popularity mushrooming Bobby was making many promotional and professional appearances, one of the most significant was opening for the Bob Hope Show in March.
The charismatic Bobby, with his handsome boy next door looks was quickly finding himself within a whirlwind that we now refer to as “Curtolamania.” Everywhere he went there were throngs of teenage girls screaming...“Bobby, Bobby... We love you!”
Bobby set out on his first Western Canada Tour in the fall of 1960 with Edmonton’s famous DJ from CJCA radio, Barry Boyd and his band The Frantics. From there Bobby went on to become a trailblazer, establishing the first coast to coast tour circuit in Canada. Within the next year he was recording in Nashville with Bill Porter for RCA Studios, where he continued to record for many years.
Basil and Dyer Hurdon, Bobby’s first managers and songwriters can be credited for much of this early success.
The hit “Fortune Teller” was released in 1962 and was soon to be Gold in Canada. The now Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famer, Red Robinson, was instrumental in Fortune Teller’s success. Seeing its potential internationally, he sent it to Pat O’Day at Seattle’s KJR and Hawaii’s KPOI radio. The result was monumental. The Americans went crazy over it, especially since they couldn’t buy it; it wasn’t in the stores yet. A major US record deal was signed and Fortune Teller went on to become a 2.5 million seller internationally! Bobby now had everyone’s attention!...He was invited to tour with Dick Clark and his Cavalcade of Stars, the beginning of many tours that followed. While on tour in England that same year, Bobby met The Beatles and appeared on the famous British TV variety show “Thank Your Lucky Stars.”
In June of l964, Bobby was definitely in the right place at the right time. He became the first pop singer to record a jingle that sounded like a “Top 40 Hit Single,” the song was “Things Go Better with Coke.” He signed an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola to be their #1 Spokesman. Bobby, inspired by Coke and thinking of a spin off to “Things Go Better with Coke,” co-wrote “The Real Thing” which he used a version of for the commercial “Coke’s The Real Thing.”
Bobby made numerous appearances on network “Teen” TV shows like American Bandstand. His Hollywood debut was on Hullabaloo and Shindig, from southern California, then the world famous Wolf Man Jack Show and Don Webster’s show in Cleveland, Ohio. He later became the first recording artist to host not one, but two Network Canadian TV shows, After Four on CFTO Channel 9 in 1965 and 1966 and Shake, Rock and Roll on CTV in 1973. Bobby was also host to many of the Miss Canada and Miss Teen Canada Pageants.
The sixties, with hit after hit for Bobby, included 25 Canadian Gold singles and 12 Canadian Gold albums.
The year 1972 became a turning point for Bobby. He made the transition from “teen idol” to the “highest paid nightclub entertainer” in Canada and was ready for his debut in Las Vegas. Once there, he was an instant success! With his degree of professionalism and sheer showmanship he couldn’t help but impress the audiences and it wasn’t long before he was noticed. Walter Kane, who was in charge of hiring the entertainment for the Hughes Hotel chain, signed Bobby to a five year multi-million dollar contract making him the first Canadian entertainer to receive a long term contract in Las Vegas. Bobby continued a very successful career in Vegas for more than twenty years.
In 1975, while in Las Vegas, Bobby asked a wonderful girl by the name of Ava, to marry him. Bobby and Ava just seem to have the magic that makes a marriage work; they are happily married and have managed to raise two incredible sons that any parent would be proud to have their daughter date. Their names are Chris and Michael Curtola.
In 1990 Bobby released his Christmas Flashback CD, which went gold. He went on that same year to produce his 15 Great Hits CD, on the RCA label. He also began his relationship with The Princess Cruises, internationally performing on the Love Boat for the next eight years.
The CD “Turn The Radio Up” was released in 1997 and Bobby continued performing internationally.
In 1998 Bobby was set for even higher heights in his career; there was a new perspective and a coming together of all the events of his life. That spring he produced his newest CD, 21 Great Hits Vol. VIII, the latest of his eight volume anthology of hits. The CD features Bobby with Buddy Miles, singing the classic “Stand By Me,” also produced in video. Bobby sings one of his favorite songs sung by Selena, “Dreamin’ of You” and he pays tribute to Elvis with the song “Precious Memories,” which he wrote in memory of Elvis. Bobby dedicates his rendition of “Pretty Woman” to Roy Orbison and sings “La Bamba” in memory of Richie Valance. “Detonate The Dance Floor” a song that Bobby co-wrote with his son Michael, keeps the CD Rockin’.
The eight CD booklet package is a pictorial documentation of Bobby’s career, that spans four decades. The CD collection contains 171 songs that Bobby has performed and recorded. With the intent to summarize the anthology volumes, a “Limited Collector’s Edition” poster was created in the fall. Together with the the eight booklets and CD’s, the poster was matted and framed, encapsulating it forever, in effect creating a Bobby Curtola time capsule.
Although he has performed continuously, Bobby launched his “Stand By Me Tour” in Vancouver in March 1998, and set out on the road performing coast to coast to sold out houses once again. After each show, Bobby was there in his usual form, happy to autograph the tour memorabilia purchased by the long lines of his fans.
Since 1963, when Bobby became an international success with “Fortune Teller,” he has maintained his “Star Status” in several countries. In late 1998 Bobby was in Malaysia and while there he did a Christmas special on national TV. He also took the opportunity to distribute part of his new memorabilia, the Limited Collector’s Edition Collage, to the Hard Rock Cafes throughout Asia.
In January 1999 Bobby returned to Malaysia to tour, an early start on his Millennium Tour, where he presented his music and merchandise to Asia.
In 2000 Bobby produced the video for Corrina in Bali, Indonesia at one of the world’s oldest Hindu water temples. This exciting video included 100 local dancers. He also performed at the Hard Rock Hotel in Bali. In this year Bobby starred in a Rock’n’Roll TV program in Jakarta, Indonesia which aired weekly on the local major TV network. Towards the end of 2000 Bobby produced a Christmas TV special in Malaysia on TV3.
Bobby embarked on a European tour in 2001 and visited France, Italy, Switzerland, and England. Later that year he continued his relationship with Princess Cruises by performing on Caribbean and Mediterranean cruises.
2002 was an exciting year with Bobby starring in Sock Hop Reunions in Canada and once again impressing his fans with his performances on a Caribbean cruise.
The 50th Anniversary of Rock & Roll will be celebrated in 2004. Rock & Roll 50th AnniversarySM is working with Bobby, “Canada’s Rock and Roll Legend”, and his team to develop a series of exciting events during the year long celebration from July 5, 2004 through July 5, 2005. These will include concerts, personal appearances and other activities bringing the celebration across Canada.
Being a citizen of the world in the true sense, Bobby has demonstrated not only a national, but also an international conscience with the donation of an enormous amount of his time and energy toward the cause of the less fortunate. He is involved in many charities and hosts numerous telethons coast to coast in Canada, each year. His global contributions include charitable works in Indonesia, Bulgaria, the Jerry Lewis M.D. Telethon in the USA and his Bobby Curtola Foundation for Children in Ecuador.
For his humanitarian efforts within Canada and his major pioneering contribution to Canadian Pop Music, Bobby Curtola received Canada’s highest honour “The Order of Canada” on May 7, 1998. For his contributions and his establishment of his children’s foundation in Ecuador, he was awarded “The Gold Medal of Merit.”
Bobby has received numerous other awards and has had many accomplishments over the years.
- One of the first Canadian artists to receive the RPM Award (now known as the Juno Award)
- Inducted into The Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame
- Toronto made April 26, 1996 Bobby Curtola Day
- Awarded the keys to the mega city of Toronto and the cities of Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton and Brandon.
If greatness is never measured in size, but rather by deed, then Bobby Curtola is one of the greatest! When asked his view on greatness, Bobby replied: “In all my years in the entertainment business, goose bumps are the only way to measure greatness!”
- Received the First Canadian Registered Gold Album
- A pioneer, instrumental in the early stages of the Canadian Content ruling (the beginning of the CRTC)
- One of the first artists to be a partner in his own publishing, recording and concert promotion companies
- First Canadian artist to receive a long-term multi-million dollar contract in Las Vegas with the Howard Hughes Hotels
- Inducted into the Coca Cola Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 1997
Known for his innovation, wealth of talent and his immense humanitarianism, Bobby Curtola is truly “Canada’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend.” He is of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s ... and the 21st Century. He is not one in a million, but one of a kind!”
HAND IN HAND WITH YOU
|COME HOME LITTLE GIRL
ALONE AND LONELY
IT’S ABOUT TIME
I’D DO ANYTHING FOR YOU
THE REAL THING
WHILE I’M AWAY
WAY DOWN DEEP
STAND BY ME (With Buddy Miles)
WALKIN' WITH MY ANGEL
12 TICKETS TO CLOUD NINE
LOVE STORY IN STEREO
TWELVE GOLDEN HITS
BOBBY CURTOLA’S GREATEST HITS VOL. 1
BOBBY CURTOLA’S GREATEST HITS VOL. 2
BOBBY CURTOLA’S GREATEST HITS VOL. 3
BOBBY CURTOLA’S GREATEST HITS VOL. 4
15 GREATEST HITS
CURTOLA – HIS GREATEST HITS
GOTTA GET USED TO BEING COUNTRY
TURN THE RADIO UP
FROM THEN TILL NOW
LEGEND TO LEGEND
SOCK HOP REUNION VOL. 1
SOCK HOP REUNION VOL. 2
BOBBY CURTOLA TRIBUTE WEBSITE
Bill & Sue-On Hillman Eclectic Studio
Photos and Text Copyright 2003/2009