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Royalty arrives

Bobby Vinton, known as "The Polish Prince," to perform Saturday

Bobby Vinton, known as "The Polish Prince," to perform Saturday

June 04, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

Read a more with Bobby Vinton at He's never 'Mr. Lonely'




SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. -- In 1964, Billboard Magazine ranked Bobby Vinton king of the musical charts.

Records like "Mr. Lonely," "Blue Velvet" and "Roses are Red" put Vinton ahead of No. 2 Frank Sinatra and No. 3 Elvis Presley for the most spins.

"I remember telling that to Sinatra once and he got mad," Vinton says with a laugh as he calls from his Florida home.

Although Vinton's music isn't on the airwaves anymore, the 1960s heartthrob is still performing throughout the country. And chances are, you've heard his music creep into pop culture more than once.

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His son, Robbie, played Vinton in the 1990 movie "Goodfellas" singing "Roses Are Red." And in 2005, rapper Akon released "Lonely," which featured a sped-up version of the "Mr. Lonely" in the background and hit No. 3 on Billboard's Top 100.

"There's nothing like hearing your songs on the radio," Vinton says. "It's the greatest thrill. In fact, I don't make records anymore only because today's pop radio stations won't play the type of artist I am."

This Saturday, Vinton fans won't have to search the oldies station for a chance to hear his velvety vocals. Vinton is performing at Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center.

Vinton grew up in Canonsburg, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh and the home of another famous crooner, Perry Como. Vinton says his father, Stan Vinton, a regionally known band leader, was childhood friends with Como.

"All my life, I knew nothing but music, musicians," he says. "My father was a big influence on me."

By age 7, Vinton was onstage singing at the local Moose Club, where people would throw pennies at him in appreciation. By the time he was 15 years old, Vinton had started his own band.

The band toured, doing gigs in the Pittsburgh area. And as his popularity grew, Vinton, whose given name is Stanley Bobby Vinton, hit a professional snag: He had to distinguish himself from his father.

"It got confusing," Vinton recalls. "People would call up and say, 'I want Stan Vinton's band,' then I'd show up and they'd be like, 'We don't want the kid, we want the old man.' And vice versa."

So his father suggested he go by his middle name, which seemed to also be popular with singers of the day such as Bobby Darin and Bobby Rydell. So Bobby Vinton was born.

He earned a degree in musical composition at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

After a short stint in the Army, Vinton and the band appeared on Guy Lombardos' "TV Talent Scouts." He soon signed with Epic Records and put out two big-band rock 'n' roll albums. But they weren't selling and Vinton suggested making an album with him singing. He had already penned "Mr. Lonely" and "Roses are Red."

It was just the start of a long career. He recorded other hits, put together a weekly TV show, appeared in films and toured.

His hit "My Melody of Love" earned him a legion of Polish fans and the moniker "The Polish Prince."

In the early 1990s, he bought a theater in Branson, Mo., where he performed his variety show.

"After nine years, I was tired of it. I was doing two shows a day," he says.

So he sold it and went back on the road.

"I don't do as much performance. When I do, it's something I enjoy doing," he says.

Those teenage girls who swayed for him in the 1960s have still remained his fans, bringing their daughters and granddaughters to the shows. Vinton says he's still enjoying every minute of it.

"I enjoy it even more so today, because, when you're young, you think it's going to last," he says. "When it's happening you don't appreciate it. It's like youth itself."




If you go ...



WHAT: Bobby Vinton -- Live in Concert

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 6

WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, Pa.

COST: Cost: $45, $38 and $28

CONTACT: Call Luhrs Center box office at 717-477-7469 or go to www.luhrscenter.com

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