On February 3, 1959, the music died. That was one of the most important days in music history as the plane carrying Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens crashed shortly after takeoff in a cornfield near Crystal Lake, Iowa, killing everyone on board. They were on their way to a show in Moorhead, Minnesota. The show was sold out. They had several hundred people waiting for a rock and roll concert and no one to play. That was the trigger that set Bobby Vee on his way. If that tragedy had not happened, it’s doubtful we would have ever heard of Bobby Vee.
Bobby Vee was born Robert Thomas Velline in 1943 in Fargo, North Dakota. Not a place where you would expect teen idols to come from. Bobby was fifteen years old when the plane accident happened. He had a ragtag group of kids from his high school called The Shadows and when they heard that Buddy Holly wasn’t coming, Bobby stepped up and volunteered to take their place. This was not an enviable place to be in. The crowd was expecting Buddy Holly and the others and instead they got this unknown local group who had next to no experience playing in front of crowd.
But, somehow, they pulled it off. In fact, the crowd loved them and that was the start of Bobby Vee’s career. The first record he recorded was called “Susie Baby” and was written to sound like “Peggy Sue,” a song done by Buddy Holly. It didn’t hurt that Bobby sounded a lot like Buddy Holly. A local promoter heard them and thought he could make them into something, so Bobby Vee and the Shadows went into the studio.
At first, they thought they needed a piano in the band and they auditioned a young man who came to the studio who called himself Elston Gunnn (sic). His real name was Robert Zimmerman, but you probably know him better as Bob Dylan. This was before Dylan became a household word. Dylan did tour with the Shadows for a couple years, but I don’t think he ever recorded with them.
Soon, Bobby was hitting the charts, the first time was with “Devil or Angel” (#6) and then with “Rubber Ball (#6.) On his third try, he hit gold, putting “Take Good Care of My Baby” into the number one spot.
“Take Good Care of My Baby”was written by the famous songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. When Bobby’s manager, Snuff Garrett, heard the song, he liked it and wanted to record it. Garrett had a policy to only record songs that had never been recorded before by anyone and “Take Good Care of My Baby” had been recorded by Dion and the Belmonts but never released. He said, “We’ll take it anyway,” and Bobby had his first and only number one song.
“Take Good Care of My Baby” entered the pop charts on August 21, 1961 and spent three weeks at number one. It was Bobby Vee’s only number one song, although he continued to record and chart until 1968. After that he played the oldie circuit until 2011 when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He died of the disease just last year on October 26, 2016. He was 73.