Canada lost one of its biggest early rock teen idols with the passing of Bobby Curtola on Sunday.
His sons Chris and Michael posted the following on Facebook:
It is with heavy hearts that we confirm the passing of our father, Bobby Curtola. He was an amazing man who did so much for the people in this world, but even more as a father, uncle, godfather and Nono. His entire family requests privacy at this time while they grieve their loss.
To his fans…he loved each and every one of you more than you will know, and never took for granted the life you gave him. He would want you to do something kind for one another today and each day. He would also want you to know he loves you, and that you have another angel watching over you
– Chris and Michael Curtola
While Curtola’s success didn’t cross over into the United States, he was a major force in Canadian music with fourteen top ten hits between 1961 and 1966.
Bobby’s story started during the late-50’s when he played in his band Bobby and the Bobcats around his hometown in Thunder Bay, ON. By 1960, he recorded his first single, Hand in Hand With You (1960 / #26 Canada) with a new group, the Martels, and made an appearance on The Bob Hope Show.
By late 1960, he was touring Canada and “Curtolamania” began taking off. Bobby struck up a relationship with Bill Porter at RCA Studios in Nashville, where he would record for a number of years, and started turning out major hits including Don’t You Sweetheart Me (1961 / #5 Canada), Hitchhiker (1961 / #4 Canada), Fortuneteller (1962 / #5 Canada / #41 U.S.) and Aladdin (1962 / #11 Canada / #92 U.S.). The hits led to Curtola touring with Dick Clark’s Cavalcade of Stars and a tour of England.
Curtola was the first pop singer to record a jingle that was related to the top 40 sound in Canada with “Things Go Better With Coke” leading to his becoming their spokesman north of the border. He also wrote the jingle “The Real Thing” for the company.
His hits continued in 1963 with Indian Giver (#3 Canada) and Three Rows Over (#2 Canada), in 1964 with Little Girl Blue (#7 Canada) and in 1965 with It’s About Time (#9 Canada), Mean Woman Blues (#3 Canada), Walkin’ With My Angel (#3 Canada), Makin’ Love (#2 Canada) and Forget Her (#10 Canada).
Curtola’s last major hit came in 1966 with While I’m Away (#4), coming as his career was peaking with his receiving Canada’s first registered Gold Album and winning the RPM Gold Leaf Award (the precursor to the Junos) for Male Vocalist of the Year.
Bobby continued to record and, in the early 70’s, became host of the CTV show Shake, Rock and Roll. He also became a favorite attraction at clubs in Las Vegas and around the world.
In 1997, Curtola was inducted into the Coca Cola Hall of Fame in Las Vegas and, on May 7, 1998, he was awarded “The Gold Medal of Merit” and was inducted into “The Order of Canada”, not only for his music but also for his humanitarian efforts for the less fortunate.
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