If you are of a certain age, or just love the music of the ‘50s and ‘60s, then this news will undoubtedly sadden you: Bobby Vee passed away Monday at 73, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Born Robert Velline, he was best remembered for his string of early ‘60s hits, including “Devil Or Angel,” “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Run To Him,“ “Rubber Ball” and more. But over the course of his long career, he recorded more than 25 albums, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and played a major part in the stories of two rock giants.
Vee got his big break literally on “The Day the Music Died.” When Buddy Holly’s plane crashed in 1959, Vee was only 15 and a huge Holly fan. His local band was chosen to take Buddy’s place at his next gig, at Minnesota’s Moorhead National Guard Armory. The notoriety, along with his boyish good lucks and Holly-like voice, led to a recording contract. He even recorded with Holly’s band, The Crickets.
Vee also briefly toured with a young fellow Minnesotan who went by the name of Elston Gunn, who was hired to play piano in Vee's band. He became friends with Gunn and advised him on his career. We now know him better as Bob Dylan. Alas, it turned out Dylan could play in only one key, so he soon moved on in a different direction; but he and Vee remained friends for decades. Many years later, Vee attended a Dylan concert. An emotional Dylan told the crowd that of all the mega-stars he’d performed with, the most meaningful person he’d ever been on stage with was Bobby Vee. Then he sang Vee’s hit “Suzie Baby” in tribute to him.
So all you DJs out there, in tribute to Bobby Vee, how about taking a cue from Bob Dylan? Play “Suzie Baby,” please.
Pat Reeder is a radio voice, comedy writer and co-author of the book "Hollywood Hi-Fi," a history of obscure celebrity recordings (www.hollywoodhifi.net).