Bobby Vee’s long musical career jump-started with Buddy Holly’s death and also influenced Bob Dylan’s rise.
Vee, 73, who had a string of hit records in the 1960s, died this week after a five-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
The man who recorded such hits as “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Rubber Ball” and “Devil Or Angel,” was surrounded by his family at the time of his death at a hospice in Rogers, Minnesota.
Robby Vee, Bobby’s son who has his own rock band, played The Villages in 2014. He told me: “My dad was a pop music artist. He was the people’s artist. It’s the people who own his songs. I want to keep his legacy alive. It’s part of my musical heritage.”
The battle with Alzheimer’s was difficult, but Bobby Vee never lost his love for music, his son told Villages-News.com.
“He loves talking about rock n roll and still has a great spirit to him.”
Bobby Vee was just 15 in February, 1959, when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly was killed along with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.
Vee was from Fargo, N.D., and he and his band the Shadows filled in for Holly the next night in Moorhead, Minnesota.
A few months later, another Minnesota teenager, Bobby Zimmerman, played piano for a few dates with Vee’s band. Later, the kid changed his name to Bob Dylan, and he became the master poet of rock and roll.
Dylan never forgot Bobby Vee.
Vee “had a metallic, edgy tone to his voice and it was as musical as a silver bell. I’d always thought of him as a brother,” Dylan wrote in his book, “Chronicles, Volume One.”
Dylan played at a concert in St. Paul in 2013 and sang Bobby Vee’s first hit from 1959: “Susie Baby.”
“I’ve played with everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna, but the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on stage with is Bobby Vee,” Dylan said from the stage.
Later, Robby Vee said, Dylan came back stage to visit Bobby Vee.
“I saw Dylan tell my dad: ‘I learned how to do this from you. You taught me how to connect with a crowd.’”
Bobby Vee, whose real name was Robert Velline, once described meeting Dylan as a teenager: “He was a funny little wiry kind of guy and he rocked pretty good.”
Vee also had a connection to Carole King and her ex-husband Gerry Goffin, who used to write hits out of the famed Brill Building in New York City.
They wrote “Take Good Care of My Baby” and “Run to Him.”
“My father wasn’t a teen idol, he was a Brill Building singer,” Robby Vee said.
DJ Al Brady, Villages radio personality and rock and roll historian, has these memories of Bobby Vee:
“I met Bobby at Little Darlin’s Rock N Roll Palace in Kissimmee when we were doing The Rock N Roll Palace TV Show, with Wolfman Jack. He played there many times and I would work with him on many shows.
“Bobby and his family were the kindest, down to earth people who treated everyone with kindness. He appreciated his fans. With the tragedy of ‘the day the music died’ on Feb 3, 1959, a call went out to any local musicians who could fill the bill and Bobby Vee stepped into music history.
“His music was always soft and natural yet very appealing to women and guys. Men were jealous of Elvis and Ricky Nelson, but not with Bobby Vee and his music. He was ‘one of them who could sing.’”
Bobby Vee had 14 Top 40 hits, 6 gold singles and 2 gold albums. The hits included: “Come Back When You Grow Up Girl,” “The Night Has 1,000 Eyes,” “More Than I Can Say,” “Sharing You” and “Please Don’t Ask About Barbara.”
Robby Vee played many of those songs at the end of a rousing concert in the Savannah Center. Then he left the stage with these words:
“My father loves his fans. Tonight we celebrate his music and spirit.”
Like his spirit, Bobby Vee’s music will live on.