Robert Allen "Bobby" Curtola, CM (April 17, 1943 – June 4, 2016) was an early Canadian rock and roll singer and teen idol.
Bobby Curtola began singing at high school dances and at age 15 formed a rock band called Bobby and the Bobcats. His skills attracted the attention of song writing brothers Basil and Dyer Hurdon who owned the record label Tartan. They wrote the song “Hand in Hand with You” which they recorded with Curtola in 1959/60. Its moderate success encouraged them to write more songs for Curtola and they became his managers, carefully arranging his record releases and club dates, and forming his fan club.
In 1962, he released “Fortune Teller” and its double A-side “Johnny Take Your Time” which became his biggest hit, selling two million copies and charting in the U.S.. He scored a second international hit with “Aladdin”. This big break erupted into a string of hits during the fiercely competitive British Invasion years that knocked most Canadian and American singers off the charts.
Curtola was Canada’s only teen-idol in the early 60s and specialized in what were dubbed “rock-a-ballads”. His voice was described as a “silvery tenor” with a “soft-sweet quality”. In June of l964, Bobby was definitely in the right place at the right time. He became the first pop singer to record a jingle that
sounded like a "Top 40 Hit Single," the song was "Things Go Better with Coke." He signed an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola to be their #1 Spokesman. Bobby, inspired by Coke and thinking of a spin off to "Things Go Better with Coke," co-wrote "The Real Thing" which he used a version of for the commercial "Coke's The Real Thing."
In 1966 he won a RPM Gold Leaf Award for becoming the first Canadian to have an album go gold.
In 1967, Bobby toured Canada and the following year switched to a nightclub career. By this time, he had released 46 singles, 32 of which had made the Top Ten! He made a guest appearance on the Bob Hope Show.
In the early 1970s, Curtola hosted a CTV musical series entitled, Shake, Rock and Roll. After 1972, he spent part of the year performing in Las Vegas, opening for Louis Armstrong. Like Paul Anka, Las Vegas offered him a multimillion dollar contract.
He recorded occasionally in the 80s. In an attempt at updating his image, he briefly adopted the billing Boby Curtola andreleased one album under this name before reverting to his original spelling. In the 90s there was an “oldies” revival and RCA offered him a 5-album deal. He toured Canada and Malaysia in 1998 and Europe in 2001.
Unlike Paul Anka who left us and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, Bobby Curtola stayed in Canada, proving that it was possible to succeed in pop music and remain at home. This paved the way for later Canadian pop musicians.
In 1998, in recognition of his long service to the Canadian music industry as well as his humanitarian work around the world, he was made a member of the Order of Canada. His pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Besides his musical work, Bobby was also a business entrepreneur, marketing a successful brand of Caesar cocktail. In 2011, Curtola received a star on the Italian Walk of Fame in Toronto, Canada. He was married with two sons, and currently lives in Edmonton. During his later years he was still performing across Canada, Las Vegas and even the Princess Cruise Lines.
Curtola's partner, Karyn Rochford, died in a car accident in Nova Scotia on December 15, 2015. Curtola had been living in Port Mouton, Nova Scotia, but moved to Edmonton, Alberta in early 2016 after Rochford's death. He died on June 4, 2016, at his home aged 73.
(Info edited from Canadian Music Blog & Wikipedia)
This interview was done by Brad Kelly of Shaw TV, just before Bobby's Charity show at the Arden Theatre in St. Albert, Alberta on September 3, 2010. There is also some stock footage from some previous shows that Bobby has done.