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Bobby Curtola Has Died – And His Music With Him

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So long as we are telling stories about Bobby Curtola, I will tell mine too. But before I do that, I have a few questions. The media has been extremely quiet on Bobby Curtola’s death.

With the exception of the announcement by his family, and primarily through his son, Chris, who was managing Bobby the last few years, not much has been said.

Here is a guy who worked his heart out criss-crossing Canada promoting his recordings as he produced them. He was a teenager, doing this in and out of attending highschool. Selling millions of records in Canada and even having a few hits in the U.S. , eventually landing a long-term contract in Las Vegas. The first Canadian to do so. He paved the promotion highway for Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray and more. He co-wrote the Coca Cola jingle “It’s The Real Thing” Then sang it. There was a whole album with various songs including a picture of Curtola with a Coke and the jingle. Then he got the order of Canada.

So……….why the apparent quiet response by the media? Why the secrecy as to how he died by the family? Is the audience for such news dead as well? He filled our Stockey Centre twice in the last couple of years for hospital fund raisers. Something weird is happening.

My story.

As Doug Reed published here…Bobby was on the road whenever he could take the time to promote his records. He would drop into such places as CKOX on a regular basis because he was always welcomed. Wow, a real celebrity personality visiting small town Ontario and doing a personal appearance, live on air! I got to interview him a couple of times on that basis. Sometime around 1962, I think, I interviewed him at a personal appearance in London. Remember  the night a bunch of us went out to dinner and attended a performance of Curtola’s then wound up at a motel for drinks and laughs afterword. I think Dick Biondi was at that one as well. He and I had our picture taken together because someone thought we looked alike. I looked Italian? Or he looked Irish? I digress. The only quiet spot in the motel was the bathroom. Curtola and I did the interview in the bathroom. Halfway through, a girl needed to use the John. We made her wait. For some reason, I think that interview got used at C-HOW in Welland and not CKOX. Not sure about that. Bobby dropped in on my show in Welland as well.

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Looking back, you wonder why you didn’t record that sort of thing all the time. Duh. So fast forward to a couple of years ago. Curtola is doing a string of live performances in small venues to help local hospitals raise money. He is obviously in full charitable fund raising mode. He has been doing this for several years. One of those venues was the Stockey Centre in Parry Sound. I figure I have nothing to lose by trying to get hold of him and do a follow up interview to the one done in the bathroom. I have a helluva time getting past Chris, but eventually he tells Bobby and he high prioritizes it and we do a phoner. We talk about the interview in the bathroom and it is remembered vividly. We laugh about the helter skelter period of the 60s. Chasing fame. In the course of talking to him I attempt a possible meeting while he is here in Parry Sound. He is for it.

But, once again getting past Chris is a bit of a problem, but I pressure him into getting us a personal meeting before the performance. Bobby had not really said much to Chris about the meeting, but, when Chris brought it up, he said it was on and we got to have a coffee with him and a 15 minute meeting was about 45 minutes long. It was excellent and the pictures included here, say it all.

I am going to do a Bobby Curtola commemoration on the Rez at 6 tonight. Go to www.rez91.com and click on the “Listen Now” link if you would like to listen in. I will repeat the bathroom interview, the follow up interview and an interview done by Vince Chechock last fall before his second appearance at the Stockey Centre last December.

And one other thing. Reed will have more to say about this than I because he was closer to the band which mainly resided in the Midland-Elmvale area. Judy French, who worked for Markle Community Newspapers at the Elmvale office, was married to one of the original Tartans, the band that backed Bobby. That band used to play for events like the annual Markle Christmas party which eventually included CHAY-FM staff back in the mid to late 70s. I mention Judy because she was the main reason the parties were such a success with the music of the Tartans. CHAY had a tight relationship with the newspapers for the trading of news items.

O.K. that’s it…listen in at 6. Keep your Sunny Side Up.

Bob Bowland, Parry Sound

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Bobby Curtola Has Died – And His Music With Him

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