Although seldom thought of as a Rock 'n' Roll singer, Bobby Vinton is sometimes identified with a Rock audience because his music was bought mostly by young listeners during his heyday, and because he still catches some airplay on oldies stations. Billboard magazine called Bobby Vinton 'The all-time most successful love singer of the Rock-Era'. During the first ten years of Rock 'n' Roll's existence, Vinton had more number one hits than any other male vocalist, including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
Bobby was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Pittsburgh), the son of a locally popular band leader, Stan Vinton. As a young boy, his parents encouraged him to study music, and at the age of sixteen, Bobby formed his first band. The group played clubs around the Pittsburgh area and with the money he earned, Bobby helped finance his college education at Duquesne University. There, he studied music and graduated with a degree in Musical Composition. While at Duquesne, he became proficient on all of the instruments in the band: piano, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, drums and oboe.
After a short stint in the army, which served as the inspiration for one of his biggest hits, "Mr. Lonely", Bobby and his band recorded some demo records which Bobby started taking to as many radio stations as he could. At one such station, a DJ named Dick Lawrence flipped one of the demos over and heard Bobby singing. He was impressed enough to take the disc to CBS. Label executives signed Vinton and released Bobby's first single, "Roses Are Red", which launched his career as a vocalist. The record climbed to the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually sold over four million copies.
The syrupy arrangement set the mould for his plaintive, occasional mournful hits throughout the early '60s. 1963 was his banner year, as he hit #3 with "Blue on Blue" and then topped the charts with "Blue Velvet" and "There! I've Said It Again". That record was knocked out of the number one spot by the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand", but the British Invasion, surprisingly, didn't spell the commercial end for Vinton, as it did for so many other balladeers and teen idols. Indeed, he had one of his biggest hits, and his final number one, the sobbing "Mr. Lonely" in late 1964.
Although he didn't maintain quite the same superstar ranking, he was consistently popular throughout the next decade. Between 1962 and 1972 in fact, he had an astonishing twenty-eight Billboard Top 40 entries. Often, he updated quaint 1960-era Pop tunes such as "Halfway To Paradise", "Take Good Care Of My Baby" and "Sealed With A Kiss". A couple of these, "Please Love Me Forever" and "I Love How You Love Me", made the Top Ten, which was quite an amazing feat in 1967 and 1968, the age of Flower Power Rock.
Vinton launched a major comeback in 1974 with "Melody of Love," which made #3 in America and enjoyed the distinction of being the only major American hit single sung partially in Polish. He also hosted a highly rated TV variety show between 1975 and 1978, and starred in two John Wayne movies: Big Jake in 1971 and The Train Robbers in 1973. In the 1980's, after performing to packed houses in Branson, Missouri, Bobby built the 'Bobby Vinton Blue Velvet Theatre', a 1600 seat European style theatre, complete with ceiling murals, Italian tile and of course, blue velvet accents. He kept the theater for ten years before going back to touring the country. He returned to Branson annually for limited engagements at the theater. Bobby's oldest son, Robbie Vinton, portrayed Bobby in the 1990 movie Goodfellas.
Over the past several years, Bobby has been honored by over one hundred national organizations and more than a dozen mayors across the United States for his unique contributions to the ethnic communities. He was invited to Poland as a guest of the government. As a tribute to his talents and community services, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce bestowed the ultimate honor upon Vinton, a bronze star on the world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.
In 2011, Grammy Award winner Jimmy Sturr recorded the "Polish Prince" song and included it on his Grammy nominated "Not Just Another Polka" CD. The song was written by Johnny Prill and was based on the 1978 autobiography The Polish Prince - Bobby Vinton.
79-year-old Bobby was still maintaining a busy tour schedule across the United States in 2014 and into 2015, after which he cut back on personal appearances.
Be sure to read Gary James' Interview With Bobby Vinton