Read Bobby’s appearance in the Toronto Star

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By: Trish Crawford Music, Published on Mon Dec 08 2014

Bobby Curtola has cut his first record in decades, a Christmas song whose profits will go to a children’s charity.

But that doesn’t mean he’s ever stopped singing those hits from the 1960s that rocketed him to fame at the age of 16.

In fact, Sunday night he popped in on old friend Robbie Lane, who was performing with his band the Disciples at the Seven44 Restaurant & Lounge (formerly Chick ’n’ Deli) on Mount Pleasant. Before too long, Curtola was up onstage singing “Fortune Teller,” “Corinna, Corinna” and “Three Rows Over” — the songs that took him from Thunder Bay to the world.

“Everyone’s been so happy to see me,” says Curtola, 71. “It’s been a long time since 1960.”

Curtola is in town promoting his Christmas song “St. Nicholas Christmas” to raise funds for CP24’s Christmas Wish fund.

Splitting his time between homes in Las Vegas, where he worked in the casinos for 25 years, and Nova Scotia, Curtola still sings at concerts and charity events. He loves the quiet and friendliness of the East Coast, which reminds him of Thunder Bay when he was growing up.

While he has never lost his ties to his hometown — his brother still lives there as does a member of his band — Curtola in person emits a Las Vegas vibe. He was wearing a jewel-encrusted gold ring that once belonged to Elvis Presley, a blue jacket embellished with gold flowers (he also has one in orange) and a black pompadour.

He got his big break in high school when he sang with two bands: he was backup in the country band and lead singer for the pop band.

“It was all the same guys, we just changed sweaters,” laughs Curtola, who liked to cover Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.

A first record, “Hand in Hand With You” as Bobby and the Bobcats, a spot on The Ed Sullivan Show and a cross-Canada tour resulted in him signing a lucrative contract with the consent of his parents and school principal, abandoning plans to study law at university.

“I was like the other Bobbies, Frankies and Johnnies. It was the time of the invention of the transistor radio and fabulous DJs who played our songs,” he says.

Curtola achieved 25 Canadian gold singles and 12 Canadian gold albums.

He recently returned to his former elementary school in Thunder Bay at the request of the principal, who wanted his students to aspire to fulfil their dreams. Curtola read the little stars pinned to the children’s sweaters that said “doctor,” “fireman,” “artist” and choked up.

“I got to come back and tell all these young people, ‘Dreams do come true.’”

A fellow St. James Public School student, Tommy Horricks, continues to play saxophone in Curtola’s band, the Sensational Hot Rods.

While he was rich very young, Curtola avoided being tabloid fodder, saying, “I was more afraid of my father than I was of the police. He said, ‘Don’t embarrass me, don’t embarrass the family.’”

He also learned to be a canny investor, he says, always saving and planning for that “rainy day” that never came.

“When I started, 60 was considered old,” he says, expressing surprise that he’s still performing and touring.

“It’s incredible that there’s still something to that era of music that never went away.”

Curtola says living his dream makes him humble and grateful, as he’s seen many deserving performers never make it big.

“The only difference is hit records. There are many wonderful talented people who never got through the eye of the needle.”