Bobby Curtola, one of Canada’s initial teenage heart throb pop stars, passed away Sunday at his Edmonton home at the age of 73. Yes the Thunder Bay Ontario may have been preceded into the charts by Ottawa’s Paul Anka who scored with “Diana” as a 15-year-old in 1958. But one year later, 16-year old Curtola enjoyed equal success when his “Hand In Hand With You” also hit the charts.
In a statement which appeared on Curtola’s face book, his surviving sons Michael and Christopher noted that “Curtola was an amazing man who did so much for the people of the world.”
Although, ultimately not as internationally established as Anka, Curtola racked up some noticeable achievements during his lustrous career. At a time when a Canadian music industry did not even exist, Curtola was the first Canadian artist to conduce a coast to coast tour in 1961.
He earned a lucrative endorsement with Coca Cola in 1964 after his “The Real Thing” lyric was incorporated into the brand’s international advertising campaign and in 1972, he signed a five-year multi-million dollar deal to perform in Las Vegas.
It was famed Vancouver disc jockey Red Robinson who gave Curtola’s career a major boost by sending copies of Curtola’s single “Fortune Teller” to Seattle radio station KJR and Hawaii’s KROI which sparked U.S airplay that racked up over 2.5 million record sales.
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Curtola was a bonafide superstar in the 1960’s, releasing 25 gold singles and 12 gold albums and touring in the U.S as part of Dick Clark’s Cavalcade Of Stars along with the likes of Bobby Vinton, Brian Hyland and Bobby Vee. He would go on to host a CTV show, `Shake Rock And Roll’ in the 1970’s and later spent 12 years working for Princess Cruise Lines, performing on the company’s Love Boat ships.
Award-wise, Curtola received an RPM Gold Leaf Award (a pre-cursor to the Junos) in 1966 for registering Canada’s first gold record, was honoured with a Bobby Curtola Day in Toronto in 1996, was awarded The Order Of Canada in 1997 and even has a street named after him in Thunder Bay.
He staged a minor comeback in the mid-90’s recording `Christmas Flashback’ in 1992, `Gotta Get Used To Being Country” in 1993 and his last release, `Turn Up The Radio’ in 1998.
Curtola continued to tour and made national news headlines on December 19th, 2015 when he concluded a Christmas tour in Peterborough On. by performing a concert in memory of his wife Karyn Rochford, who had been killed in a car accident in Nova Scotia four days previously.