Bobby Curtola, Former Canadian Teen Idol, Dies at 73
Bobby Curtola, one of Canada’s first bona-fide teen idols who performed on the Bob Hope show in 1960, sold 2.5 million copies internationally of his 1962 hit “Fortune Teller” and was the first Canadian to have a long-term, multi-million dollar contract to perform in Las Vegas, died Saturday (June 4) at his home in Edmonton, Alberta. He was 73.
The singer, who had 30 hit songs in Canada from 1960 to 1967, was touring last fall and winter before tragically losing his fiancée Karyn Rochford in a car accident Dec. 15. But just last month, he was reportedly all schmooze and smiles at Toronto’s Canadian Music Week, where he sang, and he had plans to return to the studio.
“It is with heavy hearts that we confirm the passing of our father, Bobby Curtola. He was an amazing man who did so much for the people in this world, but even more as a father, uncle, godfather and Nono. His entire family requests privacy at this time while they grieve their loss,” confirmed his sons, Chris and Michael Curtola, in a statement posted to their father’s social media accounts.
“To his fans...he loved each and every one of you more than you will know, and never took for granted the life you gave him. He would want you to do something kind for one another today and each day. He would also want you to know he loves you, and that you have another angel watching over you.”
Born in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, Curtola recorded his first hit, “Hand in Hand With You,” in 1960 and appeared on The Bob Hope Show that year. He soon found himself recording in Nashville with Bill Porter for the first of many sessions at RCA Studios and enjoyed top 10 Canadian hits with “Don’t You Sweetheart Me,” “I’ll Never Be Alone Again” and “Hitchhiker,” all in 1961.
In 1962, “Fortune Teller” was released, which went gold in Canada. Vancouver DJ Red Robinson sent the track to U.S. radio stations Seattle’s KJR and Hawaii’s KPOI and Curtola signed a U.S. distribution deal with Del-Fi Records. The song reached No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“When Dick Biondi from WSL Radio Chicago and Dick Clark from American Bandstand, started to play this song.....It CHANGED my LIFE!" Curtola posted above the Soundcloud link to the song on his website.
He went on to tour with Dick Clark and his Cavalcade of Stars and headed to the U.K., where he appeared on the top-rated TV variety show Thank Your Lucky Stars. In 1964, he recorded two jingles for Coca-Cola, “Things Go Better With Coke” and “The Real Thing” (which he co-wrote), and became their spokesperson.
In Canada, 30 of his songs entered the top 10 or top 40, including “Aladdin,” “Indian Giver,” “Three Rows Over” and “Corrina Corrina.” He also hosted two network television shows, The After Four Show and The Shake, Rock and Roll Show. Twelve of his albums and 25 of his singles were certified gold.
He was instrumental in helping to establish the Canadian Content requirements for broadcasters and was one of the first Canadian musicians to be a partner in his own publishing, recording and concert promotion companies.
In 1972, Walter Kane, who hired the entertainment for the Hughes hotels, signed Curtola to a five-year multi-million dollar contract. He continued to perform there for 20 years. In 1990, he had another gold record with Christmas Flashback and put 15 Greatest Hits on RCA. He also started performing on the Love Boat for the Princess Cruises for the next 12 years.
In 1998, he released an eight-CD box set containing 171 songs. A limited edition, double CD, 25 Gold Records, is currently available on his website.
“Before his wife passed away last year, they lived in Port Mouton, Queens County,” studio owner Tim Feswick told Billboard after learning of his passing. “They lived across the river from my studio called Feswick Studios. He heard good things about the studio from my clients and some locals who became his friends. Just before Karyn passed away, he dropped a client off at the front door and said he had to do a tour and was super busy, but was eager to record some new material once things settled down."
“Unfortunately, things never did and we missed a great opportunity to work together in the studio, where we were looking forward to getting to know one another and hearing some great new songs from Bobby.”
Curtola, who was also a philanthropist, raising money for numerous charities, including his Bobby Curtola Foundation for Children in Ecuador. He also received Canada’s highest honor, the Order of Canada, and the Gold Medal of Merit in 1998. There is also a street named after him in his hometown called Bobby Curtola Drive.