Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bobby Vee – "Suzie Baby" (1959)

Is your lovelight shinin' bright? 
Will you love me or leave me tonight? 

In a 2010 interview, Joni Mitchell had some harsh words for Bob Dylan:

Bob is not authentic at all.  He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake.  Everything about Bob is a deception.

Mitchell with Roger McGuinn and Dylan
The Bob Dylan moniker is certainly fake: Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman.  But that’s not the only pseudonym that Dylan used.  At various times, he’s called himself Dedham Porterhouse, Blind Boy Grunt, Robert Milkweed Thomas, Boo Wilbury, and Sergei Petrov.

His earliest nom de guerre seems to have been Elston Gunnn.  (No, I didn’t accidentally type an extra “n” – he spelled “Gunnn” with three of them.)  That’s the name he used when he played piano for teen idol Bobby Vee’s band, the Shadows.

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Between 1959 and 1970, Bobby Vee released no fewer than 38 records that charted on the Billboard “Hot 100.”  His biggest hit, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” made it all the way to #1 in 1961.

The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly
Bobby Vee was born Robert Thomas Velline in Fargo, North Dakota.  He was a 15-year-old high-school student on February 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash while en route to a concert in Moorhead, Minnesota – which is just across the Red River of the North from Fargo.

Velline, his older brother, and several friends put together a group called the Shadows, which performed in the place of Holly and his band that night.  

Bobby Vee and the Shadows (sans Elston Gunnn)
Later that year, Vee met Elston Gunnn – that is, Bob Dylan – in a Fargo record store.  Dylan told Vee that he was a piano player and that he had just finished a tour with Conway Twitty, which impressed Vee enough that he asked Dylan to join the Shadows.  

Dylan – who could only play the piano in the key of C – didn’t stay with the band for long.  But Vee made a lasting impression on Dylan.

At a Twin Cities appearance in 2013, Dylan had this to say about Vee, who was in the audience:

I’ve played with everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna, but the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on stage with is Bobby Vee.

Dylan then performed Vee’s first single, “Suzie Baby,” which he and the Shadows had recorded just before Dylan had joined the band.

Bobby Vee and Bob Dylan in 2013
A year before that 2013 concert, Vee had stopped performing after telling his fans that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  He died in 2016. 

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“Suzie Baby” was released by a small Minneapolis label, and it sold well enough in Minnesota and the Dakotas to get Vee a recording contract with Liberty Records, a large national label.

Here’s the original Bobby Vee recording of “Suzie Baby”:

He re-recorded the song in 1962.  That version went a little heavy on the strings:

Click below to buy the 1959 version of “Suzie Baby” from Amazon:

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