Bobby Curtola

Bobby (Robert Allen) Curtola. Singer, songwriter, b Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ont, 17 Apr 1943.

Bobby (Robert Allen) Curtola. Singer, songwriter, b Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ont, 17 Apr 1943. After singing in high school with a pop group, Bobby and the Bobcats, Curtola made his first record, 'Hand in Hand with You,' in 1959 for the Tartan label , owned by the Port Arthur songwriters Basil Hurdon (b 8 Nov 1914, d Thunder Bay 29 May 1972) and Dyer Hurdon. The Hurdon brothers became Curtola's managers and wrote all of his hits. Other singles recorded by Curtola 1960-7 for Tartan included two international hits in 1962, 'Fortune Teller' (a million-seller) and 'Aladdin,' as well as 'Three Rows Over,' 'Indian Giver,' and 'Hitchhiker.' Curtola, who received an RPM Award in 1965 as best male singer, made over 50 singles and 15 LPs (for Tartan, Capitol, Tuff, RCA, Canadian Talent Library, Pickwick, Tee Vee International, etc) before his recording career waned in the mid-1970s. He was host for the CTV variety shows 'After Four' 1965-6 and 'Shake, Rock and Roll' 1973-4.

As English Canada's only 'teen idol' in the early 1960s, Curtola specialized in what the Hurdons called "rock-a-ballads" and sang in what Frank Rasky described as a 'silvery tenor' with 'a soft-sweet quality.' Curtola toured widely in Canada until 1967, his performances often creating hysteria among his young audiences. In 1968 he turned to a nightclub career, first in Canada and then, after 1972 and into the 1980s, for part of each year in Las Vegas (where he opened for Louis Armstrong). He recorded sporadically during the 1980s, sometimes using the name Boby Curtola, or just Curtola. Releases in 1990 from RBI and RCA/BMG found him singing in a country-gospel style and included the modest Canadian hit 'Playin' in the Shadows of Glory.'

Curtola's musical career benefited from the 1990s' nostalgia wave; he was active singing at clubs, telethons, cruise ships, and conventions into the 2000s. His recordings during this period included Christmas Flashback (Tartan, 1992), Gotta Get Used to Being Country (Tartan, 1993), Turn the Radio Up and Reflections: Legend to Legend (both Tartan, 1997). He toured Canada and Malaysia in 1998, and Europe in 2001. He also embarked on other business ventures, eg a tomato drink company.

Curtola proved it was possible to succeed in pop music and still live in Canada, thus breaking ground for later Canadian pop musicians. He was an innovator on a number of musical fronts: he was one of the first Canadians (along with Paul Anka) to be offered a multimillion dollar contract in Las Vegas; and his jingle "Things go better with Coke" was the first commercial to sound like a hit pop record. In addition to material by the Hurdon brothers, Curtola recorded songs by Anka, Ben McPeek, Gary Buck and Gene MacLellan. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1997, and is in the Coca Cola Hall of Fame.


Further Reading

  • Wallace, Clarke. 'How Bobby Curtola makes a living,' Weekend Magazine, 11 Jan 1964

    Rasky, Frank. 'Bobby Curtola: Canada's prince of wails,' Star Weekly, 18 Jan 1964

    Ashwell, Mary. 'Bobby's beat in tune with teenagers,' Liberty, 31 Mar 1964

    Epstein, Anita. 'Bobby Curtola's earning (boy is he ever earning) and learning too,' The Canadian, 22 Jul 1967

    "Basil Hurdon dead at 59," RPM Weekly, 17 Jun 1972

    "Canada's Mr. Cool," Winnipeg Free Press, 21 Jan 1996

    Lofaro, Tony. "Italian prince of song joins Order of Canada," Ottawa Citizen, 30 Jan 1998

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