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Bobby Vee Pays Tribute to Buddy Holly.

1960's Pop singer Bobby Vee has released a new tribute recording to the late Buddy Holly. This February 3rd marks the 40th Anniversary of Holly's death. Vee was chosen at the last minute to perform at the show Holly was scheduled to appear at. His tribute is "Down The Line" on Rock House Productions. Also a new re-issue on EMI records features his greatest hits.


Other segments from the episode on February 1, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 1, 1999: Interview with Bobby Vee; Review of William Montalbano's, Robert Harris's, and Philip Kerr's books "Basilica," "Archangel," and "The Second Angel."


Date: FEBRUARY 01, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 020101np.217
Head: Bobby Vee
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Wednesday will mark the 40th anniversary of the plane crash that killed rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. They were on tour headed for their next concert in Moorehead, Minnesota. Several of the performers on the same tour were travelling by bus. Rather than cancel the Moorehead concert they did the show.

Local bands were asked to take the place of the performers who died in the crash. That's how 15-year-old Bobby Vee got his start. Bobby Vee went on to become one of the big hit makers of the '60s with such songs as "Devil or Angel," "Take Good Care of My Baby," "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," "Rubber Ball," "Run to Him," and "Come Back When You Grow Up."

Vee is still performing those hits, but on his new CD he pays homage to Buddy Holly by performing some of Holly's lesser known songs. The CD is called "Down the Line." This song is "Rock Me My Baby."


Put your arms around me now
Try your best to squeeze me
Hug me baby you know how
Rock me my baby

I like (unintelligible)
Rock a while my baby
Up and down around the clock
Rock me my baby

Plant your kisses on my lips
Make me bubble brightly
Thrill me to my fingertips
Well rock me my baby

I like (unintelligible)
Rock a bye my baby
Up and down around the clock
Rock me my baby

GROSS: Bobby Vee singing a Buddy Holly song from his new CD, "Down the Line," a tribute to Buddy Holly. Bobby Vee, welcome to FRESH AIR.

BOBBY VEE, SINGER: Thanks so much, Terry. Great to be here.

GROSS: You were 15 when you were asked to fill in for Buddy Holly right after Buddy Holly's plane crash. And I'm wondering why you? Why did they choose you?

VEE: You know, it's such an odd story. It was the luck of the draw. I was -- I came home from lunch -- came home from school for lunch that day and heard on the radio that he had died in a plane crash -- I was a sophomore in high school -- went back to school, and of course that was -- everybody was in shock. That was the topic of the afternoon.

And when I got out of school, I turned on the radio and they were asking for local talent to help fill in the evening. They just had made a decision to go on -- on with the show which consisted, at that point, it was Dion and the Belmonts and the New Crickets -- not the original Crickets, which also was a surprise to me, and a young singer named Frankie Sarto (ph).

And they wanted to go on with the show and they were asking for local talent. We called up the radio station and they said, "come on down." And that was it, I mean they didn't ask us anything. They didn't ask us what we played or anything.

And we did. We went down to the Moorehead Armory that night at 6:30 and waited -- they said, "just wait in the wings." And we did, and it was -- yeah, you know, why do things happen like that?

GROSS: No audition?

VEE: No audition. We stood in the wings and they took for granted that we were what we said were. We were a band, and we were really a garage band. My older brother Bill was five years older than me and he was really my idol when I was growing up. He was a great musician and a great guitar player.

And a couple of other guys from Fargo -- Bob Korum (ph) and Jim Stohlman (ph) and we stood around and waited. And Charlie Boone (ph), the disc jockey who hosted the show that night -- and it seemed like an impossible task to host a show like that because the audience was -- it was like a wake.

And there were people, you know, not living in the '90s here -- you go back to that time period and people from the outlying areas that came into the show and hadn't heard about the tragedy until they maybe got in line. So there were a lot of emotions floating around.

And we ended up being -- there was a little tribute that was done to the three stars and then they kicked into the show, and we ended up opening the show.

GROSS: What about your emotions? How was your mix of being frightened and upset by the plane crash and the deaths mixed with the exhilaration of knowing this was your big moment -- you were going to be performing?

VEE: Yeah, it was both of those things. I was absolutely in shock. And if I would have had time to think about it and the implications of it, I don't think I would have done it because we really weren't prepared to go out and stand in front of 1200 people and perform.

But there really wasn't any time. We offered our services and they said, "come on down." And there was a spirit of let's get together and try to get through this thing. And that's what was going on on my mind. You know, if there was a fire or something you would what you could do. You know, if there was a tornado in town you would do what you could do to help people.

So that's the way I answered the mission, but that changed when we got onstage and we didn't even have a name for the band. I mean, that's how green we were. I had been playing for three or four years and I was a huge music fan. I was a radio fan from the time I was four years old and I could reach high enough to turn the radio on.

And my brother and I used to play together all the time -- play music at home. So it was -- you know, that was the only preparation that I had, but Charlie turned around and said, "what's the name of the band?" And I was the only one who had given it any thought, and I said, "The Shadows." And he said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, here they are: The Shadows."

And it was -- all of a sudden it was like , you know, "let's do it. It's time to do it."

GROSS: Sounds like a rock and roll movie.

VEE: All of a sudden I was like, launched into hyper space, you know.

GROSS: Yeah.

VEE: All of a sudden the nobleness of, you know, helping to get through this thing -- that ceased. And it was like, time for me to perform. And I didn't know if I could.

GROSS: Now were you already influenced as a singer by Buddy Holly? Do you think you were more or less influenced by him after you played at this concert?

VEE: I don't think I knew how much I was influenced by him. I loved his music, and our voice had a similar timber. And his music was easy for any rock and roll band in the world to reproduce. I mean, it was guitars and drums. And so it was -- I was influenced in that respect.

And I never -- I didn't think of it as the start of my career. I mean, I didn't have a career.

GROSS: You were 15.

VEE: I was 15, I was in school. And didn't think of it anything other than what it was. We ended up filling in that night and did a pretty good job. A guy came up after the show and said, "great job, boys." He said, "if you're looking for a manager or agent" -- he was a local booking agent -- "give me a call."

We thought, "hmm. Interesting. We could actually do this some more." And we gave him a call, and a couple of weeks later we had our first job. And that was a disaster, but you know, you learn from all those things. And that was the stepping stone into Bobby Vee and the Shadows, and eventually "Suzie baby," my first record which came out in 1959 in June. And I always thought of that as the start of my career.

GROSS: Well, let's play your first record, "Suzie Baby." You were, I think, 17 when this came out?

VEE: Just 16.

GROSS: Sixteen.

VEE: Just, yeah, barely 16.

GROSS: Well, let's hear "Suzie Baby." This is my guest Bobby Vee's first recording.


Suzie baby
Where are you
Have you left me
For someone new

Is your love light
Shining bright
Will you love me
Or leave me tonight

Suzie baby
Don't you know
That I love you
Now won't you tell

Come back baby
Come back home
Say you love me
And never (unintelligible)

Suzie baby

GROSS: I think I can definitely hear a Buddy Holly influence in your singing style there, including the kind of Buddy Holly hiccup.

VEE: The little hiccup, right.

GROSS: Yeah. So did you think of yourself as being very influenced by Buddy Holly when you were recording this or when you were writing the song? And wondering, even, if you were nudged in that direction a little bit by your producer.

VEE: We actually didn't have a producer.


VEE: We weren't lucky enough to have a producer. We went to Minneapolis and spent $500 and recorded it at nine o'clock in the morning. I've never recorded a song since at nine o'clock in the morning. We had a three hour session from nine to noon, and it was a package deal. It was a Soma Records (ph), which was up to that point -- it was pretty much a polka label. We used to kid that we were the only act on the label that didn't wear lederhosen.


And the record came out, and it was just interesting the way that it went up the charts. It just took off the summer of 1959.

GROSS: It was a regional hit.

VEE: It was a regional hit in the tri-state area in the upper midwest. It went to number one everywhere. And by the time it hit Minneapolis and reached number one there we were getting calls from record companies all over the world. And I didn't think that it sounded -- it never occurred to me that it sounded like a Buddy Holly record when I recorded it, but I started getting feedback from people and one of the people was a producer for Liberty Records, Snuffy Garrett, out in Los Angeles.

And I was really impressed with him. He had been a friend of Buddy Holly's. He was a disc jockey in Lubbock, Texas for a while -- loved music. We had a lot in common in talking about our interests. And I signed with Liberty Records -- signed a contract with them, and that was where I spent, really, my entire career.

They finally became United Artists and EMI Records, but I was there for a total of about 17 years. And it was a great place for me.

GROSS: By the way, was that your brother playing lead guitar?

VEE: Yes, that's my brother Bill. And it just -- I love hearing him play. He passed away a couple of years ago, but...

GROSS: ...sorry to hear that.

VEE: Yeah, thanks. We were -- he was a great inspiration for me. He turned me on to so much great music.

GROSS: Did he stay in music?

VEE: No, he hated it. He just hated it.

GROSS: What the performing and all that?

VEE: Hated traveling. Hated the business of music. Didn't want to talk about anything but playing. And of course there's a lot more to it than that, and you just have to deal with it. You know, bookings and he ended up out in New York and he said he was going to quit the tour and go home. It was like 1961, and I talked him into sticking around. But that was the last tour that he did with me. He just hated the business of music, didn't want to travel, and just wanted to be in Fargo. And that's what he did.

GROSS: If you're just joining us my guest is Bobby Vee. And he has a new tribute record dedicated to Buddy Holly featuring some well-known and more obscure Buddy Holly songs. And that's called "Down the Line." Let's take a short break here and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Bobby Vee. His new CD, "Down the Line," is a tribute to Buddy Holly.

I have another question about your very early career. Before Bob Dylan became Bob Dylan you hired him as the pianist in your band. He wasn't using the name Dylan yet, but he also wasn't using his birth name Robert Zimmerman. What name was he using, and do you know why he chose it?

VEE: It's a funny story. My brother Bill was in Sam's Record Land in Fargo where we used to go down and buy all of our -- all of those hot records. And there was a little guy who approached him -- we were looking for a piano player, and he knew that. He introduced himself to Bill as "Elston Gunnn" with the three "Ns" -- "G"-"U"-"N"-"N"-"N." And that got Bill's attention.

And he said, "I hear you're looking for a keyboard player. I just got off the road with Conway Twitty." And that got Bill's attention. Because Twitty had toured the midwest a lot, and he had "It's Only Make Believe," and he was, you know, one of the early rockers. And Bill went over to the radio station with him and auditioned him -- they had a piano in there.

And he came back home and he said, "I think we found a piano player. The guy plays pretty good in the key of C."


And we found out the first night that he only played in the key of C. He could play three chords. So it was funny, we picked him out for the job and we bought him a shirt to match ours, and he didn't have a piano. We said, "where's your piano?" And he said, "I don't have one."

So we thought, "well, we got a piano player without a piano." And it just so happens that it was a church basement or something that we were playing and there was an old piano -- a rickety old out of tune thing -- and he played that.

And then if we were playing a song in any other key he would come up and sing background parts, and he would do sort of hand claps. He was a wiry, funny guy.

GROSS: Did you have to get rid of him because he only played in C?

VEE: We couldn't afford to buy a piano and he didn't have any money. He was a bus boy in a restaurant at a little place called the Red Apple Cafe in Fargo. And none of us had any money, and we knew that it was not going to work out. So the story goes that I fired him, and I certainly didn't do that. But it was just an unmanageable situation. He left and went back to -- went down to Minneapolis -- the University of Minnesota and went to school.

And then two years later I was walking through Greenwich Village and I saw a familiar face in a record store window, and I went over and there was an album by Bob Dylan. And I thought, "boy, looks a lot like Elston Gunnn."


GROSS: Do you know why he chose the name "Elston Gunnn?" I mean, Dylan's such an enigmatic figure that it's hard to tell who he really is, so what did that name -- that early pseudonym say about who he is?

VEE: I don't know. I mean, it sounds like it might be some old rhythm and blues name.

GROSS: Not with three "Ns," I doubt.

VEE: Not with three "Ns," yeah. It would be a first. But he was a first. I ran into him in 1990. He came through the midwest and I sent a letter backstage -- I knew all the sound crew -- they were people that I worked with. And I was coming to the show and I gave it to one of the guys, and I said, "if you see him give him the letter."

GROSS: Speaking of names, your birth name is Robert Velline.

VEE: Right.

GROSS: Who named you Vee?

VEE: That was the manager that we took on after the Buddy Holly show. He thought Velline was too confusing. And there were a lot of short names and little showbiz names at that time so that was part of the package.

GROSS: Let's get to your career with Liberty Records. What was their roster like when you were signed?

VEE: Well, it was a young company. They had really only a couple of acts. They had Julie London. They had the Chipmunks.


Which pretty much paid the bills for them. The Chipmunks, I think that was -- they were the most excited about. And they had Eddie Cochran. So it was a young label. And they were looking for talent, and because of my connections with Snuffy and a mutual interest it seemed logical for me to go to Liberty Records. And it was a great move for me.

They also then signed Johnny Burnett, and they had Gene McDaniels, and Jan and Dean, and Johnny Rivers later on. It was a great company. In the early '60s -- 1962 they were probably the most successful company in the business. And everything was just -- I mean, there were great records. I don't mind saying that about my own product, but it was the best studio in Los Angeles and Hollywood, and the best musicians. Ernie Freeman, one of the top arrangers -- it was the best of everything -- the best engineers.

GROSS: How were you matched up with songwriters?

VEE: Well, it was -- yeah, that early '60s time period sometimes gets a bad shake because it was sort of sandwiched in between Elvis and the Beatles, but it was a time period of songwriters. And I think of it as the Brill Building era, great songwriters like Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and Doc Pomus, and Mort Schuman, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil. The list goes on and on.

I was -- the first hit, really, technically, hit that I had was a song called "Devil or Angel" which had been a hit for the Clovers in the mid-'50s. A great kind of doo-wop rhythm and blues song that hadn't been exposed to the pop market. And it was a song that kind of crept up the charts and that was my entrance into the top 10 -- the "Billboard" charts.

And after that we followed that up with "Rubber Ball," and then I got a song called "How Many Tears" which was a Carole King-Gerry Goffin song. And Carole and Gerry flew from New York to be at the session, and on a break Carole said, "let me play a couple of songs that we just wrote."

And she sat down at the piano and played a song called, "In My Baby Eyes" which was a wonderful song I recorded later on. And the second song was, "Take Good Care of My Baby." And it was amazing to hear the song with her sitting there playing it, because it sounded like a hit song as she was playing it on the piano.

And we recorded it a few weeks later, and it was indeed a hit song. It became my first number one record.

GROSS: Why don't we hear it. This is "Take Good Care of My Baby."


My tears are falling
Because you've taken
Her away
And though it really hurts me so

There's something that
I've gotta say
Take good care of my baby
Please don't ever make her blue

Just tell her that you love her
Make sure you're thinking of her
In everything you say and do
Take good care of my baby

Now don't you ever make her cry
Just let your love surround her
Make dreams go all around her
Don't let her see cloudy skies

Once upon a time
That little girl was mine
If I'd been true
I know she'd never be with you

So take good care of my baby

GROSS: That's Bobby Vee, "Take Good Care of My Baby." And that's one of the tracks featured on his new 50 track CD of his greatest hits and then some on EMI records.

So you did a couple of Carole King-Gerry Goffin songs, and you did a Gene Pitney song, "Rubber Ball" -- one of your big hits. But he had, apparently, to submit that under a pseudonym. I think he used his mother's maiden name. Why couldn't he do that under his own name?

VEE: It was a writer's affiliation. I think he was a writer for BMI in the -- or ASCAP, and it was one of those deals where he was signed with ASCAP and his co-partner was a BMI writer and so he put his mother's name on it. And he used to tell me that his mother was concerned that the BMI police were going to come out and ask her to play it on the piano.


And I always had this vision in my mind of Gene Pitney's mother sitting at the piano playing "Rubber Ball." It's kind of a fun image.

GROSS: Bobby Vee. His new CD is a tribute to Buddy Holly. His hits are collected on an EMI anthology. Bobby Vee will be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Bobby Vee. His new CD, "Down the Line," is a tribute to Buddy Holly. Bobby Vee got his start by filling in for Holly 40 years ago this week, just after Holly died in a plane crash. Bobby Vee went on to become one of the big hit makers of the '60s. His records include: "Take Good Care of My Baby," "Devil or Angel," "Run to Him," "Rubber Ball," and "The Night has a Thousand Eyes."

He recorded the work of some of the great songwriters of the period including, Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

When songwriters wrote for you did they write specifically for Bobby Vee or did they just take stuff out of the trunk and say, "how do you like this one?"

VEE: I think there was a lot of each. After I established a relationship with Carole and Gerry they did write for me. And I've recorded more Carole King-Gerry Goffin songs I think probably than anyone other then Carole herself with her own material. But it was a great relationship.

The thing I liked about the early '60s was I loved the songs. I loved the Drifters and Gene Pitney and Neil Sedaka, and there are some great songs. And I got to do a lot of them, and to be able to stand up onstage and sing "Run to Him" every night -- it's a great great lyric.

GROSS: Oh, I'm so glad you mentioned it, because that was the next song I was going to play.

VEE: Oh, wonderful.

GROSS: So it's a perfect segue. I particularly like this record. I think it's a really good song and a really good arrangement. Tell me how you got this song.

VEE: It was written by Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller, and I believe it was -- well it was a follow up to "Take Good Care of My Baby." There's an interesting little story about it. Snuffy, my producer, was in New York and he had gotten a call from Don Kirschner who was the head of Screen Gems -- Alden Music (ph), at that time -- knew he was in town.

Snuffy said, "I've got some songs for Bobby Vee. I'm not going to be in the office, but if you would just stop by I'll put -- I'll leave them on the desk and -- on the receptionists desk. There will be a stack of records and it will say `Bobby Vee' on top, and just take them back to L.A. with you and give me a call."

Snuffy stopped by the office, and sure enough there was a stack of records that said "Bobby Vee." And right next to it there was a stack that said "The Everly Brothers," and he took them both. And "Run to Him" was in the Everly Brothers stack. So we recorded the song about two weeks later and Snuffy called him on the phone and held it up to the speaker, and I'm sure he didn't mind in the long run.

But if you think about it, it would have been -- there were some nice harmony parts on it -- it would have been a nice song for the Everly Brothers and I'm glad I got it.

GROSS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You did good with it. This is "Run to Him" featuring my guest Bobby Vee.


If you found another guy
Who satisfies you more
Than I do
Run to him

I'll step aside
If you think his lips can kiss you
Better than my lips can kiss you
Run to him

Forget my pride
If someone else's arms can hold you
Better than my arms can hold you
Go to him

And show to him
All your devotion
If somebody else can make you
Happier than I can make you

Run to him
My tears will dry
If someone else's arms can hold you
Better than my arms can hold you

Go to him
And show to him
All your devotion
If somebody else can make you
Happier than I can make you

GROSS: That's Bobby Vee. "Run to Him" is a really well produced record. I'd like to talk about production style that was used on your records at Liberty in the 1960s. How were the arrangements handled? Once you and your producer chose the song you were going to do how was that farmed out to the producer?

VEE: Well, Ernie Freeman arranged all the songs.

GROSS: All the songs.

VEE: And he would come by Liberty Records and we would -- the three of us would sit down and Snuffy and myself and Ernie -- and Ernie would be at the piano and we would figure out what key it was going to be in and talk about the arrangement.

Often, with the Carole King demos -- she made wonderful demos, and she would indicate string parts and even by muffling the upper strings of the piano she would indicate the pizzicato strings. So she was quite talented in making demos.

And so if parts weren't indicated then Ernie would sit there and he would just kind of come up with stuff and sometimes he would say, "what do you think of this?" And other times he would just in, you know, in his little workshop he would come up with these parts.

And so all of the hits, up until about '64, were done live in the studio. And I think that's part of the charm.

GROSS: When you say live, you mean that all of the parts were recorded at once including your vocals.

VEE: Right. Everything was done live. And so it was pretty unforgiving. I mean, we didn't -- it seemed very expensive to make records in those days, and I'm sure it does today too. You know, you sit around with 22 people in the studio and everybody is a union musician and you have a three hour session -- our goal was to try to get four songs in three hours. And we almost always did that.

GROSS: Wow. That's really -- because there are so many opportunities for somebody to make a mistake when there's an orchestra plus a singer all working in real time.

VEE: Right. And we thought less about mistakes. And if you go back and listen to those old rock and roll records, I mean, there's all kinds of clams in there. Wrong bass notes, and listen to the Buddy Holly stuff and it's kind of amazing if you put headsets on.

So it really isn't about that. In the case of Liberty Records, again, they were all studio players and so they would do a couple of run throughs. And there were occasional mistakes; I sang a wrong word in "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," and Ben Wiseman (ph) the writer was at the session, he almost had a heart attack. He said, "oh, you got to do another take."

But it was such a great take, and it was like the seventh take or something like that after a few warmup takes. And I said "well, I can't do it." And he thought, "oh, geez, it's going to make all the difference in the world." It didn't make a lick of difference, no one even noticed it. And the song became a hit anyway.

GROSS: OK, now before I play the song, what's the wrong word?

VEE: In the last verse, "one of these days you're going to be sorry." I sang "sorry." And the word is "one of these days you're going to be crying and you'll find out without really trying." So there was the rhyme there. And, you know, big stuff, important stuff. People don't think so much about that today, you know.

GROSS: Let's hear "The Night has a Thousand Eyes." My guest, Bobby Vee.


They say that you're a run around lover
Oh you say that it isn't so
But if you put me down for another
I'll know if you leave me I'll know

Cause a night
Has a thousand eyes
And a thousand
Can't help but see

If you are true to me
So remember when you tell
Those little lies night after night
The night has a thousand eyes

You say that you're at home
When you phone me
And how much you really care
Though you keep telling me

That your lonely
I'll know if someone is there
Because the night has a thousand eyes
And a thousand eyes can't help but see

If you are true to me
So remember when you tell those little white lies
That the night has a thousand eyes
One of these days you're going to be sorry

Because you're games are going to break
And you find out without really trying
Each time (unintelligible) so strange
Because the night has a thousand times

GROSS: Ruined. My enjoyment was totally ruined by that change of word.


Just kidding. I'd never ever noticed that.

VEE: No, you never would. And it's amazing, people that make records -- we have the ability to make them perfect now, and I'm not sure that that's such a good idea. I think what we're really looking for is just some matters of the heart.

GROSS: Now, what were the sessions guys like? On the one hand, you probably had classical music string players. On the other hand, I know you had some great jazz musicians like the guitarist Barney Castle, who did a zillion rock and roll sessions during his career.

VEE: Yeah, they could play everything. And one of the things that I discovered is that for the most part, with the exception of the string players, all the other players were -- they could play anything and they would give themselves to anything. It didn't make any difference if it was pop music or rock and roll or jazz or country.

GROSS: With the string players?

VEE: The string players were difficult, and they were the most likely to complain if a session went over a half a minute or a minute. You know, they would say, "you know, well, we're into another time frame here. It's the union, you know."

And we even had a violin player stand up in the middle of a take and start packing up his violin. And of course the session came to a screeching halt, and then Ernie Freeman explained to this guy -- this red faced guy -- that you can start a take up until 30 seconds before clock hits the end of the session and technically finish it. And of course, he was embarrassed about it.

But what that did was it started -- one of the violin players, Sid Sharpe (ph), came up after the session and he said, "I'll find you some guys that want to play this stuff." And he did, and he put a group of people together and it was -- he became the contractor in Los Angeles for the violin players -- Sid Sharpe. And they all showed up with smiles on their faces. And they -- you know, there was a lot session work. They made a lot of money.

GROSS: My guest is Bobby Vee. His hits are collected on an EMI anthology. His new Buddy Holly tribute CD is called, "Down the Line." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Bobby Vee, and he has a new album paying tribute to Buddy Holly called, "Down the Line." And there is also a new EMI collection of his greatest hits and then some. I want to play a session that you did with Burt Bacharach -- this is a Burt Bacharach-Hal David song called, "Be True to Yourself."

And, you know, Burt Bacharach is so highly regarded now for not only his songwriting, but for the arrangements that he did for his songs and the way that they were produced. How much did Bacharach actually handle this session?

VEE: Burt arranged the session and he basically directed the session. I mean, he literally directed the session -- he arranged it and directed the orchestra. And it was a departure for us because Ernie Freeman had done everything up until that point.

I remember it being a very good session. There was a -- I did two of his songs, "Be True to Yourself," and another song that was called "That's the Way I'll Come to You" which was never issued. It's out on this new collection, "The Essential Bobby Vee" package. But it was wonderful working with him. And I am a big fan of his music and Hal David, the writer -- the lyricist -- has been one of my favorites.

GROSS: And the time signature in this, I can't figure out what it is, but it seems kind of unusual. Was there anything in this song that seemed tricky?

VEE: No. Other than the range was -- it got me on both ends. It was -- but mainly on the high end. It was probably about half a step too high for me. But it's a great lyric, and it's a good sounding record. It's a straight ahead 4/4 record, but the way that he did the flugelhorn in there it kind of -- it's like a counter rhythm.

GROSS: Let's hear "Be True to Yourself." This is my guest Bobby Vee.


Be true to yourself
And you'll always be
True to me
Be true to yourself

And you'll be the girl that
I want you to be
Hey man we're back here
For another guy

Follow your heart
I know your heart won't lead you wrong
Our love this much too strong

I'm not afraid losing you
I have faith in you
Can't you see
Be true to yourself

And you'll always be
True to me
(unintelligible) follow your heart
I know your heart won't lead you wrong

Our love is much too strong
I'm not afraid

GROSS: That's Bobby Vee, and that's one of the songs included on "The Essential Bobby Vee," his new collection of greatest hits and other records including some unreleased tracks.

VEE: Thanks for playing that.

GROSS: That sounds good doesn't it?

VEE: I never hear that song, and it's one of my favorite songs. I think it's just a great great lyric.

GROSS: And you didn't sound like you were straining. You said the high notes were kind of out of reach for you. Did Bacharach want that? You know, some people really like hearing singers reach for their lowest or highest notes because the strain of that sometimes sounds like an emotional strain -- like an emotional tug in interpreting the lyric.

VEE: That's right. Every record producer I've ever worked with wanted me to sing at the very top end of my range. And there's a lot more going on -- I suppose the contrast to that is I could have done a tribute to Johnny Cash.


I do have a low voice. I always have had. Even when I listen to "Suzie Baby," my first record, it's low -- set in a low key for me.

GROSS: So did Bacharach want you to reach all the way up?

VEE: Yes, he did. He wanted me to get to the very -- get on my tip toes and do that, right. And I did.

GROSS: You were popular in the Dick Clark era. What was it like to go on his show? Did you lip synch? Did you play live ever?

VEE: No, those -- they were all lip synch. I don't know that anyone ever sang live on there. It's possible, but not that I recall.

GROSS: Were you taught to lip synch? Or did you just have to pick it up?

VEE: It's a little bit tricky, because after you record a song and then go out and start performing it live it will vary a little bit. And so I would always have to listen to the records and kind of brush up on them to not embarrass myself. It was embarrassing enough going out and doing a lip synch.

I actually did a live show -- it was a show out in Seattle back in that time period, and I didn't realize it was a live show. I thought it was just a television show and I was going to go on and lip synch, and it was a live show -- there was an audience there. And the record started skipping.


And there were some tense moments there.

GROSS: What did you do?

VEE: Skipped for a year, you know. And I just -- I did what I'm doing right now as I'm talking to you, I put my hands up in the air -- you know, you can't see it from their -- and then I heard "scratch" and it came back on again and finished the song. It was sort of an out of body experience for me.

GROSS: What was the impact of the British Invasion on your career?

VEE: Well, if you look at it from a -- put it on paper, it looks like it was the end of my career. But in actual fact, the biggest record of my career came late in the '60s. It was an innocent little song that came out during the heyday of the Beatles, during the San Francisco flower power thing. It was a song that was -- it seemed the least likely to succeed.

It was such a soft little innocent tune. And it kind of crept up the charts, and by the end of 1967 it was the biggest selling record of my entire career.

GROSS: Is this "Come Back When You Grow up Girl?"

VEE: Yes, "Come Back When You Grow Up."

GROSS: So you're playing with your sons now. Tell us more about what your career is like now.

VEE: Well, I do everything. We're kind of all over the place. I tour England regularly and I'll be going back over again in May to do a show that we produced last fall. It did really well and we're going to go over and do eight more dates, and in fact add Little Richard to the show.

But we do fairs and festivals, and I could be on a proper stage one night and out in Montana on a flatbed truck the next night. So it's pretty interesting, and I like that about it. And really, in the end, it's for the people and it doesn't make any difference what they're sitting on. It's just rock and roll.

GROSS: Bobby Vee, it's really been a pleasure. Thank you very much.

VEE: Oh, thanks Terry. It was just wonderful to spend some time with you. Yeah, listen to my life flash before my ears.

GROSS: Bobby Vee. His new CD is a tribute to Buddy Holly called "Down the Line." He'll headline a Buddy Holly tribute this Saturday at the Surf Ballroom in Clearlake, Iowa, the sight of Holly's last performance 40 years ago. Bobby Vee's hits are collected on an EMI anthology.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Bobby Vee
High: Pop singer Bobby Vee has released a new tribute recording to the late Buddy Holly. This February marks the 40th anniversary of Holly's death. Vee was chosen at the last minute to perform at the show Holly was scheduled to appear at. His tribute is called, "Down the Line." also, a new re-issue on EMI Records features his greatest hits.
Spec: Entertainment; Lifestyle; Culture; Music Industry; Buddy Holly; Bobby Vee

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Bobby Vee

Date: FEBRUARY 01, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 020102NP.217
Head: Maureen Corrigan
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Book critic Maureen Corrigan says that to cure the February blahs a good thriller beats a trip to Cancun any day. She's got three to recommend to you.

MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BOOK CRITIC: February is the month when we book worms don't need to invent excuses in order to stay inside for hours and hours of reading. What bliss. And to have a good thriller within arms reach, why that's very heaven.

The three new thrillers I'm recommending all boast celestially inspired titles, a fitting coincidence since they offer the kind of reading experience that makes the doldrums of winter divine.

"Basilica" is a superb suspense story set in the Vatican that features a plot as deliciously over the top as those uniforms the Swiss guards wear. Our hero narrator is Brother Paul, an ex Miami homicide cop turned fryar who now works as an unofficial Vatican fixer. Through flashbacks, we learn that in his cop days Brother Paul became friends with a Latin American Cardinal who spearheaded a crusade against drug smugglers.

Now that Cardinal is Pope Pius XIII, nicknamed "Tredi" by the Italian press. Tredi is still a renegade, rather reminiscent of Pope Anthony Quinn in "The Shoes of the Fishermen." Except that this pope is threatened not only by churchly schisms, but by revenge seeking Colombian crime lords. Think of "Basilica" as "The Shoes of the Fishermen with Oozie's."

William D. Montalbano, who wrote "Basilica," was a foreign correspondent for nearly 40 years before his death in 1998. And his journalist's eye for detail enhances his story. Montalbano also gives us something rare in all but the best thrillers: characters who are as complex as the plots that ensnare them.

Tredi, like Brother Paul, is wickedly but somehow plausibly, irreverent. Referring to his new bodyguard Tredi says, " I've got a new personal assistant, a priest no less, who apparently knows 46 ways to kill with a communion wafer." A real pope who talked like that would indeed be a miracle.

Robert Harris is also pretty adept at making the unthinkable seem possible. Remember, this is the guy who arranged for the Nazi's to win World War II in his best-selling first thriller, "Fatherland." Unlike good pope Tredi, however, the creature Harris envisions in "Archangel" would be more at home in hell than in the Vatican.

Harris' premise is ingenious. But honor prevents me from disclosing the identity of his mystery brute. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other things to praise about "Archangel" starting with it's "innocent man caught in a web of intrigue" plot.

A fortyish British historian named Fluke Kelso is attending an academic symposium in Russia. After delivering his conference paper Kelso is way laid by an old man who tells a strange tale about a hidden oil skin notebook belonging to Stalin.

Kelso then does what only one academic in a million would do: he deliberately misses his plane home, and after unearthing the notebook heads off into Russia's frozen wastes to confront the horrible secret it reveals.

"Archangel" is politically informed and atmospheric. It's final eerie section where Kelso and an ally are pursued through snow by a monster is reminiscent of the apocalyptic ending of "Frankenstein." Unlike Mary Shelley's creature, however, Harris' Hulk deserves his sorry fate.

Philip Kerr's "The Second Angel," is another extraordinary "what if" story. Like Kerr's earlier eccentric novel "A Philosophical Investigation," "The Second Angel" interweaves sci-fi, philosophy and suspense.

Set in the year 2069, "The Second Angel" imagines an earth where all but the fortunate few have been poisoned with a fatal blood virus. Vamping, the crime of murdering the unaffected and draining and selling their blood, is rampant.

To protect themselves, the aristocracy of the healthy bank their blood in fortresses on the moon. When a designer of one of these high-tech fortresses, a man named John Dallas, becomes a target of his own company's assassin he retaliates by assembling a "Mission Impossible" type team of outcasts to help him rob the very blood fortress he designed.

I think of Philip Kerr as the sci-fi guy to read for those of us who don't like sci-fi. He wisely relegates a lot of his space age details to elaborate footnotes. And his stories, including this one, are such an intellectual kick to read that they seduce even us technophobic old English majors.

Like H. G. Wells, who called his famous tales "scientific romances," Kerr imbues his distopian novels of science and suspense with a grand melancholy that will haunt readers long into spring.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches Literature at Georgetown University.

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Maureen Corrigan
High: Book critic reviews three new thrillers: "Basilica" by William Montalbano; "Archangel" by Robert Harris; and "The Second Angel" by Philip Kerr.
Spec: Entertainment; Lifestyle; Culture; William Montalbano; Robert Harris; Philip Kerr; Maureen Corrigan

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Maureen Corrigan
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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