Bobby Vee, Teen Idol Who Gave Dylan His First Big Gig

“The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” (1962)–Watch on YouTube

Teen Idol: The Bobby Vee Story, is a musical currently at the History Theatre in St. Paul through October 30. It’s an original production, produced with the collaboration of Vee’s sons Jeff and Tommy.

Vee’s story is certainly worthy of the stage. Born Robert Velline, his career took off at the age of 15 when he quickly filled in for a concert promoter in Moorehead, MN. The scheduled performers–Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper–had tragically died the night before in a plane crash near Clear Lake, IA.* While Vee and his band, The Shadows, weren’t paid for that gig, it did lead them to record “Suzie Baby,” their first single, in Minneapolis.

Vee (April 30, 1943-October 24, 2016) went on to record a #1 single, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” written by the Brill Building duo Carole King and Gerry Goffin. He had 38 Top 100 hits overall. One of Vee’s major claims to fame is giving a young pianist his first gig with a recording artist. The artist was Elston Gunn (aka Bobby Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan). The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the future Nobel Laureate called Vee “the most meaningful person I’ve ever been on stage with.”

“Suzie Baby” on Spotify

*The Surf Ballroom, where Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper last performed, still looks pretty much as it did on that fateful day in 1959.