Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mega-Stardom is Capricious

Posted to OGR on 11/21/2010

Take England’s Helen Shapiro for example. At the age of fourteen; she had two number one hits in the UK, "You Don't Know" and "Walkin' Back to Happiness." She was the headliner for a national tour of Britain in the late winter/early spring of 1963 that included The Beatles as her supporting act. Helen recorded “It’s My Party” six months before Leslie Gore but her record label elected not to release it. Nor did they ever tell her that Lennon/McCartney wrote a song for her. Helen revealed later, "It was actually turned down on my behalf before I ever heard it, actually. I never got to hear it or give an opinion. It's a shame, really." But for these mistakes by her recording company, she could have been a big star in the United States. In August 1987, Shapiro became a committed Christian. She has issued four Christian albums since then, as well as appearing in a number of gospel outreach meetings. She retired from show business at the end of 2002 to concentrate on her gospel outreach evenings. Her early songs, in my opinion, were on par with the songs I listened to in the early 60s. It is too bad that I didn’t get a chance to hear them until later in life.

Another example is Canada’s Bobby Curtola! Backed by The Martels, Curtola recorded Canadian hits such as "Aladdin" and "Hand in Hand with You." His biggest song, "Fortune Teller" recorded in 1962, had some success in the US peaking at #41. Bobby was huge in Canada but even though he toured with Bob Hope, he never charted on the Billboard US Top 40 and he never made it a superstar in the lucrative US market. Why was Bobby not a smash in the states? Was it because he was not from here? After a long touring career, Bobby is still performing live on stage in Las Vegas. I think we in the USA missed enjoying another great teen idol, he had the boyish good looks. Ricky Nelson and Bobby Vinton, move over.

These two and others like them lived their lives for their music. Touring meant long hours driving from venue to venue. If they were lucky they had a tour bus and roadies to carry and set up the heavy gear; speakers, lights, amplifiers and microphones. But most of these guys and gals carried and set up their own instruments and equipment. A lot of these traveling troubadours are bearing the effects of long years on the road; aches and pains, arthritis and bad backs. They may not be performing every night like they used to but several times a month, they travel, set up and play. The years and the pain evaporates into a warm inner glow as they take the first downbeat of the evening and they see the light in the eyes of their audiences brighten as we, artists and audience alike, are transported back to a day and time where we all will forever be young. Oh MY!

Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley

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