With a Song in His Heart


by Kathryn Radeff

In career and family life, Bobby Vinton, hailed by Billboard magazine as “the most successful love singer of the rock era,” is a success in every area of his life. He has been honored with awards in music, humanitarianism, and proclamations for his generosity to many causes. And, as one acquaintance puts it, he’s “a great son, dad, husband, and friend.”

A Canonsburg, Pennsylvania native, Vinton is the son of a popular local bandleader, Stan Vinton. Encouraged by his parents to study music at an early age, he became an accomplished singer and performer who has been in the limelight for over four decades.

" I was the only child and very close to my father,” says the multi-talented musician. “We were very good friends. Indeed, my father guided me with music, my life and my career.” At 15, he recalls, he joined his father’s band, “playing all kinds of music from Polish polkas to Glenn Miller big band music.” In high school he formed his first band, and performed in clubs around the Pittsburgh area where he was becoming known in the music industry.

“My name is really Stanley Bobby Vinton,” he says. “And my father’s name is Stanley. I had a band and he had a band, so there were two Stanley Vinton’s. That’s why I changed my name to Bobby.”

With the money he earned as a teenager performing in clubs, Vinton helped finance his college education at Duquesne University where he received a degree in musical composition. While at Duquesne, he learned to play several musical instruments, including piano, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, drums and the oboe – a talent that he displays in his shows today. Recently, Vinton received an honorary doctoral degree in music from his alma mater. One of America’s top-rated concert performers, Vinton released an impressive list of songs during the years that became huge hits—among them Roses Are Red, Blue Velvet and Mr. Lonely. In fact, decades after the 1960s pop singer wrote and recorded Mr. Lonely, Akon, a talented singer, songwriter and producer, breathed new life into the song by quickening the pace and rapping about a messed up relationship.

The original Mr.Lonely, written when Vinton was in the Army, has long been a favorite of military personnel. After a short stint in the army, he made his first television appearance with his band on Guy Lombardo’s TV Talent Scouts. A subsequent four-week contract on that show landed him a contract with Epic Records, the label that released his first single, Roses Are Red, which began his extraordinary career as a vocalist. The record climbed to the #1 spot on the charts and eventually sold over four million copies. He then released more songs that became huge hits, among them There I’ve Said It Again, Please Love Me Forever, I Love How You Love Me, and My Melody of Love, which became the number one song in the nation, embraced by Polish Americans around the country as their new national anthem. Not long after, his best selling autobiography, “The Polish Prince” was published.

For three years, Vinton’s recordings aired in over 140 cities throughout the United States and Canada. He has fans in Japan, Italy, his beloved Poland where he still has family, and many other countries. He also hosted a highly rated network variety special for CBS Television and appeared in two John Wayne films, Big Jake and The Train Robbers.

Vinton continues to delight audiences of all ages around the world with his romantic love songs, effervescent personality, and dazzling concert performances that often include family members joining him on stage.

“I’m very family-oriented,” Vinton says. “My whole family is in the business with me. My son, Rob, is my musical conductor and manager. My other son, Chris, is also involved with my activities, and my daughter, Hannah, a singer, travels with me.”

Vinton’s family owned a 1600-seat European style theatre in Branson, Missouri for the past ten years complete with ceiling murals, Italian tile and blue velvet accents. “There, everybody sang - even my mother,” he says.

My wife, Dolly, was in charge of the costumes, scenery and teaching the dancers routines. We’re a very musical oriented family.”

Vinton believes another thing that seems to be having problems these days is family relationships. “It’s very sad, but you have to work hard at it,” he says.

Admired and highly respected in the recording industry, Vinton has been awarded over a dozen gold records and albums during his career. Over the past several years, more than one hundred national organizations and a dozen mayors have honored him across the United States for his unique contributions to the ethnic communities. He also was invited to Poland as a guest of the government. As a tribute to his talents and community services, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce bestowed the ultimate honor upon Vinton –a bronze start on the world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

Vinton, who lost his father to cancer, says he still thinks about him. “I think about what he would do today and how he would act in a particular situation that I’m faced with my own kids. My father’s been a guiding force to me and I think my two sons respect me in the same way that I respected my father.”

I believe that respect is very important. I also believe that it’s a problem with everything going on today – the young people just don’t have respect for their parents, or for authority.

Through our changing times, Vinton’s music has retained its vitality and relevance. Today, he is one of the few stars capable of headlining in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Truly a man with a song in his heart, he shows his audiences how passionate he is about what he does. Vinton will bring his musically designed show to Western New York’s Polish Heritage Festival at 3 p.m. June 11 on The Fairgrounds at the Agri-Center, at 5820 South Park Ave., in Hamburg.

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