MINNEAPOLIS — Pop idol Bobby Vee, the boyish, grinning 1960s singer whose career was born when he took a Midwestern stage as a teenager to fill in after the 1959 plane crash that killed rock ‘n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, has died. He was 73.

Vee, whose hits included the chart-topping “Take Good Care of My Baby” and who helped a young Bob Dylan get his start, died Monday of advanced Alzheimer’s disease, said his son, Jeff Velline. Vee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, and performed his last show that year.

Born Robert Velline in Fargo, North Dakota, Vee was only 15 when he took the stage in Moorhead, Minnesota, after the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash in Iowa that killed Holly, Valens and Richardson on their way to the concert. That dark day was commemorated by singer-songwriter Don McLean in his 1972 pop song “American Pie” as “The Day The Music Died.”

The call went out for local acts to replace Holly at his scheduled show at the Moorhead National Guard Armory. Vee and his 2-week-old band volunteered, along with three or four other bands. The show’s emcee, Charlie Boone, then a disc jockey at KFGO Radio, turned to Vee and asked him the name of his band. Vee looked at the shadows of his bandmates on the floor and answered: The Shadows.

He went on to record 38 Top 100 hits from 1959 to 1970, hitting the top of the charts in 1961 with the Carole King-Gerry Goffin song, “Take Care Good of My Baby,” and reaching No. 2 with “Run to Him.”


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