Bobby Vee’s Alzheimer’s

Minnesota singer and legend Bobby Vee announced on his website today that he has Alzheimer’s…

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Vee also posted video of some recent recording sessions in Arizona…

Hard to believe, but it’s been 13 years since Bobby Vee was interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio. In 1990, writer — and former MPR reporter – Leif Enger profiled Vee, who was playing in Storm Lake, Iowa on the 40th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly.


Fargo, North Dakota in the mid-1950s was hardly rock-and-roll country. In fact, it was country-and- western country. Bob Velline grew up going to the Moorhead Armory to see Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow.

Vee: I remember very clearly listening to the Lem Hawkins show on the radio in Fargo. And one day he played a song by Elvis Presley called “That’s all right Mama”. They didn’t call it rock-and-roll, I just thought it was really good country music

As rock-and-roll gained steam (and a name), the Vellines put away their trumpets and trombones and acquired guitars. Pretty soon Bill Velline and a few friends started a band; not to perform, just to play. Bobby was five years younger than Bill. He wasn’t invited.

Vee: My brother would go and he’d come back all pumped about this music: “aw, man, it was great”, “well, what’d you do Bill? ” “Aw, we did some Elvis songs and some Buddy Holly. ” “Bill, you gotta bring me along! ” And I was five years younger. “Yeah, okay, just be quiet! ” And I got there and what I realized, listening to them play, was that nobody sang. They just played the music. So they’d be playing some Gene Vincent song or something, and nobody sang, so they’d get lost in the music. And I would say, “Bill, it’s the bridge, it’s (sings): well I wanna wanna lotta lotta lovin’, “oh, yeah, thanks! “, and little by little I started singing the songs.

It was the sort of thing that was happening all over; the television 50s, only real; teenagers in 10,000 garages were strapping on guitars, mimicking and mangling riffs off their 45s, producing enormous noises and parental apprehension. And then, unlikely as it seemed, several performers at the top of the charts undertook a midwestern tour: the Winter Dance Party, it was called. Holly and the Crickets, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, Dion and the Belmonts. The Vellines and their buddies bought tickets.

Vee’s band played the Moorhead event that Holly and his entourage were to play at.

More recently, Vee talked with TPT’s Minnesota Original series…

  • kay smith

    Thanks for this, Bob. It seems the high school graduation year is a memorable milestone–1959 for me, So Bobby Vee and Buddy Holly invoke such nostalgia. Does this make me look old?

  • JP

    Bobby Vee is exhibit A in my theory that the more truly accomplished a person is the more genuine and authentic. When I was at Duluth’s NorShor theater with Speedie Wienie and later managing the place I ran across many, many talented people. Bobby Vee was very kind to all of the stagehands and insisted on paying his own way when it came to concessions. You can learn a lot about an artist by the way he or she treats people who they have no reason to be kind to, other than basic human decency, that is. I’m not sure if this is making sense or not, but my point is that Bobby was very friendly, approachable and didn’t expect any special treatment from anyone even though he probably deserves it. I remember that I was in a bad mood the night of his show, and that I was worried about money but Bobby took all of my grumbling in stride and offered nothing but encouragement.

  • Nancy

    Your music and your beautiful voice are part of the soundtrack of my life. Thank you. I wish you and your family the best. (class of ’67)

  • Nancy

    Your music and your beautiful voice are part of the soundtrack of our lives. Thanks so much. Best wishes…..Class of ’67

  • Ira Sperling

    Bobby took me backstage in Baltimore due merely to my calling his site and telling son Jeff what Bobby’s music meant to me…Since that nite I consider him a friend and travel to see him from Niagara to Boston to his last 2 Juuly 4th Minnesota Shows…

    If James Brown was… ”

    The Hardest Working Man In Show Business”…then Bobby Vee is the “Nicest Man In Show Business”.

    God Bless you Bobby!-Ira Sperling.

  • Sue Dyer

    I met Bobby in Davenport, IA, along with my husband Ken. He was at the Col Ballroom. Ken talked to his security guy, and was told that Bobby did autographs after the show. Ken went home and got all of his albums and Bobby took the time to sign each and everyone of them. We have seen Bobby perform in different places and at one place he even joined us for dinner. Bobby is the most pleasant entertainer we have ever met. His sons are just as pleasant as he is. What a great performer! One other thing that makes Bobby so special is that we share the same birthday. April 30th! Gotta love that guy!

    Sue

  • Kathleen Cork

    This morning, Thursday, 28th June, 2012, I woke thinking of Bobby Vee. I looked for some of his music and put it on my c.d.player and listened to the strains of his beautiful voice whilst doing my housework. Something made me switch on my computer and I “Googled” Bobby Vee to see if he was due to come to the U.K. on tour in the near future. It was then that I discovered that Bobby had retired, and I didn’t know, so I naturally felt dissapointed. That feeling of self pity soon left me when I found out the reason why. Bobby, you have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I just want to wish you all the best for the future as you battle this terrible illness. God bless you.

    Kathleen.

  • Nancy Breezee

    Bobby Vee, Here it’s 2012 and I’m looking over your albums and remesing the good songs I listen to when I was a teen.

    Loved your music.

    I found you on the internet today. sorry about your health. May God Bless.

    I remember Fabian, you guys were so hot!

    Glad that you were a part of my teen years, and will never stop loving the music.

    Nancy Lee

  • Diane Hancock

    I was the local president of your fan club in San Antonio, Texas. You came to the Texas Teen Fair and we had our picture taken with you. I still remember writing to Clela McFarland (is that right?) and mourning when you got married (I am very happy for you, though, and prayers go out for your wife). You were the nicest person, so humble and sweet. God bless you always.