Moja Droga Ja Cie Kocham! – Bobby Vinton
Arleta Sziler – Windsor
I launched my Canadian career in radio journalism in year 2000. Every Saturday afternoon, for 15 years I was running weekly radio show Polish Magazine-Magazyn Polski for Polonia people in Windsor and Detroit. Honestly speaking I had two big dreams than. First was to have a lunch with the President of United States, you probably laughing, but it happened! It was in 2002 when Pres. USA George W. Bush, with a “bonus” Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski came to Detroit area. But not me alone, of course, I was invited with 200 notable Polish Americans, who gathered for lunch in The American-Polish Cultural Centre in Troy, Michigan (and me being the only Canadian there- so dream big!). And second dream was to have on my show a very special artist. And for this one I had to wait over nine years. But big dreams are OK, and sometimes we have to wait for a good stuff, right? In 2009, thru my special connection in New York, I’ve got phone number to the publisher of the “Post Eagle” Mr. Chester Grabowski (died in 2012) , long time friend of the popular american singer. This singer’s name was Bobby Vinton.
According to BillBoard Magazine in the 60’s and 70’s, Bobby Vinton was the “Most successful love singer of the “rock era”. So, in late 2009 I invited him to a little chat on the “air” his manager reply to me that he agreed! I was so happy and told about it to my first caller on that day. It was Mr Witold Lillental, who was a previously a guest on my show and he liked this singer as well. So we chit-chat a bit about Bobby Vinton. After thay conversation, I knew what to ask my next guest. Below is a big part of interview with this big artist: Arleta: – Hello and welcome to Polish Magazine!
Bobby: Hello, dziekuje!
A. – Sir, can I call you Bobby?
B. – Yea, my real name is Stasio, Bobby Vinton
A. – Oh, OK, but now please remind me and our listeners, when and where you made your debut?
B. – Yes, when I was 15, I’ve started my career in my father’s band. We played in Polish and Italian clubs in Pennsylvania area. So, I’ve learned music and show business from my father.
A. – I remember, one of your greatest hit “Moja droga, ja Cie kocham – My melody of love” became instantly very popular in the communist Poland itself. You were even called the’Polish Prince”… Was this your own idea to promote the Polish language and, by doing so, the Polish American community?
B. – Well, when I was playing with the band I went to South America and I was singing in Spanish, than was Italy and songs were in Italian, than in Germany I sung german songs, because I was recording there. And what happened next? My mama, who was a polish lady, was not so happy after all and said this to me one day ”Synek, dlaczego ty nie spiewasz po polsku? (Son, why you do not sing in polish?) I come to your shows, and you sing in all those different languages: Śpiewaj po polsku ty głuptasie” (Sing in Polish, silly). So, to please her, I tried to write song in polish, but I said to her “Mama, what a popular rock station will play my song in Polish?”. She said ” just write and sing, for example start with: Moja Droga ja cie kocham…oh, and you know what to put next”, so she gave me an idea and that was the beginning of “Moja droga ja cie kocham”. It was a quite big hit. I remember going to Poland, when this song was popular, I have relatives in Warsaw as well as in Krakow, I remember meeting them and they were so excited. But it was still a communist country and I was surprised how people were living there, in my lifetime, in fear of the government! And also, this communist government was questioning me what I was doing in Poland? and why I said on the radio and in the paper ”you should get rid of communist government”. But, than, when I came back to America, I was on WGN station in Chicago, doing “Bobby Vinton Telethon” to raise money for the people oppressed by communist Poland (…) A. – How nice…
B. – Yes, and another time, when I was in Poland I suppose to meet Lech Walesa, but they arrested him on that day. So Polish Americans wanted to raise money for supplies, and we send the money and supplies and we knew they got it! That song “Moja droga” back then, was a link between United States and Poland.
A. – And that’s why you become the “Polish Prince”..?
B. – Yes, but not exactly… Long time ago in Chicago, during a mayoral election’s time, Mayor Daily, who was
running for re-election, was not doing to well, as they told me. He came to my telethon (we had about 20000 people in the auditorium) and he sung with me “Moja Droga” (My melody of love). Next day, when asked by the newspaper, where he was about the day before?, he said “I went to see Bobby Vinton – The Polish Prince”. And he was the first one to call me that. So that is how I became the Polish Prince and voters reelected him.
A. – Wow, that’s something, that song was good for him and was bringing money for you too, you did quite few other songs and things after that..
B. – Well, I remember coming to Canada after that (also I had a very popular television show and Melody of Love-where it was our theme song, (at that time I did a lot of polish songs). Polish people there were very proud and this song helped to got rid of many “polish jokes”. In those years there was nothing, but “polish jokes” everywhere.. This song gave new image to Polish-Americans, it was a sense of pride… A. – How many records did you sell?
B. – Millions… all over the world..
A. – Aha, especially “Moja Droga” song it was good idea to listen to your Mama..
B. – Ha, ha, ha, I am glad I did…She repeated “Pisz, pisz-pisaj-write song- it is easy for you, you know how to write a song, spiewaj po polsku-starting ”moja droga…”. Honestly, I didn’t’ know it will be such a big hit!
A. – And cash followed after… Bobby, you are a multi-talented musician as well as a singer and actor with university degree in music. You are proficient in few instruments..You played in two movies with John Wayne,
you had your TV show in the 70ties…What do you, yourself, consider to be your greatest success?
B. – I think being called “the Polish Prince” is quite an honor! I made a lot of Polish people here happy, in those days it was unbelievable. Latter, when I went to the Polish Embassy in NY and they did a big reception for
me…than, when airlines Pan-Am flew their first flight to Warsaw, I was on that plane, and when the Pope (John Paul II) came to Poland for the first time, I was there to greet him at the airport, when he arrived. This was a quite an honor! I was there with Chester Grabowski from “The Post Eagle” polish newspaper.
A. – Yea, I have to mention, Mr. Grabowski inspired me “to go after you”, by the way, he is a great guy
B. – We are quite good friends, he used to come to see me over 40 years ago, long before “Melody of love”, I was performing at the ”CopaCabana” club in NY. We are still very good friends. He was delighted, when I become the “Polish Prince” Yes, this is the biggest honor! I had many titles, “Teenage Idol”, “Blue Velvet” and all this was nice, but my life became more special, when I became the Polish Prince. A. – Every city in USA, where they have polish district, there is the Polish Princess. For example in Hamtramck/Detroit there was a Polish Princess in the 60ties, but I’ve never heard about Polish Prince – you are the first one, I think rightfully so.
B. – By the way, since you mentioned, I am the honorary Mayor of Hamtramck. In the past I visited the Polish Club there, and they made me honorary Mayor, so, if you get a speeding ticket over there, please let me know.
A. – They are in pretty bad shape now. Now about your future performing plans? Please tell me about those.
B. – Well, I was in the Windsor Casino a few weeks ago; we had over 5 thousand people. Casino people were really surprised, because they were turning away patrons. I said them ”Hey, when you have the Detroit area,
Windsor area there is a lot of people, who know me as the Polish Prince and musical entertainer from “Blue Velvet Theatre”, what else you expect.” But I do not do as much as I used to, I do special places, big, important events. I am really delighted, that over 5.000 people came to see me, it is quite an honor! After all these years in business. And as long as nice things like that happen to me, I’ll continue to go out and to perform…
A. – Believe or not,. I could not buy ticket, because your show was sold out!
B. – Yes, it was, but when I come back to Windsor next time, you will be my guest!
A-O, wow, thanks. Please come back, because, not only me, but there was many people, who wanted to
see you on Oct 10. 2009. And, few weeks later it is very nice; that you found time and now are talking to us. But please tell me now about about your family…
B. – OK, I’ve meet my wife in the polish school in Pennsylvania; we belong to St Genevieve Church. We were taught by the Felician Nuns. I’ve met her, when she was in 1st grade and I knew her all this years. But after I
married her, I found out she was not Polish, she was Irish! But it was too late! Hahaha
A. – And, I know you have 5 kids…
B. – Yes, I do. In my show (in Windsor) my daughter Hanah sang with me and my son played with me, they are involved with the show. A. – Oh, Chris was singing with you?
B. – No, Chris is kind of manager, my other son Robby sings with me. I had once a theatre in Brampton Missouri, where a lot of people from Windsor-Canada and Detroit-USA would come down and see the show. In Blue Velvet theatre I had my 3 daughters sing with me, but you know who stole my shows there?
A. – Who?
B. – My mother. My Polish Mother would get up on stage and sing and dance. It drove people crazy. It started as a joke one day, I said “com’on mom and sing a song for us”, and she did and got a standing ovation! She was
a tremendous asset for many years, I’ve lost her last year this time, but if she was still alive, she would come and sing with me.
A. – Oh, I am pretty sure she deserved a standing ovation… Bobby, if you were to start your career all over, would you change anything in the way you went about it?
A. – Well, I did a lot good things; I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Life is not perfect. Nobody is perfect, but I do not think I would change anything I did, I would do the same dam things as I did.
A. – All of us make mistakes …
B. – In the past I had a manager, who said, that I should sing this song in French, “because French is romantic, you’ll going to have a sexy image. It is more sophisticated…” And I said “no, no, I am going to do
it in polish, with polish words” He said “you’re making a mistake”. So, sometimes, when people’re saying that you’re making mistake, you’re doing the right thing. I made a lot of good decisions and some, that were not so good. But, I wouldn’t change anything in my life! I had a wonderful life, made a lot of friends, and made a lot of people happy. I could not ask for anything more.
A. – OK, let’s move on, Blue Velvet Theatre… you sold it, I’ve heard..
B. – Yea, I had it for 9 years. It was a lot of work, we had 2 shows daily, I owned the theatre, I had 100 people working for me – it was a big business. It was stress… I finally sold it. I want to take life easier. For example, I like to come to Windsor, walk on stage sing in front of 5 thousand people, than get on the plane and leave. I do not have to worry about anybody.
A. – Was climbing to the top in the artistic world a torturous undertaking?
B. – Yea, but God blessed me. I prayed a lot. I went to church and asked God for his help. Some people do not have this (faith), but if there is a God, obviously someone helped me thru all this years..
I worked hard, and, I think, I was lucky too.. I was very fortunate. There were than a lot of people, who look better than me, who sing better than me and are better musicians, but God chose me. In fact , when I was starting, there was a lot of critics, who said, I wasn’t that good, I would never last…I used to say them: look, no matter what you say, it is not going to change anything, because up in heaven, there is a book, that God has written. It says: Bobby Winton will be a big star for many, many years, and I say ”nothing you guys can do to change it-it is already written in the book in heaven”
A. – But you had all things in place-you had education (university degree in music), you had supporting parents, you were talented…
B. – Yea, I went by the rules. Also I was a boy scout, I was in the army, I played in high school band, and I went to college. I’ve studied music. I worked hard all my life. In fact today, now I am still working.
A. – ????
B. – Right now, when I’ll hang up I work on the new arrangement. I write music for my next show, I am changing it, I try to improve it, make it better. I listen to the tape from the show in Windsor, write the notes,
what the band was playing and I am going to write a new music. I get up 6 o’clock every morning, always it is a plus, I gain something somewhere-that’s always been my way. I’ll do this for as long as I can.
A. – Recently your University gave you a “doctorate degree”
B. – Right, I am honorary Doctor of Music. I played oboe with a Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra, when I was a student, I‘ve done everything from a classical music, played in the “polka band”, in a big jazz band.
I love all types of music and music loves me.
A. – Bobby, can you give some words of advice to young ambitious people, who want to pursue their vocal talents?
B. – Well, you can tell from my conversation. You got to have an attitude. The attitude is everything! You have to have an attitude. You got to believe, you’ve got to want and you cannot take “NO” for an answer.
That’s anybody’s business. It is very difficult today… I was lucky. In the sixties it was a lot easier to make in a show business, than it is today The only people, new people, who make in the music business, are the ones from ”An American Idol” etc…etc. If you go on that show, it might happen overnight. And, if doesn’t happen over- night, who knows when it will happen. But I would suggest to anybody, if you really have a talent and you want to go for it, and if God has written up in the heaven that you be a star-you will be a star!
A. – Thank you so much for being with me and Polish Magazine in Windsor/Detroit area today. From the bottom of my heart I wish you all the best and please pass my greetings to your lovely wife Dolly, your son Chris and your other kids .
B. – I see you when I get to Windsor. Dziekuje (thank you) bye, bye…
Arleta Sziler – Windsor
PS. Booby Vinton kept his promise, few years later, when he arrived to Windsor he invited me and my husband to his beautiful show. Needlessly to mention, the theatre was full!