By ANN WISHART

Now I'm a soldier, a lonely soldier



Away from home through no wish of my own



That's why I'm lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely



I wish that I could go back home

Bobby Vinton's hit song, "Mr. Lonely," was composed decades ago when the young musician was doing his time in the Army.

But classics improve with age, and Vinton's repertoire is sure to strike a chord with fans Sunday when he performs a full program of crowd-pleasers during the Mentor Concert Series at the Mentor Schools Fine Arts Center, 6477 Center St.

Still headlining in Atlantic City and Las Vegas on a seemingly perpetual tour of one-night stands, Vinton numbers include "Roses are Red," "Blue Velvet," and "My Melody of Love" among his many top singles. He will be singing in Mentor as a replacement for the recently deceased Lou Rawls.

"During the first 10 years of the rock era, Vinton had more No. 1 hits than any other male vocalist, including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra," states Billboard magazine. Vinton has sold more than 75 million records over the course of his career and received more than a dozen gold records.

The musician has run the music world gamut, according to the classicbands Web site. Born the son of a local band leader, Stan Vinton, he started his own band at the age of 15 in his hometown of Canonsburg, a small town near Pittsburgh. Later in his career he hosted a syndicated television show, acted in two John Wayne movies and built and operated his own theater in Branson, Mo., for 10 years. Now he is back on the road, touring to fans across the country.

Holding firm to his Big Band sound and love songs, he not only survived but flourished when the U.S. music scene was invaded by British musicians in the 1960s. He remembered, in an interview with Gary James that, in January 1964, his hit song, "There I Said It Again" was first on the charts until it was bumped by "I Want to Hold Your Hand," by the Beatles. (www.classicbands.com)

Talking to James, Vinton recalled how he came to understand and ultimately succeed in the cutthroat recording business:

"There was a show, "Saturday Prom out of New York," that was a live dance band show opposite Dick Clark. Dick Clark was playing records on NBC. I wanted to play 'live', so I used to go up there and lead the NBC staff band. The band that Doc Severensen got? ; ;I was leading them when I was a kid.

"I would back up all the singing stars of the early 60s. This is how I got started in show business. I knew all the entertainers from Frankie Avalon to Fabian to Chubby Checker to Connie Francis. All of them. I studied all of them to see what there was about their music the audience liked and what they did as performers that they liked or didn't like. I have been able to use that over the years. That helped me in picking hit records."

Although he didn't write all the songs he recorded, he composed "My Melody of Love" for his mother, who asked him to do something in Polish, he told James. The song helped transition him from a teen idol into the Polish Prince, attracting a new and loyal following.

The show will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $39 for adults, $37 for seniors and $17 for students. Ticket exchanges or refund information for the cancelled Rawls concert will be posted at www.mentorconcertseries.com.















Recommended for you