Bobby Vee, Fargo-born rock-and-roller, retires after Alzheimer's diagnosis
FARGO - Bobby Vee, the Fargo-born pop music legend, announced on his blog this weekend that he has Alzheimer's disease and will be retiring from public life.
Vee, who turned 69 on Monday, said in the blog post that he was diagnosed with mild stages of the disease a little more than a year ago. Since that time, he wrote, he's chosen to remain private and focus on family and music.
Vee also wrote in the post that his wife, Karen, originally from Detroit Lakes, Minn., is dealing with medical issues as well, and is waiting for a lung transplant from Duke University in Durham, N.C. They've been married for 48 years.
Up until recently, Vee had maintained a consistent touring schedule, playing about 50 shows in 2010.
His career got its start as the result of a tragic twist of fate on Feb. 3 1959, what's otherwise known as "The Day the Music Died."
On that day, a light plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper from Clear Lake, Iowa, to their next show in Moorhead crashed in a snow-covered field. Everyone on board was killed.
Vee, who was 15 at the time, along with a hastily assembled band of schoolboys calling themselves The Shadows, volunteered for, and were given, the job of filling in for Holly and his band in Moorhead.
Their performance that night was successful, and four months later Bobby Vee and The Shadows recorded their first hit, "Susie Baby," in Minneapolis.
After being signed by Liberty Records, Vee churned out 38 Top-100 hits and earned six gold records over the next decade. His 1961 hit "Take Good Care of My Baby" went to No. 1 in the U.S.
Dick Dunkirk and Bob Korum, two of the founding members of The Shadows who still live in Fargo, said they were both shocked and saddened to hear of Vee's condition when he told them last year.
"We were close, close dear friends," Dunkirk, who played bass in the band, said. "I'm really sad and upset about it."
"I was pretty shocked," added Korum, who played drums. "He's always been so young for his age."
When The Shadows were formed, the group initially thought that Vee was too young to be their lead singer, Korum said. But Vee's brother, Bill Velline, who also played with the band, suggested they take him anyway.
And after the night of Feb. 3, Korum said, "it was history."
Dunkirk called the time spent playing with Vee and The Shadows a "storybook time" in his life.
"It was just an enormous thrill for us," he said. "You couldn't buy that kind of experience for any money in the world."
Vee, who has a home near St. Cloud, Minn., wrote in his blog post that he and his family recently embarked on a road trip to Tucson, Ariz., where he spends his winters.
There, he and his family set up amps and drums in their garage and took some time to play music for fun. Vee's sons, Jeff, Tommy and Robby, are also musicians.
"We just did what we have always done, only this time there was no stage," Vee wrote. "There were no spotlights and no audience. We made music every day ... just for us. For the joy of making music."
The recorded result, called "Adobe Sessions CD," will be released to the public soon, he wrote.
Vee and The Shadows will be inducted into the North Dakota Rock Country Hall of Fame on Friday night at the Holiday Inn in Fargo, but it's not clear if Vee will be attending. Calls to his family on Monday were not returned.