Rockabilly performer and son of Bobby Vee coming to Albert Lea

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

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The Robby Vee Rock & Roll Caravan is arriving at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center Friday.

Vee is a student of the rock ’n’ roll era and is in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

“Rockabilly’s a little bit different than rock ’n’ roll,” he said. “It’s rock ’n’ roll plus something.”

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Rockabilly’s kind of a melting pot of rock ’n’ roll, Johnny Cash country and jazz. He described the period from 1956 to ’64 as a feel-good, forget your problems and enjoy the music era, and that’s what he focuses on: Forget about the day and have a good time, something he said was rare in today’s world.

He likes the challenges that come with doing a good show and having people connect to music, but he loves the connections music brings.

“There’s a lot of people that come to my shows that feel like family to me,” he said. “It’s the connection with people and the connection with the legacy I come from.

“People show up and they like my records and they like what I do, but they also love my dad. And that’s a common thread.”

That’s because Vee is also a legacy artist, as his dad was Bobby Vee. Bobby started the day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash Feb. 3, 1959.

“My father filled in that night, and he went on to have 38 top-charting hits,” Robby said. “He launched his career that night.”

He also grew up in the rock ’n’ roll business, raised on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand,” and was raised in the genre, where he eventually became a backup guitar performer before starting his own career.

“Because of that it’s a legacy show, so I do a tribute to Bobby Vee … and I do a tribute to the rock ’n’ roll era,” Robby said.

The first vinyl record he owned was of Albert Lea native Eddie Cochran, who was on Liberty Records with Bobby.

“I wanted to be Eddie Cochran, he was like my Batman, my Superman, as a kid,” he said.

Being surrounded by music and seeing Bobby’s joy, Robby described music as “fun,” especially getting to observe someone with a passion for music.

“If you’re going to do it you should really love it,” he said. “It should be a huge part of your life because it’s just not an easy one.”

Bobby also taught Robby about the industry.

Robby, in turn, likes celebrating Bobby’s legacy, though he doesn’t necessarily recycle it. Instead, he wants to add to it.

With songs such as “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” and “Rubber Ball,” Robby described his father as a pop star with time-period hits.

Robby started performing live at 15 and has been touring most of his adult life, visiting as far away as Australia and Malaysia.

After growing up in Los Angeles, Bobby, who was from Fargo, decided to move Robby and the rest of his family back to the Midwest.

“He felt like it was a better environment to raise the kids,” Robby said. “… He just felt like he wanted us to have a little more freedom and a little more of his childhood upbringing, something that was more Midwest-based.”

And he comes from a different generation with different artists, and so considers himself an extension of Bobby. Other influences include Cochran, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Gordon Lightfoot and Elton John.

He also promotes records, with his latest, “Double Spin,” recently launched in vinyl, something he was excited about.

“I’m a fan of rock ’n’ roll vinyl records, I’m a fan of jukeboxes and it’s my first time ever doing a record in vinyl,” he said.

Friday’s show will include a legacy show where he’ll perform his songs as well as Bobby’s hits, and a second part consisting of Robby’s own tribute to the rock ’n’ roll era.

“It’s getting people into the spirit of ‘American Bandstand,’” he said, noting there will be a video accompanying it.

He wants to convey a legacy to concertgoers and keep Bobby’s music alive while simultaneously introducing it to a newer generation.

“I want them to see rock ’n’ roll history, where it started, and then where it’s ending up, so from my dad’s catalog to my catalog,” he said. “It’s a huge, vast amount of music.”

And he’s a spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, bringing awareness and trying to raise money by donating proceeds from his music. Bobby Vee died from Alzheimer’s in 2016.

“One of the records is called the ‘Blue moon Blue Project,’ … and I donate 100% of that record,” he said.

Robby, who plays over 100 shows each year at fairs, festivals and performance centers/theaters, is excited to play at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center because it was new for him.

“John [Caucutt] called me and he asked if I wanted to play in the theater,” he said.

This will be Robby’s first performance in Albert Lea in over two decades when he performed at a different venue, though he’s played in Clear Lake, Northwood, Wells and Mankato.

“I’ve played the [Kato] Ballroom throughout my entire life, many times with my dad and on my own,” he said.

Later this summer he’ll play in Austin.

Currently Robby’s show is made up of him on vocals and guitar and three other performers, Jeff Bjork (drums), Bryan Williams (bass) and Dana Killam (violin).

The show — at 147 N. Broadway Ave. — starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, $20 each, are available at or by calling either the 24/7 call center (877-730-3144) or the ACT box office during theater hours (507-377-4371).