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Paul Anka

Born July 30, 1941, in Ottawa into a tight-knit Canadian family, Paul Anka didn’t waste much time getting his life in music started. He sang in the choir at Church and studied piano. He honed his writing skills with journalism courses, even working for a spell at the Ottawa Citizen. By 13, he had his own vocal group, the Bobbysoxers. He performed at every amateur night he could get to in his mother’s car, unbeknownst to her of course. Soon after, he won a trip to New York by winning a Campbell’s soup contest for IGA Food Stores that required him to spend three months collecting soup can labels. It was there his dream was solidified, he was going to make it as a singer composer; there was not a doubt in his young tenacious mind.

In 1956, he convinced his parents to let him travel to Los Angeles, where he called every record company in the phone book looking for an audition. A meeting with Modern Records led to the release of Anka’s first single, “Blau-Wile Deverest Fontaine.” It was not a hit, but Anka kept plugging away, going so far to sneak into Fats Domino’s dressing room to meet the man and his manager in Ottawa. When Anka returned New York in 1957, he scored a meeting with Don Costa, the A&R man for ABC-Paramount Records. He played him a batch of songs that included “Diana” – Costa was duly enthusiastic about the potential of the young singer and songwriter. The rapid and enormous success of “Diana”- his first number one hit – made him a star.

“They are all very autobiographical,” says Anka of his early hits. “I was alone, traveling, girls screaming, and I never got near them. I’m a teenager and feeling isolated and all that. That becomes ‘Lonely Boy.’ At record hops, I’m up on stage and all these kids are holding each other with heads on each other’s shoulders. Then I have to go have dinner in my room because there are thousands of kids outside the hotel — ‘Put Your Head on My Shoulder’ was totally that experience.

Soon Paul found himself traveling by bus with the ‘Cavalcade of Stars’ with the top names of the day in the era of segregation, performing at the Copa Cabana, the youngest entertainer ever to do so, and honing his craft surrounded by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Frankie Lyman, and Chuck Berry.

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