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From teen idol to Vegas regular, the nimble and prolific Canadian-born songwriter and performer unfurls a charmed tale of early fame and earnest survival. With a knack for performing and impersonating popular singers of the era like Frankie Laine and Perry Como, as a young teen, Anka, the son of close-knit, middle-class Lebanese restaurant owners, was determined to strike out of his provincial upbringing in Ottawa and hit it big, playing in doo-wop groups and winning local contests. By sheer chutzpah he talked his way to his first record contract at age 15, with ABC-Paramount Records in New York, by dazzling producer Don Costa with his song "Diana," among others, and by September 1957, when the song went to #1, Anka was appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, and embarking on bus tours with the biggest names in rock 'n' roll: Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry. The British invasion radically altered the scene, eclipsing many of the crooners' careers, like that of Bobby Darin, but Anka was a versatile songsmith, with canny agent Irvin Feld behind him, riding out the musical turbulence by playing in Vegas clubs and touring the world, and writing a string of steady hits for himself and others (e.g., "You're Having My Baby," "My Way" for Frank Sinatra, the score for the movie The Longest Day, even the theme song for Johnny Carson's Tonight Show). Anka recalls these complex egos of various performers rather poignantly, and he vividly depicts the corruption and Mafia shenanigans at the Copa and others spots in the late '50s and early '60s. Tenacious, tickled with success, Anka splashes plenty of juice and little restraint. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
It's hard to imagine now, but once upon a time a 15-year-old boy from Canada could walk into an L.A. record company, sing a song he wrote, and get signed to a recording contract. Paul Anka's first hit, Diana, came in 1957, when he was 16. He was just a kid, but so were many of his contemporaries: Frankie Lymon, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers. Anka had five hits in a single year, 1958, and he was among the top acts of the late 1950s and early '60s, but then something happened that could have ended his career: the Beatles. Anka wisely changed course, focusing on songwriting, but for an older audience, turning out the theme for Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, Sinatra's monster hit My Way, and Tom Jones' She's a Lady, while still performing in Vegas and occasionally coming up with a hit of his own ( (You're) Having My Baby ). A lively, entertaining autobiography by one of the true legends of the music business.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist