#1021: Hitchhiker by Bobby Curtola

Peak Month: January 1962
10 weeks on CFUN chart
Peak Position #13
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart

Canadian teen idol, Bobby Curtola, had his second chart hit in Vancouver with “Hitchhiker.” It was one of eight top ten hits for Curtola on the Vancouver pop charts between 1961 and 1963. Other hits included “Indian Giver”, “Three Rows Over” and “Fortune Teller”. “Hitchhiker” is a song about a hitchhiker on the road to love. In 1962, the idea of hitching a ride was mostly thought of as a safe activity.

Hitchhiking is defined as a means of transportation gained by asking people, usually strangers, for a ride in their car or truck. A ride is usually, but not always, free. If the hitchhiker wishes to indicate that they need a ride, they may simply make a physical gesture or display a written sign. In North America, United Kingdom and most Western and Central Europe, the gesture involves extending the hitchhiker’s arm toward the road and sticking the thumb of their outstretched hand upward with the hand closed.

In 1953 Ida Lupino directed a film noir classic called The Hitch-Hiker. Two men on a fishing trip pick up a hitchhiker named Emmett Myers, who turns out to be a psychopath who has committed multiple murders. Police believe Myers is traveling alone, so he holds the two men hostage to avoid detection as he flees towards the Mexican border and listens to news broadcasts of the police chase on the car radio. The film’s plot was chilling for mid-50’s audiences as hitchhiking was thought of as a safe activity.

Back in 1962 Bobby Curtola’s “Hitchhiker” peaked at #13 in Vancouver, and #5 in Toronto, where it spent six weeks in the CHUM 1050 AM top ten.

Hitchhiker by Bobby Curtola

I’m a hitchhiker on the road to love.
I’ve been waiting alone on this lonely road,
waiting for the one I’ve been dreaming of,
for I’m a hitchhiker on the road to love.

I’m a hitchhiker with a lonely song,
I’ve been praying that you would soon come along,
Gonna ride with you to the stars above,
for I’m a hitchhiker on the road to love.

Going my way, all of the way?
Oh, oh, oh, oh this is a wonderful day.
Open your dreams, please let me in,
We’ll go to places that no other has been.

For I’m a hitchhiker who will roam no more,
I’ve found the love I’ve been waiting for.
Gonna ride with you to heaven above,
for I’m a hitchhiker on the road to love.

I’m a hitchhiker with a lonely song,
I’ve been praying that you would soon come along,
Gonna ride with you to the stars above,
for I’m a hitchhiker on the road to love.

Going my way, all of the way?
Oh, oh, oh, oh this is a wonderful day.
Open your dreams, please let me in,
We’ll go to places that no other has been.

For I’m a hitchhiker who will roam no more,
I’ve found the love I’ve been waiting for.
Gonna ride with you to heaven above,
for I’m a hitchhiker on the road to love.

In 1961 the metaphor worked, and Bobby Curtola became a teen idol coast to coast in Canada.

Another pop hit after Bobby Curtola’s hit was from 1962 called “Hitch Hike,” by Marvin Gaye. In 1969 the pop group, Vanity Fare, had a big hit titled “Hitchin’ a Ride.” The sunny song showcased the public perception that hitchhiking in the late 1960’s was seen as an adventurous and fun activity. Other songs that celebrated hitchhiking included “Sweet Hitch Hiker” (Creedence Clearwater Revival), “Take it Easy” (The Eagles), “Chevy Van” (Sammy Johns) and “Me and Bobby McGee” (Janis Joplin). However, in the 1971 hit, “Riders on the Storm”, The Doors presented hitchhiking as a dangerous activity. “There’s a killer on the road. His brain is squirming like a toad….if you give this man a ride sweet memory will die, killer on the road.”

Popular perceptions of the danger of hitchhiking shifted with more horror and suspense movies into the mid-70’s with hitchhikers as villains in movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In North America hitchhiking has been on the decline since the 1970s. This is owed to a number of factors including lower air travel costs due to deregulation, the presence of more money in the economy to pay for travel, more numerous and more reliable cars, a lack of trust and fear of strangers. On May 19,1977, a twenty year old hitchhiker named Colleen Stan was kidnapped by Cameron and Janice Hooker in Red Bluff, California. Stan was hitchhiking on her way to a friend’s birthday party. Until August 1984 Colleen Stan was a sex slave to Cameron Hooker and often confined in a wooden box. The trial in 1985, which ended in a life sentence for Cameron Hooker, was sensational and gruesome. It put a chill on hitchhiking in America, and had a ripple effect here in Canada.

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