#1320: How Many Tears by Bobby Vee

Peak Month:  May 1961
6 weeks on CFUN’s Vancouver Charts
Peak Position ~ #9
C-FUN Twin Pick Hit April 29, 1961
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #63
YouTube.com: “How Many Tears
Lyrics: “How Many Tears

Bobby Vee was born in Fargo, North Dakota as Robert Thomas Velline. He was part of a highschool band that was asked to step in and perform for the concert that was to be headlined by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Each had died in a small plane crash the day before. And the concert was held in Moorhead, Minnesota, across the Red River from Fargo. Fifteen year old Vee and his band were a hit and he got a contract with Liberty Records. It was his fourth single release, “Devil or Angel”, that catapulted him into the Top Ten and teen idol stardom. The single topped the pop charts in Vancouver on September 10, 1960.

Briefly, Vee’s back-up band in Fargo included Elston Gunnn whose birthname was Robert Allen Zimmerman. Gunnn was hired to play the piano. But after the first practice it was learned Elston could only play piano in the key of C. In addition, he didn’t have a piano. It soon became unfeasible to have a piano player with no piano in the band so Bobby Vee had to fire Elston Gunnn. (Yes, that’s G-U-N-N-N with three N’s, as Bobby Vee would later recall). A year later Elston Gunn would adopt a different pseudonym: Bob Dylan. Dylan would credit Bobby Vee with helping him establish himself in the music business. Bobby Vee remembers being in New York City in 1962 and seeing the cover of an album titled Bob Dylan, and thinking, “that guy looks a lot like Elston Gunnn.”

In the fall of 1960, Vee had another Top Ten hit titled “Rubber Ball”. It peaked at #3 in December ’60. The B-side, a cover of the Buddy Holly song “Everyday”, also climbed into the Top Ten in Vancouver in January 1961. In the following month Vee released the album With Strings and Things. Tracks from the album included covers of Paul Anka’s 1957 hit, “Diana”, Little Anthony and the Imperials 1958 hit “Tears On My Pillow”, the 1954 Johnny Ace R&B hit “Pledging My Love”, and the 1957 Dale Hawkins rockabilly hit “Susie Q”. From the album Liberty Records released “How Many Tears”.

How Many Tears by Bobby Vee

“How Many Tears” was co-written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Goffin and King also composed Bobby Vee’s hit singles “Sharing You” and “In My Baby’s Eyes” later that year. The latter were tracks from his eighth album, A Bobby Vee Recording Session. Goffin and King were prolific in the early 60’s penning “The Loco-Motion” for Little Eva, “Chains” and “Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby” for The Cookies, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for The Shirelles, “Up On The Roof” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” both for the Drifters. Carole King had also written “Crying In The Rain” in 1962 for the Everly Brothers. The pair wrote “Go Away Little Girl” which was first recorded by Bobby Vee in March 1962. Steve Lawrence had a number one hit with “Go Away Little Girl” later that year. They also co-wrote “Keep Your Love Locked” for Paul Petersen, “Pleasant Valley Sunday” for the Monkees, “Oh No, Not My Baby” for Maxine Brown, “Goin’ Home” recorded by both Dusty Springfield and the Byrds, “One Fine Day” for the Chiffons, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” for Aretha Franklin, and “I’m Into Something Good” – a hit for Herman’s Hermits.

“How Many Tears” provided the nonsense lyrics “Yum diddy dum diddy um” into the cannon of early rock songs. The song is about a toxic romantic relationship that has ended badly. The guy has been unable to count how many tears he has shed over his untrustworthy girlfriend. He’s lost count of how many lies she’d told him. He’s lost track of how many promises she’s made to him and subsequently broken.

“How Many Tears” peaked at #3 in Little Rock (AR), #5 in Springfield (MA), #6 in Dallas, Colorado Springs, (CO), and San Bernardino (CA), #7 in San Diego, El Cajon (CA), and Boston, #9 in Vancouver (BC), Seattle, and Lakeland (FL), and #10 in Pittsburgh.

In September 1961 Bobby Vee had a #1 hit with a Gerry Goffin-Carole King number titled “Take Good Care Of My Baby”. With the song ranking at #12 for the year-end charts on Billboard‘s Top 100 of 1961, Liberty Records released an album titled Take Good Care Of My Baby in early 1962. Another track from the album, “Walking With My Angel“, was also composed by Goffin-King. The A-side of the single, “Run To Him”, peaked at #2 in Vancouver.

He enjoyed more Top Ten success in Vancouver in early 1962 with “Hark, Is That A Cannon I Hear” and “Please Don’t Ask About Barbara” – the latter a #15 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Bobby Vee’s tenth Top Ten hit in Vancouver, “In My Baby’s Eyes” was the B-side to “Sharing You”. Vee was on the pop charts in Vancouver for between 35 to 40 weeks in both 1961 and 1962.

In 1962 Bobby Vee appeared in two films, Swingin’ Along and Play It Cool. Play It Cool featured Vee co-starring with Billy Fury, Helen Shapiro and Danny Williams. The film was about a struggling pop singer and the rich heiress who is searching for a lover. He appeared on the Art Linkletter Show and there was also a TV documentary feature called The Idol: The Story of Bobby Vee. On April 30, 1962, Bobby Vee turned 19 years old. At the end of the year, Bobby Vee was again at the top of the charts in Vancouver with “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.”

Bobby Vee died in October 2016. NPR did a special honoring his career in pop music on October 28, 2016. Playing a taped interview with Bobby Vee years back, Vee talked about how he ended up on stage at the Moorhead Armory on February 4, 1959. He recalls that the promoters of the show had decided to go ahead with the show. Dion and the Belmonts were going to perform and the Crickets. Vee recalls there was an announcement on the local radio station: “And they were asking for local talent. We called up the radio station. They said, come on down. And that was it. I mean, they didn’t ask us anything. They didn’t ask us, you know, what we played or anything. And we did – went down to the Moorhead Armory that night at, you know, 6:30 and waited. They said just wait in the wings. And we did.”

In his NPR interview, Vee also recalls Carole King and Gerry Goffin coming to the studio where he was going to record a song they wrote titled “How Many Tears”. He told NPR, “Carole and Gerry flew from New York to be at the session. And on a break, Carole said, let me play a couple of songs that we just wrote, and she sat down at the piano and played a song called “In My Baby’s Eyes”, which is a wonderful song I recorded later on. And the second song was “Take Good Care Of My Baby”.

After “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” made the Top Ten in the winter of 1962-63, Bobby Vee released over a dozen more singles that largely floundered on the pop charts. In Vancouver, Bobby Vee was back in the Top Ten with both “Charms” and “Be True To Yourself”. The British Invasion wasn’t kind to Vee and many other American teen idols of the late ’50s and early ’60s. It wasn’t until 1967 that he managed to make the Top Ten again with “Come Back When You Grow Up”. The single spent two weeks at number-one on the CKLG Boss 30 in the fall of 1967. Nine more single releases between 1967 and 1971 failed to deliver another hit record.

Over the years Bobby Vee shared the concert stage with Little Richard, Brenda Lee and Jackie Wilson. He moved his family to Minneapolis in 1980. They had a solar panel house built, reflective of their environmentally friendly values. While his spouse, Karen, got a degree in clinical nursing, Bobby Vee kept on performing up to eighty concerts a year. Vee continued to perform in concert until 2011 when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He died on October 24, 2016, due to complications from the disease.

May 20, 2023
Ray McGinnis

fargojump@my-deja.com, The Bob Dylan Who’s Who – Elston Gunnn, Expecting Rain.com, August 11, 1999
Songs Written by Carole King, Wikipedia.org
King, Carole. A Natural Woman: A Memoir. Grand Central Publishing, 2012.
Terry Gross, “Remembering Singer-Songwriter Bobby Vee, The Teen Idol Of The ’60s,” NPR, Washington D.C., October 28, 2016
Jon Bream, “Take Good Care of My Baby: Bobby Vee and his Wife Celebrate 50 Years,” Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN, April 13,  2014
’60s Pop Idol Bobby Vee, Singer of ‘Take Good Care of My Baby,’ Dead at 73,” Chicago Tribune, October 24, 2016.
C-FUN-Tastic-50,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, May 27, 1961.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

Leave a Reply

Sign Up For Our Newsletter