“I’m just a lonely boy, lonely and blue
I’m all alone with nothin’ to do
I’ve got everything you could think of
But all I want is someone to love
“Someone, yes, someone to love, someone to kiss
Someone to hold at a moment like this
I’d like to hear somebody say,
‘I’ll give you my love each night and day’ “
Paul Anka’s No. 1 hit “Lonely Boy”
You never know what will be the motivation behind a No. 1 smash hit.
In Paul Anka’s case, it was his loneliness from being on the road touring as a teenager that inspired him to write and sing “Lonely Boy.”
“Lonely Boy” was introduced in the 1957 film “Girls Town” in which Anka starred with Mamie Van Doren and Mel Torme.
“Lonely Boy” rose to No. 1 in July 1959 and it remained there for four weeks.
“Well, ‘Lonely Boy’ was a product of the 1950s. One has to realize in those days, pop music was just starting and we had a lot of record hops to do and favors for disc jockeys and I was traveling around pretty much all alone with whoever was with me … and we would go to these hops and kids would be dancing together and they would be screaming at me.
“And I wouldn’t have the kind of life as they did. I would just go back to the hotels and look at myself and say, ‘Wow, this has a lonely aspect to it and then I wrote ‘Loney Boy,’ ” Anka explained during an interview with Arlene Herson, a renowned radio and television personality. The first female admitted into the legendary Friars Club for entertainers, Herson has been doing her show for more than 35 years.
While the Canadian-born Anka met with success at an early age – he was 16 when “Diana” reached No. 1 in September 1957 – he was far from an overnight sensation.
When he was 13, he spent the summer with his uncle in Los Angeles working at the Civic Playhouse selling candy. In his spare time, he visited Wallich’s Music City, a huge record store in Hollywood.
While listening to records at the store, he heard “Stranded in the Jungle” by the Cadets. He saw that the label’s office was located in nearby Culver City and went there to meet with Ernie Freeman, the A&R director.
During the meeting, Anka played one of his songs, “I Confess.”
Freeman loved the song and recorded it two weeks later with the Cadets singing the background.
The record bombed, selling a grand total of 3,000 copies.
A determined Anka then returned to his home in Canada – albeit temporarily.
The following year, Anka won a supermarket contest by collecting the most Campbell Soup labels. He earned a train trip to Manhattan where he stayed at a YMCA because he had no relatives or friends in the city.
Enamored with the city, he returned later that summer with four songs that he has composed.
On his return, he immediately visited with Don Costa, head A&R man and chief arranger and producer for ABC Paramount Records.
Costa was so impressed with Anka’s song, “Diana,” that he told Paul tell his parents to come to New York to sign contracts because he was a minor.
Costa recorded “Diana” for ABC Paramount and it became No. 1 in the country in September 1957.
That sparked one of the era’s most successful careers.
Besides singing, Anka enjoyed tremendous success as a songwriter.
He penned such well-known music as the theme for “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson, one of Tom Jones’ biggest hits, “She’s a Lady” and the English lyrics for Frank Sinatra’s signature song, “My Way.”
In 1983, he co-wrote with Michael Jackson the song “I Never Heard,” which was retitled and released in 2009 under the name “This Is It.”
Anka also wrote the theme song for the movie “The Longest Day” for which he received an Oscar nomination.
During his career which has spanned nearly six decades, Anka had 23 Top 20 hits, three of which reached the top of the charts – “”Diana,” “Lonely Boy” and “Having My Baby” in 1974.
The 73-year-old Anka still is doing concerts.
Barry Levine is an entertainment writer for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at dot0001@yahoo,.com.