It's an understatement to say Bobby Darin knows where he's going. "I've heard some of the big people in show business call me the next Sinatra. Maybe. But I think I'd rather be the next Bing Crosby."
Bobby, born Robert Cassotto in the Bronx 22 years ago, is supremely casual while dropping such major ambition revelations. "I've always been sure of myself in a way. When I first went over with a bunch of kids, I knew I had it, as long as I didn't let it slip out of my hands. If you have talent, and are willing to work hard, you've got to make it big. At least I have so far and as far as I'm concerned, there's no stopping me."
Bobby is as humorless as he is cocky. There's no time, for jokes now---he's too busy on the run for the big time. "You can't sit around and goof off if you want to stay ahead of the pack. Every day I'm in conferences with show business people, figuring all the angles. I've gotten pretty good at figuring them myself. That's why I started my own record company, even though I record for Atco. There are plenty of songs I think can make it, but Atco doesn't want to take a chance on them."
Needled about rising to fame at the same time as Jimmy Darren Bobby snapped, "Jimmy is the handsome Darren. I'm the Darin who can sing. That's one thing I've never had any trouble with. Basically, it doesn't really matter what kind of a voice you've got, so long as it isn't terrible. For me it's got to be a salesmanship job, not just a good voice. Spontaineity and personality are the things that sell you. I'm not just a singer. I'm really selling my personality.
"The big mistake of a lot of people in this business is overestimating the teenagers. Now there's no question that teenagers are the big record buyers, and they can make you famous. But teenagers are terribly fickle. They really don't know what they like. They're led like sheep to what they're told is good. Once in a while they manage to like something good, but not enough to gamble on them.
"And once the teenagers drop you, what's left if you're not prepared? I already figure maybe I'm getting a little too old for teenagers. I bet my career on the idea that ballads are coming back--that rock and roll is on the wane--and it paid off. My ballad albums are big sellers, and incidentally, teenagers are buying them too.
"Of course, when you get a great song like 'Mack the Knife,' it makes it a lot easier. I experimented with rock and roll and found out it wasn't for me. The music business is a guessing game, and the guy who guesses right most often is the guy on top.
"I have nothing against rock and roll. I think the kids who really like it will graduate to better things. It's a great training ground for jazz. But the way the music business has gone berserk, rock and roll has ruined a lot of people's lives.
"You take a butcher from North Dakota. He puts up the money for a home town kid to make a record. And by some wild piece of luck, the record catches on with the kids, becomes a big seller and now our butcher is an authority on music. What he should really be doing is cutting meat, but instead he's impresario of his own record company. He may never have another hit and his discovery, the kid singer, will vanish into oblivion, wondering why he isn't loved by the kids who bought his record. This is a vicious thing and it happens all the time in the music business. I'm not going to let it happen to me."
Bobby, full of grownup opinions about his chosen profession, is ready to write off teenagers as his fans. "Kids flip more over songs than they do over singers nowadays. There hasn't been an organized teenage movement for a singer since the days of Eddie Fisher. But you get an adult fan--why he may buy every record you make for the rest of your life."
I've heard a few people say I'm being premature about going for adult audiences, but I have to be the one to decide that. I made up my mind that I'd have to be a star by the age of 21 or I'd blow my brains out. Well I was a year late, but when I was 21, I knew it was just a matter of time. One year to be exact.
"I didn't fit with teenage audiences. Kids like to identify with kids their own age. And even as a young singer, I've always been more of a grownup in my attitude. There's never been a moment in my life when I didn't know that I was going to be a star. Everything I've done has been dedicated toward that goal, and I don't let anything get in my way or slow me down."
"And that doesn't mean you have to be ruthless. Just stick by your guns. I made some mistakes when I was starting out, but that was only because I was feeling my way."
"Now I can't see anything stopping me. Eugene Gilbert, the big teenage researcher, took a poll and found that their favorite song was 'Stardust,' That was supposed to be astounding news, but not to me. Even with teenagers, ballads are on their way back. It's true that the great songs aren't getting written any more. That's because there's no market for them. I'm going to help change that."
As part of his campaign for renouncing teenagers and embracing the world of grownups, Bobby now plays the major night clubs-in Las Vegas, at the Chez Paree in Chicago and the Copacabana in New York. Teenagers can't afford that kind of entertainment.
For Bobby, it's a cinch. "I've always had a drive to do everything the best. If the Copacabana is the number one place in the country, that's where I headline. Once in a while I've gotten word that some of the older guys in the business think I'm a young punk, too brassy for my own good. Well, let them compete with me on my own terms-performance. People are paying their way into expensive clubs to see me. That's my answer.
"After my first bigtime shot at the Sands in Vegas, I was a little shook. This was the roughest try I'd had so far and only the Copa would be rougher. I was halfway to the dressing room after the show--I'd thought I'd bombed. Then I heard the applause. When I came back I thought that applause was just great-your whole chemistry changes."
Cocky, driven, Bobby admits there's nothing in life important to him except his career. "I guess there's never been any simple explainable reason why I'm so obsessed with my career. But I've seen enough people in show business to realize-to get to the top, it helps to be a little crazy."
"For some guys, my life would look like a big bore, but I find it terribly exciting. I love business. There's only one real drawback and I think I can survive that.
"That's women. I'm in no position to get slowed down by a big love affair at this point. Too much is at stake for me to take a chance on some long, frantic love affair that would wind up hurting me as a performer and who knows, maybe even professionally.
"I've seen a lot of guys go wild once they make some good money. They see how easy it is to date beautiful babes once you flash a bankroll.
"For another, I'm too busy mapping out next year and the year after that to take time out for something that will just have to wait. I like girls just as much as the next guy, but maybe I'm a little bit more ambitious than the next guy. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself. Maybe I'll get knocked over by some girl and then all my fine theories will go out the window."
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