Paul Anka Says His Hit-Filled Showbiz Career Might Get Jersey Boys Treatment

News   Paul Anka Says His Hit-Filled Showbiz Career Might Get Jersey Boys Treatment
 
Singer-songwriter Paul Anka, known for such hits as "Diana," "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" and "My Way," is in discussions for a Broadway stage musical about his life and times, he told the Las Vegas Sun.
Paul Anka
Paul Anka

The 67-year-old performer, who is celebrating 50 years in the business, is working on an autobiography with an editor from Rolling Stone. He said he has met with theatre industry people interested in seeking both the treasure of his song trunk and the details of his story for a Jersey Boys-style musical that would feature young actors playing him in his earlier years.

"We went over a lot of material," Anka told Jerry Fink of the Sun. "We put something together and we're going to meet out here again soon and pursue it and see where we go from there. …They want to do exactly what was done with Jersey Boys."

The Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys, about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is now an international smash, and its Broadway run continues. Movin' Out, a dance musical with Billy Joel hits sung live, was also a smash.

Anka would not appear in the show, and it would probably focus on his heyday in Las Vegas in the 1960s and '70s, he said.

"I feel confident there is enough dynamics in all the earlier days of Las Vegas," Anka said. "There's a wealth of back drama to it. It's not going to be '... and then I wrote.' I'm going to talk about things that have drama and have conflict. It was not always easy for me." Anka started his career in Las Vegas in 1958, appearing with Sophie Tucker at the Sahara. He appeared briefly as a replacement Sammy Glick in Broadway's What Makes Sammy Run?, and sang in concert on Broadway in 1976.

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Anka was born July 30, 1941, in Ottawa "into a tight-knit Lebanese-Canadian family, he didn't waste much time getting his life in music started," according to his official website paulanka.com. "He sang in the choir at St. Elijah Syrian Orthodox Church and briefly studied piano. He honed his writing skills with journalism courses, even working for a spell at the Ottawa Citizen. By 13, he had his own vocal group, the Bobbysoxers. He performed at every amateur night he could get to in his mother's car, unbeknownst to his mother. He won a trip to New York by winning a Campbell's soup contest that required him to spend three months collecting soup can labels.

"In 1956, he convinced his parents to let him travel to Los Angeles, where he called every record company in the phone book looking for an audition. A meeting with Modern Records led to the release of Anka's first single, 'Blau-Wile Deverest Fontaine.' It was not a hit, but Anka kept plugging away, going so far to sneak into Fats Domino's dressing room to meet the man in Ottawa. When Anka returned New York in 1957, he scored a meeting with Don Costa, the A&R man for ABC-Paramount Records. He played him a batch of songs that included 'Diana' — Costa was duly enthusiastic about the potential of the young singer and songwriter. The rapid and enormous success of 'Diana' made him a star.

"They are all very autobiographical," Anka said of his early hits. "I was alone, traveling, girls screaming, and I never got near them. I'm a teenager and feeling isolated and all that. That becomes 'Lonely Boy.' At record hops, I'm up on stage and all these kids are holding each other with heads on each other's shoulders. Then I have to go have dinner in my room because there are thousands of kids outside the hotel — 'Put Your Head on My Shoulder' was totally that experience."

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