“Roses are red my love/Violets are blue/Sugar is sweet my love/But not as sweet as you.” With those words, Bobby Vinton had the first number one hit of his career. The amazing thing was not that he had a number one hit during the pre-Beatles era in the United States, but that his brand of pop/easy listening music kept charting through the British Invasion, the psychedelic rock era, and on into the disco and punk eras. Now in his late 70s, he continues to tour. Not bad for an old trumpet player.
Bobby Vinton’s dream was to lead his own big band. He formed his first band while in high school and after two years in the U.S. Military signed with Epic Records as a trumpet player and band leader. Two instrumental albums followed with no commercial success. He had been notified that he was being dropped by the label but insisted they owed him two more sides, which would be issued as a single. He chose to sing a rhythm & blues rendition of a rejected song titled “Roses Are Red (My Love).” Someone at Epic had the sense to have him re-record it with strings and a vocal choir in support. Vinton emerged from the music scrap heap with the first number one single in the label’s history.
The song was a romantic ballad that was similar to many of his hits. There were always strings to support his voice, which was perfect for this kind of material. It first reached the Billboard Hot 100 during June of 1962 and on July 15, reached number one. It became one of the top five singles of the year, selling over one million copies and remaining at the top of the chart for four weeks. It even inspired an answer song, “Long As The Rose Is Red” by Florraine Darlin, which reached number 62 later that summer.
“Roses Are Red (My Love)” was the first of 45 Bobby Vinton singles to reach the Billboard Hot 100 and the first of four to reach number one. It may not have been rock and roll, but 50 years ago this week it ruled the American music world.