Do you know who Ronnie Tober is? You would if you lived in Holland.
Born in Bussum, Netherlands, in 1945, his family moved to Albany three years later. He was a born performer. Here he is at age 8, performing with the Louis Raimundo Troupe in a Hoffman’s Skateland show called “Around The World.”
That same year, Tober joined the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Boys Choir. Accompanied by his mother on piano, Ronnie began singing at various family and public events, including a 1955 Christmas party at Don Allen Chevrolet, where he sang “Count Your Blessings.” (Photo credit Joyce Rosano)
The singing prodigy studied dance with Tommy Sternfeld beginning in 1957.
At Easter time, 1958, Ronnie was was named boy soprano soloist for his church choir. He would remain active in church choir until age 14.
Here he is performing at Our Lady of Angels in 1959. Dressed as Fredrich von Trapp, he sang a song from “The Sound of Music.”
Around this time, Ronnie Tober started appearing on Teenage Barn, where he soon became a weekly feature guest. He also began taking vocal lessons from John Besson, another transplanted Hollander who was on the faculty of the Troy Conservatory of Music.
By 1960, things began to happen for Tober, now a freshman at Colonie Central. He was noticed by local lounge singer Vivian Swandon, who introduced him to Albany talent agency impressario Budd Torrini. Torrini booked the area sensation into the Student Prince, as well as clubs in Glens Falls and Lake George. Ronnie joined Albany Civic Theater’s production of “The Corn Is Green.” He even sang at a local campaign appearance by then-Presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
Budd Torrini brought Ronnie Tober to Boston to audition for Dr. Guy R. Sweeney, Boston physician and president of the Guy Record Company. Tober was signed to record a one-off single for Guy Records. Despite both sides (“She Used To Be Mine” / “Who Taught You How”) being penned by successful songsmiths, the record went nowhere, and Guy Records folded after just three releases.
1961: At age 16, Ronnie Tober’s visibility continued to increase. In August the Capital District Celebrity Club [what was this organization? -ed.] entered the pop singer in the nationwide Junior Mr. America Contest, held at Conneaut Lake Park, near Meadville, PA. Boys were judged on talent and personality (not muscles…this was a different contest with the same name!), and Ronnie Tober walked away the winner. Returning to Albany, the Loudonville boy continued to perform whenever and wherever possible. Here’s Ronnie meeting singer Frankie Laine at the opening of the Donna Amalia Room, Raphael’s Restaurant.
1962 was a watershed year where years of hard work began to pay off. Ronnie joined the touring Buddy Morrow Band, where he was a featured vocalist. In September, he journeyed to Chicago to guest star in an episode of Route 66.
Three months later, on Christmas break, the budding star returned to his Netherlands birthplace to visit his grandparents. While there, his uncle set up an appointment to perform on Wilhelm Duys “Off The Cuff,” of a Dutch version of the Tonight Show. Tober sang “Up A Lazy River.”
This led to a few local club appearances, at the Zinger Hotel (Noordik Aan Zea) and the Dutch Mill (Oustvorned). Local promoters asked him to stay, but Tober begged off, saying he had to return home to return to school. He returned to the States on January 4, 1963.
Back at home, Ronnie began singing Saturday nights at the Circle Inn, Latham, and later also at the Student Prince. He became a regular on Teenage Barn. Tober also supposedly guested on “The Perry Como Show” (singing “O Holy Night”) and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” although I can find no solid evidence thereof. Ronnie sang and acted in local productions of “Little Mary Sunshine”and “The Boyfriend.”
By 1964, Tober was still nightclubbing, and played the Thruway Motor Inn along with the Ted Forrest Revue.
He continued to occasionally host Teenage Barn (now just called The Barn). In March of that year, he flew to Brazil for an engagement at the Sand Dunes Hotel in Rio de Janiero.
All this time, Ronnie Tober was squirreling away his earnings for a return trip to Europe. When he’d made enough money, he insisted his mother accompany him to Holland. Tober gave up his classes at Colonie Central and headed back to Europe, this time to take up residence. He signed with Phonogram/Philips in August, 1964.
His second effort, “Iedere Avond (Every Night),” became top 5 hit.
Many successful albums and TV appearances followed. Ronnie’s participation in the Knokke Festival brought him fame in the rest of Europe and Russia. He became a regular on German TV, and represented Holland at all kinds of song festivals. He participated twice in the Eurovision Song Contest, the first in 1965 singing the number “Geweldig.” In 1966 he was a winner at the Sopot International Song Festival in Poland, for his medley, “Showtime on Broadway.” In Eurovision 1968 her represented the Netherlands in London’s Royal Albert Hall with the song “Morgen.”
I won’t try to write his entire life story here. Ronnie Tober became one of Holland’s biggest and most beloved stars ever, even to this day.
In 1998, Ronnie Tober married Jan Jochems, with whom he’d been since 1968. In 1999, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent chemotherapy. .
On 27 December 2003, during his 40th year in show business, Tober was made a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Tober’s name is also inscribed on the Wall of Fame at the Zuiderkerk (“southern church”) in Amsterdam.
Ronnie Tober will turn 73 this year, and is still going strong. Here’s Ronnie Tober from 2015.