Paul Anka was one of the biggest teen idols of the late 1950s. Before his rise to superstardom he was a child prodigy. His show-business career began at the age of 12 when he performed as an impressionist. At age 14 he stole the family car to drive to amateur singing contests in a town near his home in Quebec. He wowed audiences with his original songs. His first single, 'I Confess,' was released on a small Riviera Records subsidiary label. Anka soon earned an audition with ABC producer Don Costa. He sang 'Diana,' an ode to an old babysitter, and Costa liked what he heard. The single 'Diana' soon hit number one in the United States and Great Britain. By 1957 the record had sold ten million copies.
Only a short year later, Anka found his songs at the top of the charts again. 'You Are My Destiny' and 'Crazy Love' both reached the top 20. Anka's songs questioned authority, as many rock and roll groups did during the era. His songs appealed to a young crowd, around the star's own age. Anka was a phenomenal singer and songwriter and his talents were recognized and appreciated by peers in the business. Anka wrote one of Buddy Holly's last hits, 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore.' He used his stardom to break into the movie business. He starred in Let's Rock and Girls Town. One of Anka's songs that appeared in Girls Town became a smash hit. Four songs reached the charts in 1959: 'Lonely Boy,' 'It's Time to Cry,' 'Puppy Love,' and 'Put Your Head on My Shoulder.' 'Puppy Love,' written about Anka's old flame Annette Funicello, later became a hit for Donny Osmond as well.
After years as the heartthrob of thousands of teenage girls, Anka's teen idol craze began to calm. By 1961, Anka had written over 125 compositions, created his own record label, and was recognized as having the second best-selling single of all time. Paul Anka was not ready to drop out of the limelight, even though his audience had begun to grow up. He moved on to try his hand at the adult music market. His first goal was to create a new image through a successful touring career. Anka appeared at many swanky clubs and venues that catered to a more mature clientele. He filled seats at the famous Copacabana. Anka soon signed with RCA and bought the rights to his old masters. He was a shrewd businessman. The move earned him millions on reissues of his old albums.
He appeared in several more movies to boost his reputation and fame. He also became one of the first pop singers to do shows in Las Vegas. Tickets to his superstar shows sold quickly throughout the 60s. He hosted television shows like Hullabaloo, The Midnight Special, and Spotlite. He wrote the theme to the Tonight Show, which aired every weeknight for almost thirty years. He wrote Tom Jones' biggest hit, 'She's a Lady.' His records did not sell as well during the 70s and 80s, but he continued writing and performing to crowds of faithful fans. Anka did manage to chart several songs during the 80s and 90s, and his Las Vegas and international shows continue to sell well today.