Paul Vance

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Paul Vance (born Joseph Paul Florio[1] on November 4, 1929[2] in Brooklyn, New York, United States) is an American songwriter and record producer.


With over 300 recorded songs, Vance co-wrote (with Lee Pockriss) such hits as "Catch a Falling Star," recorded in 1957 by Perry Como, which topped Billboard's "Most Played By Jockeys" chart and became one of Como's signature songs, and "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," recorded in 1960 by Brian Hyland, which rose to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Vance got the idea for "Itsy Bitsy Bikini" because his daughter was too shy to wear a bikini in public. The song was a Top 10 hit in other countries around the world. In 1959, Vance and Pockriss released a single for Columbia records as "Lee and Paul," a novelty tune called "The Chick." Vance and Pockriss also provided English lyrics for the song "Calcutta". "What Will Mary Say", a Top 10 hit for the singer Johnny Mathis in 1963, was written by Vance with Eddie Snyder.

In 1964, Vance and Pockriss wrote a song entitled "Leader Of The Laundromat," a spoof of the then-popular "Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-Las, and Vance produced a recording of the track by a trio consisting of Ron Dante, Tommy Wynn, and Vance's nephew Danny Jordan. The record was released under the name the Detergents, and its success led to an album called The Many Faces Of The Detergents, which Vance produced and for which he, along with Pockriss, penned all the songs. The release of "Leader of the Laundromat" earned a lawsuit against the group by "Leader Of The Pack" composers Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and George "Shadow" Morton. Dante would later work alongside Barry as lead vocalist for the Archies.

In 1965, Vance and Pockriss wrote "What's Going On in the Barn," which Billy Thornhill recorded for Wand Records as the B-side to his recording of "The Key," written by Pockriss and Hal Hackady.[3] The following year, Vance had a minor hit as a singer when his recording of "Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad)", intended as a demo, was released by Scepter Records.[4]

In 1969, Vance teamed up with Dante after the latter agreed to record a demo of the new Vance/Pockriss composition, "Tracy." Dante provided all the voices on the recording, both leads and backgrounds, and the single was released under the name The Cuff Links. Its success prompted Vance to bring Dante back into the recording studio to record an entire album's worth of songs, and the resultant LP, also entitled Tracy, was rush-released to capitalize on the popularity of the single. As with The Detergents' album, Vance produced the recording sessions and co-wrote all of the songs with Pockriss.

In 1972, Vance and Pockriss penned "Playground In My Mind," which was recorded by Clint Holmes, and became a 1973 #2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it remained for 23 weeks. The single was awarded gold record status on July 3, 1973. Vance's son, Philip, sang on the refrain on the recording along with Holmes. In 1974, Vance discovered singer/songwriter Joseph Nicoletti, later a successful singer of commercial jingles, and recorded "Changing Colors" with Nicoletti on RCA Records. Vance co-wrote and produce the song "Run Joey Run" for David Geddes in 1975; the song reached the top 5 on the Billboard charts that year.

The songwriting duo also wrote the ballad, "I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do," first recorded by Astrud Gilberto and covered by Natalie Cole, Esther Phillips, and Dee Dee Warwick.

Through the years, Vance continued to produce various recording artists, including Kathy Keates, who recorded, among other songs on the RCA Records label, the hit single "I Think About You" with Al Martino.

In October 2009, Vance was nominated for induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[5]

False report of death[edit]

On September 6, 2006, a man named Paul van Valkenburgh of Ormond Beach, Florida, died from complications of lung cancer. An obituary published in The News-Times of Danbury, Connecticut repeated Van Valkenburgh's claim that he had written the song "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini" under the pen name of Paul Vance, but that he had sold his rights to the song decades earlier. The report was picked up by the Associated Press, which ran a short obituary of Vance based on both the News-Times obituary and information received from Van Valkenburgh's widow. The AP obituary was picked up by newspapers and other media outlets worldwide.

Vance contacted local media after viewing a report of his death on a local television news broadcast. He announced that he was still alive and was able to prove his identity to reporters with a stack of royalty checks from ASCAP for his songwriting. He told a reporter for The New York Times that his relatives and friends, shocked by the Associated Press report, had called to check on him after the media reports, and that two racehorses he owned had been scratched from races based on the reports.[6] Vance also told the Times that he was considering legal action, since licensees outside the United States might be confused by the false report of his death and discontinue making royalty payments. He was quoted as saying, "Believe me, if they think you’re dead, they ain’t going to send the money."[7]


In September 2014, after eight years in the making, Vance published his memoir, titled Catch a Falling Star.

Personal life[edit]

Vance currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida. His son, Philip, who sang the chorus of "Playground in my Mind" with Clint Holmes, died on December 13, 2009, at age 44.[8]


  1. ^ "'Itsy Bitsy' songwriter Paul Vance looking for another hit at 85".
  2. ^ "Paul Vance". iTunes.
  3. ^ "Oddball Psych 45 BILLY THORNHILL The Key Whats Going On WAND VG hear garage - eBay".
  4. ^ "For Hot Disk Singer Vance, It's Composing First, Last, Always". Billboard magazine. October 8, 1966. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  5. ^ "John Mellencamp - Official Website :: John Mellencamp Official Website".
  6. ^ "'Itsy Bitsy' writer victim of itsy-bitsy imposter". September 27, 2006. Archived from the original on September 28, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-27.
  7. ^ Leeds, Jeff (September 28, 2006). "Itsy-Bitsy Bikini, Big Mistake: Paul Vance Is Alive and Well". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  8. ^ "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2009 July to December".