Monday, June 20, 2016

Join Us For Our Week-Long Salute To Bobby Rydell

This week in Forgotten Hits we're going "Full Throttle" Bobby ...  

A review of Bobby Rydell's new book ...

An exclusive, brand new interview with the teen idol ...

And a full page of comments and tributes ...

It's the "Bobby Blitz" all week long in Forgotten Hits ... so be sure to tell a friend (or twenty) so they can check it out, too!


I have to say that I really enjoyed Bobby Rydell's biography "Teen Idol On The Rocks" ... it is well written and very entertaining. 

In one of the opening testimonials, Cousin Brucie states that reading Bobby's book is just like sitting across the table from him.  I felt exactly the same way.  The biggest difference, of course, is that Cousin Brucie and Bobby Rydell have known each other for 150 years ... and we have never met ... but none of that seemed to matter as Bobby told the story of his remarkable career.  It was especially interesting for me to be able to talk to Bobby after reading his book.  For years and years ... as long as I've been doing Forgotten Hits ... I have heard from absolutely EVERYONE who has ever come in contact with him what a genuinely nice guy he is ... and that, too, came across in our interview.  (You'll find it up on the website tomorrow in Forgotten Hits ... and it'll run for the next three days!)  He sincerely appreciates all of the accolades that have fallen upon him during the course of his long career.  If you think he was humble before, this is even more the case since he underwent double organ replacement surgery a few years ago. 

Gary Theroux, who wrote the syndicated radio special "The History Of Rock And Roll", offered up a brief look back over Bobby's career.  I am running it below, along with a few tidbits from me to fill in a little more of what I learned while reading Bobby's book.  This is followed by The Bobby Rydell Hit List ... an incredible bank of hits that made The National Top 50.  Enjoy. 


Bobby Rydell was born in Philadelphia in 1942.   At age eight in 1950 he won a talent contest which landed him on Paul Whiteman's "TV Teen Club" TV series where he became a regular (1951 - 1954). (In case you don't know, Whiteman was the '20's most popular big band leader.  Billed as "The King of Jazz," genial Paul racked up some 220 hits between 1920 and 1954, the most famous of which was "Rhapsody In Blue," which George Gershwin composed especially for Whiteman.)  There are so few people around today who worked with Whiteman so closely (Whiteman died in 1967.)   
In 1956, Bobby played drums in the unsuccessful band Rocco and the Saints, which included Frankie Avalon on trumpet. For various small labels Bobby cut three flop singles (which got endlessly reissued on budget LPs after he achieved stardom) before signing with Cameo in 1959.

Bobby practically grew up on the stage ... there are photos of him doing his Frank Fontaine / Crazy Guggenheim imitation when he was just a kid ... and performing at the March Of Dimes telethon in 1954 at the ripe old age of twelve.  He did stand up comedy, impressions and sang ... and was a natural in front of a live audience.  (kk) 

His first love was drumming ... and Bobby tells a particularly interesting story about a drumming showdown between himself and the great Buddy Rich.  His "starter kit" wasn't much ... but Bobby's father bought him a top-of-the-line Ludwig set when Bobby was just thirteen years old.  That kit came at the expense of Bobby's father's middle finger, which he lost in a work-related accident.  His Dad took the settlement money and bought Bobby a $525 Ludwig drum set. 

As a drummer, he teamed with Frankie Avalon (on trumpet!) in Rocco and the Saints when he was just twelve years old.  Both would go on to become huge teen idols during "The Bandstand Craze" of the late '50's and early '60's.  (Bobby and Frankie were the true definition of frenemies before there even was such a word.  Throughout their careers the would fight each other yet always be there for one another no matter what else might be happening to either of them.)  Bobby also performed in a band called The Emanons, whose guitarist, Pat Azzara, went on to become jazz great Pat Martino several years later.  (kk)

Bobby was a favorite of Red Skelton, who made Rydell a semi-regular on his TV series as Zeke Kaddiddlehopper, Clem's cousin. 
Show business veteran George Burns also took Bobby under his wing, in much the same way he did with Bobby Darin.  At the age of 19, Bobby Rydell became the youngest star to ever headline at The Copacabana.  (kk) 

In 1963 Bobby appeared in the movie "Bye Bye Birdie," starring Ann-Margaret.  

"Bye Bye Birdie" remains a personal favorite of mine.  After growing up loving this film, my daughters also fell in love with it decades later.  Ann-Margret played the very innocent (and virginal) Kim McAfee.  She'd play sultry sex kitten Rusty Martin in her very next film, "Viva Las Vegas" opposite Elvis Presley.  Their chemistry sizzled both on screen and off.  (Sounds like young Bobby was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time!  lol) While there was certainly an attraction between Bobby and Ann (and, most likely, every other living and breathing male she ever crossed paths with!), nothing happened between them and they have remained friends for the past 53 years.  In fact, they still address each other as "Hugo" and "Kim" when they see each other and have done several "Bye Bye Birdie" reunion appearances since.  (kk)   

In 1964 Bobby left Cameo and signed with Capitol -- which, at that point, was fully focused on their hottest act at the time, The Beatles.  Despite him coming off a smash movie, none of Bobby's Capitol releases went anywhere -- as Beatlemania seemed to make the title of  Bobby's last Cameo hit ("Forget Him") come true for him.  In 1965 Bobby signed with Frank Sinatra's Reprise label, but also scored no hits for that label.

After a string of 22 Top 50 Hits with Cameo, Bobby jumped ship to what he believed would be greener pastures at Capitol Records.  It's a mystery why they even signed him.  Between The Beatles and The Beach Boys, the label seemed to show little interest in very much else.  Bobby perceived it as a big feather in his cap to sign first with the label that make Frank Sinatra's career ... and then he moved to Sinatra's own label a few years later.  After hearing Bobby's recording of "Sway" (a #12 Hit in 1960), Sinatra dubbed him "the best male pop singer of his generation."  (kk)

In 1975 Bobby appeared in the film "The Lady From Peking"

Hampering Bobby's career was the purchase of the entire Cameo-Parkway tape library by Allen Klein, who refused to reissue the label's output for decades (until 2005).   Without airplay, the careers of Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker and the rest of the Cameo-Parkway roster faded over time.   A few, including Bobby, re-recorded some of their hits for K-Tel but, of course, those were not the original hit recordings.

I have NEVER understood (nor will I ever understand) the logic behind this move.  Klein was a sharp, shrewd business man.  Locking all this music in the vault for decades not only deprived these artists of radio airplay that may also have helped generate more sales of their music, but this affected Klein's pocket book as well, as he was earning NOTHING from this material while it sat locked away.  (I can't help but think that Dave Clark must have failed the same business courses as Allen Klein.)  Perhaps they thought this material was invaluable ... and that supply and demand would drive the value upwards for that which wasn't readily available for public consumption.  But it all backfired in the long run.  Nobody made ANY money off this music during its thirty years in captivity and, by the time it was finally released in the 2000's, a good percentage of its target audience was already gone.  (kk)

In the movie "Grease," the high school is named "Rydell High" in honor of Bobby.

In 2012 Bobby underwent organ transplants to replace his liver and kidneys.  A few months later returned to live performances.

Bobby developed a serious drinking problem.  When his first wife, Camille, was diagnosed with cancer, it only worsened ... and, after she passed, it had pretty much spun out of control.  Ironically, early in his book Bobby tells the story of a drummer who was so inebriated during a live show that his performance was all over the place.  When Bobby confronted the man afterwards, the drummer was shocked, believing that he had just given the greatest performance of his entire career.  

In 1985, promoter / manager Dick Fox came up with the idea of teaming Bobby, Frankie Avalon and Fabian together in what would become a decades-long success series of shows known as "The Golden Boys", which are still playing to sell-out crowds today.  It revitalized the careers of all three Philly teen idols.  (In 1985, Bobby asked Frankie how much longer he thought they could keep this up ... maybe another year or two and then they'd have to pack it in.  Here it is, over thirty years later, and the trio are still going strong!)    

Unfortunately, once his drinking routine increased, Bobby would often times find himself half in the bag before taking the stage, putting him in the exact same position as the drummer mentioned earlier ... thinking he was putting on a show-stopping performance when, in fact, Frankie and Fabian had to carry him through most of the show.  After years of abusive drinking took its toll, Rydell had to undergo double organ transplants to replace his liver and kidneys.  It proved to be a huge wake-up call.  (Shortly after that he also went through heart surgery!)

After his first wife passed, Bobby went through an extended period of grieving.  He later remarried and has been "off the wagon" ever since.  The surgery can only be described as life-saving ... it took twenty hours ... but six months later Bobby sold out three nights at the Sun Coast Casino in Las Vegas ... an all-together triumphant return to the stage.  (kk)

The Golden Boys ... then and now ...

Other things I learned reading Bobby's book ...

Bobby lost his virginity at the age of 17 in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.  Without telling him, his manager Frankie Day and Cameo / Parkway boss Bernie Lowe snuck a hooker into his room while he was napping.  (Hey, you've gotta have a LITTLE dirt!!!  You won't find much else in Bobby's memoirs ... he speaks lovingly of his two wives but mentions little else, almost eluding to an almost monk-like existence during the peak of his teen idol popularity ... and we ALL know better than that!!!  We talk a little bit about that squeaky clean image ... well, I do anyway! ... during our upcoming interview.

While Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon posted the highest career numbers, Bobby Rydell was also one of Dick Clark's most frequent guests on "American Bandstand"

Bobby has toured Australia 22 times ... he is still considered a major star and attraction Down Under

Bobby read for the role of Benjamin Braddock in the film "The Graduate", which eventually went to Dustin Hoffman and became a career-making move.

Lifelong frenemies Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon once punched each other out in a hotel lounge the night before appearing at The Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, New York.  The both took the stage the following night with black eyes and bruised, swollen faces.  Both were able to make light of the fact that things got just "a little bit out of control!!!" (lol they are at a happier time!)  kk

Bobby's book is a pure delight ... and this is absolutely your last chance to win a copy ...

Shoot me an email with the words "Bobby Rydell" in the subject line and we'll enter your name in a drawing to receive a copy of Bobby's brand new autobiography, "Teen Idol On The Rocks".  We'll award the winner a copy when this week's series wraps up on Friday.  (kk)



The Bobby Rydell Hit List:  22 Top 50 National Hits

1959 - KISSIN' TIME  (#11)

          WE GOT LOVE  (#2)

          I DIG GIRLS  (#44) flip side of WE GOT LOVE

1960 - WILD ONE  (#2, and Bobby's biggest hit)

          LITTLE BITTY GIRL (#19)  flip side of WILD ONE

          SWINGIN' SCHOOL (#5)  from the movie "Because
          They're Young" --  it has been reported that Lennon 
          and McCartney were thinking about this song and its
          structure when they wrote "She Loves You" ... but the
          same has also been said about "We Got Love"

          DING-A-LING (#17)  flip side of SWINGIN' SCHOOL

          VOLARE  (#4)

          SWAY (#12)  in 1976 Bobby recorded and released a 
          very good disco version of this song (it "bubbled
          under" at #114)

1961 - GOOD TIME BABY  (#10)

          THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC  (#17)

          THE FISH  (#16)

          I WANNA THANK YOU  (#21)

          JINGLE BELL ROCK (#20)  duet with Chubby Checker

1962 - I'VE GOT BONNIE  (#17)

          LOSE HER  (#49)  flip side of I'VE GOT BONNIE

          I'LL NEVER DANCE AGAIN  (#14)

          THE CHA-CHA-CHA  (#10)

1963 - BUTTERFLY BABY  (#22)

          WILDWOOD DAYS (#17)  Gary's favorite Bobby Rydell 
          hit ... refers to the beaches and nightllife in 
          Wildwood, N.J.

          FORGET HIM (#4)  and mine ... written by Tony 
         Hatch, who also wrote "Downtown" and most of
          Petula Clark's key hits.  The flip side was the spoken 
          word track "Message from Bobby, in which he talks 
          about "Bye Bye Birdie" and promotes "Forget Him."  

1964 - MAKE ME FORGET  (#43)



Our exclusive interview with Bobby Rydell begins.  You're not going to want to miss this!  Join us all week long as we salute Bobby Rydell!