Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Our Bobby Rydell Interview Continues Today In Forgotten Hits (Part 2)

More from my conversations with Bobby Rydell ... today in Forgotten Hits!

Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits:  Do you have time for a few more questions?   

Bobby RydellOh yeah, I've got some time ... I'm just watching The Phillies now, playing The Washington Nationals ... 

kk:  lol ... well, I know you're a big sports fan ...  

BR:  Yes, I am  

kk:  One of the readers wrote in to say that he used to go his son's baseball games and I guess you used to coach YOUR son's baseball or Little League team ...  

BR:  Yeah, correct, uh-huh   

kk:  And he used to see you at the games all the time and he said "Yeah, he's just like a regular guy!"  I think it's great that once you were out of the spotlight you were able to step down from the stage and live as normal a life as possible off the stage ... coaching your son's baseball team and being able to enjoy some of the fun things about bringing up a family and just being a proud dad. 

BR:  Oh yeah ... I remember one time we had a little kid on one of the teams ... just a little guy ... he was no bigger than a New York Minute, you know ... and we called him "Bull", that was his nick-name ... and he got a walk and he's on first base, and I'm coaching first base and of course all the moms and dads are sitting in the stands and they're hollering at me, "Hey Bobby, how ya doing?" and I turned around to say hello to the people and the poor kid got picked off of first base!  

kk:  lol 

BR:  And he started to cry and I said, "No, no, no, it's MY fault" ... and here I am, coaching first base, and I wasn't watching the pitcher, and I totally forgot you, you know, I was talking to my fans in the crowd and the poor kid got picked off.  

kk:  Sounds like you were "in the moment"  (lol)  

BR:  I was in the moment, yeah  (lol)

kk:  Did any of your kids ever aspire to get into show business like their old man ... follow in your footsteps? 

BR:  No, no …  

kk:  What's their take on your whole career now with the benefit of all these years of hindsight?  

BR:  Oh, they love it, are you kidding?  They're very proud of me … and so are my grandchildren.   

kk:  That's really good to hear ... because sometimes it seems that you find it's a generation removed … and the next generation doesn't realize or fully appreciate the impact it was.   You know, one of the original Bandstand Dancers participates with Forgotten Hits from time to time. 

BR:  Is it Kenny Rossi?  I'll bet it's Kenny Rossi.  

kk:  No, I don't know Kenny … Eddie Kelly is the guy's name … you'll find some of his comments in our piece when it hits the website.

BR:  Ed Kelly?  The only kid I really knew well was Kenny Rossi.  Ed Kelly … I think I kinda remember him … as a matter of fact, I think he even recorded so you can look that up as well.  

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  Eddie Kelly made his first appearance on the program in 1959 … his regular dance partner was Kathleen "Bunny" Gibson.  They appeared together on the ABC Television Series "American Dreams" many years later and also did at least one of the reunion shows.  He was popular enough with the audience to find his own spot into some of the teen magazines of the day ... but as for recording, Eddie says, no, that was probably Kenny Rossi that Bobby is thinking of.] 

kk:  One more question from a reader:  "Bobby had been in a band as a drummer called Rocco and the Saints with Frankie Avalon. Frankie played trumpet (I have an EP by Frankie from 1954 on X Records) and Frankie was signed by Chancellor Records in 1957. Did Bobby continue playing with Rocco and the Saints? The group was even featured on the flipside of "Cupid", Frankie's first single for Chancellor Records, with a song called "Jivin' With the Saints". Was Bobby on drums on this track? Chancellor then signed Fabian in 1958. I'm wondering why they didn't sign Bobby, too, who signed with Cameo in 1959." Were there ever any talks between you and Chancellor Records?  Did you play drums on Frankie's B-Side?)   

BR:  I only played for Rocco and the Saints for one night … the drummer got sick so I only sat in for the one night … I was never really a full member of the band. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  I think THAT may be new information shared with our readers for the very first time … so much has been made over the years about Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell being in a band together early on, but I don't think most of America ever figured it lasted only one single evening!] 

kk:  A little more about Cameo / Parkway ... I mean obviously, it didn't end well there and there's been all kinds of speculation as to what ultimately caused the label's demise ... but then they really, really kinda screwed over all their artists by keeping that material off the market for DECADES.  

BR:  Yeah, well, a guy by the name of Allen Klein from ABKCO, when Cameo went defunct, he purchased all the tapes from Cameo and thank God, now, you know, they've remastered them and the stuff sounds absolutely wonderful 'cause now you can find my stuff and Chubby's and Dee Dee's and The Dovells and so on and so forth but that's the only way you can find any Cameo product now is through a label called ABKCO.  

kk:  But for YEARS they held this stuff back and it took you off the radio, and people couldn't buy the stuff and I never really understood the logic of that ... it's just never made sense to me. Fans of this era of music were always frustrated at the delay in releasing the Cameo Parkway catalog on CD.  It also kept a lot of this great music off the radio simply because it wasn't available.  Several artists (yourself included) went out and cut new versions (remakes) of your biggest hits just so that radio would have SOMETHING to feature by you again.  Most were faithful reproductions of the hits we knew and loved but it just wasn't the same.  Tell us what that was like for you?  Not only was this tactic hurting the artists but wasn't Allen Klein ultimately cheating himself out of a goldmine of record sales in the process ... not to mention in effect punishing these artists by having them fade from memory or being discovered by new fans along the way?  As an artist, what was your take on all of this?  Did you ever try reasoning with Klein on this matter?  It almost seems like a coalition of Cameo / Parkway artists could have gotten together and filed some sort of suit against ABKCO for the impact this decision had on your livelihood at the time.  Perhaps an effort to buy  back your masters?  Did you ever consider the possibility that this music may never be made available to the public again?  I never talked to Allen Klein but I've talked to Jody Klein a few times.  

BR:  Yeah, I know Jody very well ... Jody came to see me a couple of weeks ago ... or maybe a little bit more than that.  I was doing a solo appearance at The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City with a seventeen-piece orchestra and, because of the new book, Jody has an idea to do something ... to release something in relation to the book.  And it's not written in stone yet, but he had some ideas and, you know, we'll see what happens from there.  

kk:  I would think some kind of career retrospective video ... you know, some of the old Bandstand appearances, the early concert appearances, The Golden Boys stuff ... I would think there'd be a market for that, especially now with the book doing so well and kick-starting so many memories of The Bandstand Era.   

BR:  You know, you're probably right ... but I don't know who has the rights to all of that stuff now or who owns all that stuff now but yeah, I think it would be very marketable, sure.  To answer your earlier question, no, Kent, not that I know of … nobody ever approached me about trying to do anything.  Allen Klein bought the masters  … he owned them and he was free to do whatever he wanted to with them.  

kk:  It just seemed to me that this decision was depriving you of a huge chunk of  your livelihood, not to mention keeping you absent from the airwaves for decades there, separating you from your fans.  

BR:  Well, from what I understand, when Cameo went kinda belly-up, more or less defunct, Allen Klein bought all the masters.   

kk:  But locking them in a vault didn't make ANYONE any money … including HIM!!!  I just never got the reasoning or logic behind such a bonehead move!   

BR:  No, but they're released now …

kk:  I know, I know … but for 25-30 years NOBODY could buy copies of this material. 

BR:  Oh yeah, yeah, for a LONG time, yeah.  I don't know exactly how long. 

kk:  He kinda cheated himself in the process, too!  I mean, it wasn't just YOU guys … he cheated himself, too. 

BR:   (Laughing) I guess so, yeah.

Order your copy here: 

kk:  Somebody once told me that the Cameo Studio, if they were in the middle of a late night session and they needed to add some strings or something, it was not at all uncommon to ring up The Philadelphia Orchestra, who were practically across the street, and they would bring in some of those guys to play on some of those sessions. 

BR:  Well, you know, that's true ... because Cameo was 1405 Locust Street and right across the street was The Academy of Music (laughing) so you had all of these great musicians, you know, playing in hundred-piece orchestras all the time so if they needed some strings, you know they would call the offices and get ahold of the right people, get a contractor and get some strings in there and lay them on the track. 

kk:  Here's another question from a reader:  "You did a vocal version of 'Telstar' after the instrumental was a hit.  How did that come about?   

BR:  Oh yeah, right ... I don't know.  (LOL - both laughing)  I haven't an answer for that ... all I know is that I recorded it.  

kk:  I think they were probably wondering if there there had always been lyrics to the song or was this something that was created especially for your record?  

BR:  lol ... ahh, you got me ... I don't know!  I don't know if they WROTE lyrics or if there already were lyrics … I haven't a clue for Telstar.  I really don't know. 

kk: I'm telling you, we've got some pretty hard-core, knowledgeable rock and roll people on this list!  (lol)  

BR:  Yeah, I guess so!  (lol)  

kk:  A Forgotten Hits Reader writes:  "I have always been a big fan of Bobby Rydell.  I grew up watching the Philadelphia years on American Bandstand and have always considered that era as my favorite in pop music.  Bobby was a big part of that and I have always considered two of his hits, "Volare" and "Forget Him", as all-time favorites." Did you fully realize the impact that American Bandstand was having on the music world at the time?  History has been written to suggest that the whole teen idol craze was manufactured to feed the female frenzy while Elvis was away in the army - just a bunch of talentless, pretty boys who'd look good on magazine covers ... but you could actually sing and carry on a great performance.  I mean you were an all-around entertainer. What was it like dealing with that stereotype at the time and knowing that you were so much more than that?  The whole "teen idol" thing ... does that ever get old for you? 

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  The whole "teen idol" thing was a label that was first applied to Ricky Nelson, certainly one of the most talented and successful artists of the early rock era ... yet somehow it seem to take on a negative stereotype once more and more of these artists were "manufactured" to feed a young audience of females with raging hormones.]  

BR:   Ahh ... well, I AM old!  (laughing)  I'm 74 ... I don't think I'm a teen idol anymore!  (laughing)  But you're right ... exactly ... that's what we were ... we were the pretty boys ... we had a lot of hair ... pompadours and stuff ...  

kk:  I guess what I mean when I say "Did it ever get old?" what I mean to say is, "Did it ever get on your nerves, being lumped into that category when, in fact, you knew you could do so much more?"   

BR:  No, no, not really ... I mean it was a wonderful time and, unfortunately, it's a time that's over ... it'll never come back ... but it was a great time to be around, in the '50's and in the early '60's.  

kk:  I don't know about that ... I mean, you're still packing them in today as The Golden Boys!  I mean, the crowd is still there ... they're just all a little bit older, too ... but the memories of this era are shared on a special level.  

BR:   Yeah, absolutely ... they come out in droves.  

kk:  I mean this was a big, big part of their lives ... and they get the chance to relive a little bit of it when you guys come out on stage. 

BR:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  All of those songs meant something to those people, you know, back then.  

kk:  Let's go back to that for just a second ... 
During the Bandstand Era, Philadelphia was definitely the place to be because this is where things seemed to be happening first.  One reader describes Philadelphia as "the epicenter of the music world" for about five years when American Bandstand was on the air there ... and you certainly did more than your fair share of appearances on this program.  Obviously, there was a certain "convenience" of being in the right place at the right time, meaning that your "availability" to appear on the show put you out in front of millions of music fans on a daily basis, along with Chubby Checker, Freddy Cannon and a handful of others.  Were you aware of the impact this music was having at the time?  What did that look like from the other side? 

BR:  Oh absolutely!  I mean, the minute Dick Clark played a record … that show was NETWORK … it went from coast to coast every day from 3:30 in the afternoon till 5:00 at night and every kid in America wanted to hear what the latest record was … see what the new dance style was … and so on and so on.  Dick was EXTREMELY important. 

kk:  You logged an amazing number of appearances on "American Bandstand" and Dick Clark almost became like family to you, didn't he?  Tell us a little bit about Dick Clark … I know that he was a HUGE part of your life, especially in the early years ... there's no question that he helped your career to grow and you two remained lifetime friends, correct?  

BR:  Oh yeah … Dick and I … ALL of the guys from Philly, really … myself, Chubby, Frankie and Fabe … we did a lot of anniversary shows together … I did one myself, one with Frankie being a cohost with Annette … the relationship goes back a lot of years … and he was a wonderful guy … a very sincere and honest man as well.  

kk:  What was it like to be part of the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars in those early years and did all the entertainers get along?   

BR:  Oh yeah, let me see … I think I did three of the Caravan of Stars Tours … I think the last one I did, Frankie Avalon and myself co-starred together as headliners.    

kk:  And what was that like?  Who are some of the artists you toured with regularly back in the day?  That had to be pretty grueling, often doing half a dozen shows a day!  

BR:  Well, no, we never did half a dozen shows a day … we just traveled on the bus for five, six weeks, and played different cities every night, you know.  And I was only seventeen years old, so it was a hell of an experience for me.  And I was traveling around with The Coasters, The Drifters, Dion, Clyde McPhatter, The Skyliners … you know, all the people that were in the business the same that I was … and we were all havin' hits and it was a lot of fun to be together with your peers.

kk:  Sounds like half the fun was on the bus!   

BR:  Oh, absolutely!  (laughing)

kk:   None of the Philadelphia artists from this era have been inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ... and that's just wrong.  Certainly somebody like Chubby Checker ... the only artist in rock history to top the charts TWICE with the same record ... and ignite a dance sensation worldwide ... TWICE ... shouldn't have been overlooked by The Rock Hall.  There are many who would argue that some of these Philly artists should have been recognized a long time ago for their contributions to the musical landscape of rock and roll.  It seems like the music of this era has been "slighted" by The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as kind of the "doldrum days" between Elvis and The Beatles when there wasn't a whole lot going on in music.  Yet MILLIONS of kids came home from school every single day and clicked on "American Bandstand" to watch all the kids having fun and doing the latest dances, listening to all the big hits ... it was a daily part of their lives. 
What about guys like Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon?  Where do you rank yourself on this list of "Deserving and Denied" Artists?  Who do you feel belongs there but has never been given the nod?

BR:  (very disgusted tone) You know what, I don't know about the other guys, but I could care less.  It doesn't mean a bag of beans to me. I don't really care.

kk:  But obviously you must feel that SOME of these guys belong in there, right?  This just seems to be like some kind of snub to Philadelphia and the artists of this era when, in fact, it was some of the most popular music out at the time.

BR: Oh, I think ALL of us … I think myself and Frankie and Chubby … Fabe as well … you know, we had quite a few hit records and if they don't want us, they don't want us, and I really don't give a shit.

kk:  Understood … and, quite frankly, their reputation leaves a lot to be desired right now.  I mean this thing hasn't turned out at ALL like it was supposed to be … and being inducted was supposed to MEAN something as a recognition for a successful career and a contribution to the evolution of rock and roll music.

BR:  Absolutely, absolutely … look at this thing with Steve Miller

kk:  Although I've got to say that a couple of years ago, when Hall and Oates were inducted, Daryl Hall made a big pitch for the Philly artists.

BR:  Well, you know, I guess they didn't listen!  Like I said, I don't care … I REALLY don't care.

kk:  The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame has honored and recognized Dick Clark for his contributions to the growth and survival of rock and roll music … but I think that someone like Ed Sullivan should also be enshrined for his contribution of bringing this music into our living rooms on a weekly basis as well.  I mean he had EVERYBODY on his show … and if you did The Sullivan Show on Sunday Night, you were almost guaranteed of massive record sales the following day.   We did a series a few years back where artists told what it was like to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show for the very first time.  I would love to add your comments to this posting.  Most consider that booking to being the moment they officially realized that they had made it in show business.  Now you had already been doing television for quite some time prior to that.  Still, it had to be a pretty electrifying moment.  That HAS to be one of your career landmarks, right?

BR:  What, The Ed Sullivan Show?  Oh my God, it was like the kids, back when Dick Clark was on, everybody raced home from school to watch American Bandstand.  And, of course, Ed Sullivan was one of those guys that you NEVER missed … you know, The Toast Of The Town and The Ed Sullivan Show … it was HUGE, you know, to be a guest on Ed's show … it was spectacular, of course.  It was a network tv show, for cryin' out loud!

kk:  And he had a HUGE audience … EVERYBODY watched The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights.

BR:  Well, yeah, it was the biggest show at the time, The Ed Sullivan Show … and he had EVERYBODY on for cryin' out loud.

kk:  Any special memories of that?

BR:  I didn't really spend too much time with Ed Sullivan, you know, I would be there for rehearsal … I'd see him and we'd chat, you know, it was very, very casual, you know … it'd be like "Oh, hi Ed" … "Hi, Bobby, how ya doin'?  Look forward to havin' you on the show tonight" and all of that stuff.  I never really knew the man that well.

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  Ed Sullivan and The Ed Sullivan Show became a central character in the film version of "Bye Bye Birdie" … in fact Paul Lynde (as Ann-Margret's dad) led the chorus in singing a tribute to television's most popular (stone-faced) variety show host!]

kk:  I know there's a Philadelphia Walk of Fame that inducts new artists every year.  You also mentioned the giant artists mural in Philadelphia acknowledging some of these early Philly stars ... we've seen it and it's beautiful ... we actually did a private tour of the Philadelphia International Studios, a few years back, obviously before it burned down ... what a shame that was ... there's just so much history there in that building, dating back to the Cameo / Parkway days. Many people would argue (and DID argue) that The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame really belongs in Philadelphia ... and I know there was a lot of talk about this at the time before Cleveland was picked to be home to the museum.  What are your thoughts on that? 

BR:  Yeah, there's a guy, George Pettignano, he's from New York City and he worked for CBS for many years and he had this idea to come up with The Philadelphia Rock And Roll Music Hall Of Fame, and it's in the works and it looks like it could happen in the very near future.  Actually, it's not the "rock and roll" ... it's called The Philadelphia Music Hall Of Fame.  It's not to be in competition with Cleveland ... it's just a way to recognize all of the great artists who came out of this great city over the years.

kk:  I think that'd be great ... you could almost do a museum sort of thing and they could recreate the original studio of American Bandstand and prop up some old, vintage television cameras and show videos of the program up on the big screen from back in the day ... almost like that TV show "American Dreams" did back in the day, trying to recapture the spirit of American Bandstand.  Look how big of a hit "Hairspray" was with a similar theme.  Prop up the old "Rate A Record" sign and hold dance contests on the weekend!  I think people would come from all over the country to see that!

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  There is a Facebook Page for The Philadelphia Music Hall Of Fame and it says that Bobby Rydell will be performing at a special "Summer In The City" cocktail ceremony there later this month on June 24th!  However, according to Bobby, he knows of no such booking … so please confirm before making any plans to attend.  (I think this may be more of a case where Bobby will just be one of the guests, along with other Philly Luminaries like Charlie Gracie, The Tymes, The Rip Chords, The Soul Survivors, Ed Hurst and others.)  We have covered the nominees for the Philadelphia Walk Of Fame several times over the years in Forgotten Hits]   
More info here:    

BR:  Well, I think you're right, Kent.  I mean not only guys like myself and Avalon and Chubby and Fabe and so on and so forth, but I think Philadelphia deserves a Music Hall Of Fame because it's always been one of the cities that brought the world some great jazz musicians, concert musicians, and so on ... there needs to be something that honors ALL of these people, not only just us guys ... we had people like Leopold Stokowski, Philly Joe Jones, Johnny Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and they're all from Philadelphia so it would encompass ALL of the people who came out of Philadelphia, not only just the supposed rock and roll people 

kk:  I think it'd be great to do a whole Philly show ... get some of these artists together like yourself, Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon, Freddy Cannon ... I know Freddy just had some surgery, too, but he's back out there performing again, doing some cruise ships and some other things, and all these guys are back out there again anyway,  get 'em all together for one big Bandstand Show because there's still an audience out there that'll pay to see them.


Be sure to stop back tomorrow when we wrap things up with Bobby Rydell!