In 2016, we did a week-long series on '60's Teen Idol Bobby Rydell ...
"Full Throttle" Bobby ...
Featuring a review of Bobby's new book ...
An exclusive, brand new interview with the teen idol ...
And a full page of comments and tributes ...
It was the "Bobby Blitz" all week long in Forgotten Hits ... kicking off with a Career Time Capsule provided by Gary Theroux, writer of the hit syndicated radio series The History Of Rock And Roll, The Bobby Rydell Hit List (featuring all of Bobby's Top 50 National Hits) and more.
You can check out the compelte recap below.
I have to say that I really enjoyed Bobby Rydell's biography "Teen Idol On The Rocks" ... it is well written and very entertaining.
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.)
We had a ball talking to Bobby Rydell last week about his new book ... as well as going over some of the highlights of his entire career.
I've been told by virtually every person who has ever come in contact with him that Bobby is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys in show business ... he really loves and appreciates his fans ... and all of that came across during the time we talked together.
You can order a copy of the book here:
Or, for a few dollars more, get an autographed copy here:
And, while you're waiting for it to come in, you can read all about it ... and so much more ... here:
Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits: Hi Bobby, so very nice to meet you. First of all, before we get started, let me just get a quick gush out of the way ... I want to tell you that I really loved the book ... I really enjoyed it.
Bobby Rydell: Well, thank you, Kent
kk: It's interesting because Cousin Brucie (who you've known for 150 years) said it was like sitting across the table from you and just talking and I felt exactly the same way, even 'tho we've never met - I found it very well written and entertaining and a lot of your personality came out throughout the storytelling … it was a very enjoyable read. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Scroll back to yesterday to see our full book review and brief bio, courtesy of Gary Theroux of "The History Of Rock And Roll".]
BR: Well, thanks again ... you know a lot of people have said that so I really appreciate it.
kk: Well, the book is doing VERY well … it's VERY popular and has been getting a LOT of press. You've already got book signings scheduled throughout November. So that's gotta feel pretty good … that there's that many people out there who want to hear you tell your story.
BR: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. If you look on Amazon and you look at the reviews, people who have bought the book are saying very nice things about it. Last time I looked there were 83 reviews posted and they're practically all five star reviews.
kk: Well maybe this interview will entice a few more fans to buy it!
BR: No, no, there's nothing I can really do to entice anybody to buy the book. It's up to them … if they care about me and want to learn about my career, then they're going to buy it … there's really nothing I can do to get them to buy it.
kk: Well, as I told you before, I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it's a great read.
BR: Thank you, thank you.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Actually, I think reading more about Bobby ... and hearing him talk about his incredible career WILL entice more people to buy the book ... certainly anybody who was on the fence before, I believe, will be swayed (pun intended) to pick up a copy and read it for themselves! Others who may be discovering the "real Bobby" through our series are also apt to grab it as well. What would be the point of doing a big book-signing tour if not to bring people out to buy a copy of your book?!?!]
kk: What finally got you to do it? Were you asked to write a book? Or is this something you've been wanting to do for a long time?
BR: Well, you know, sitting around after a show, sitting down with people, you start relating stories and everybody to a person said, "Bobby, you have so many stories, you oughtta write a book" … and I'd always pass it by and say "Who the hell wants to read a book about me?" until I sat down with Allan Slutsky and then we decided to do a book that really got down to the nitty gritty … you know, the good, the bad and the ugly … and that's what the book says. And I had known Allan for years so it seemed like a natural way to get all this down.
kk: I invited our Forgotten Hits Readers to send in a few of their questions (and I've got quite a few of my own, too!) so I think you're going to find that we're fully armed and ready to go for this interview!
BR: OK, well let's get to it, then!
kk: You began entertaining at a very early age, practically growing up on stage ... I mean you were doing stand-up and impressions before you were even ten years old. Is this something that you just always knew you were going to do? Did you have this "bug" from as far back as you can remember? Is this something that has always been with you? It had to happen very early on but can you pin point a time when you realized that you wanted make a career in show business?
BR: Well, it all goes back to when my father was overseas ... my mama used to write to my father that the baby's always singing , the baby's always singing, and my father wrote back and said, "Well who knows, maybe one day we'll have a star in the family." And the only reason that I'm in the business today, if I had any talent within me whatsoever, was because my father was the first one to see it ... and he used to take me around to the clubs when I was seven, eight years old and he'd ask the club owner "Can my son get up and do some impersonations and sing some songs?", so I guess you're right … because of that, at a very early age, it was ingrained in me ... and show business has been the major part of my life since I was seven years old, I guess, and up until today.
kk: And it really was an accelerated progression for you, too ... you started out in the background on the drums ... then moved out from behind the drums and came up front as a singer (a rather unusual thing at the time as there weren't a lot of singing drummers back then ... especially to find someone who was so proficient in both areas.) From there you picked up the dance steps, moved into movies and regular television appearances, where you went on to expand your comedic skills, all the while still touring and doing stage shows and live appearances to sell out crowds ... not really a NATURAL progression, I guess ... I mean most people wouldn't really consider these to be baby steps ... but you just seemed a NATURAL to do all these things and continue to grow and expand as an artist ... as really an all-around entertainer.
BR: No, I guess for most people these wouldn't be considered baby steps, but for ME this was kinda my sort of vaudeville ... starting at that early age and my dad taking me around to clubs so you know I was ingrained in the business very early and I guess more or less you could say it was my vaudeville.
kk: Was that kind of the planned deal, then ... a preconceived career move to become an all-around entertainer?
BR: No, no, there was no plan whatsoever ... you know my dad took me around at a very early age and I sang and I did some impersonations and people applauded so I went "Wow, this is wonderful! All I have to do is do this and do that" ... and it's a great feeling, you know!
kk: It just seemed to come very naturally to you, I guess.
BR: Oh, absolutely … yes, it did ... definitely.
kk: And each new challenge it seems ... it doesn't seem to matter what it was ... I mean let's face it, it took a lot of guts to get up in front of a crowd of people at seven years old, all strangers, and do Frank Fontaine, for example.
BR: Oh yeah, I was always nervous and I would always tell my dad, you know, "Oh, I think I've got a stomach ache" ... or "I think I feel a cold coming on" ... yeah, the nerves were always there ... but you know, once I got up on the stage, even at a very early age, it became all very, very natural to me, even at that young age.
kk: So as these new challenges and opportunities came up, you just rose to meet them as they were presented to you at the time ... there had to be something in your make-up that made you feel you could do all these things successfully, because it's really quite an evolution.
BR: Yeah, I guess it did, because once I got up on the stage in front of a crowd of people, all the nerves went away and I just did what I loved to do.
kk: OK, now here's a question from a reader ... When you first decided to make a record, who approached whom first? Did you go knocking on the record company's door, or did they come to you? How did that all come about?
BR: Well, my first manager, a man by the name of Frankie Day, he took me around to all the majors, you know, in New York City ... so we went to RCA, Capitol and MGM and so forth ... you know, some of the other big labels around town ... and we got turned down by all of them ... and so our last resort was to go back to Philadelphia and a small local label there ... and so I auditioned for a guy by the name of Bernie Lowe, who was the President of Cameo Records ... and I auditioned for him, he signed me and I had three records for Cameo that did nothing ... they all bombed ... and then the fourth record that I recorded for Cameo was in the Summer of 1959, was a song called "Kissin' Time", which became my first hit ... and that's how it all happened.
kk: Those first few records were not hits ... but even before that you had recorded a couple of things for another record label ... and one of our readers wants so know what you remember about one of the very first records you ever recorded, FATTY FATTY, on Veko Records in 1958. From what I understand, this is a record that could not be played on the radio today because it wouldn't be politically correct.
BR: Oh, it was terrible! A terrible, terrible record ... oh my God, yeah! And hopefully it NEVER gets played because it was a terrible, terrible record. It was a label called Veko and my manager and I ... there were two guys from the Baltimore / Washington, DC area that supposedly put up the money for me to make that record (but the money actually came from my father and my manager at the time) to record some songs ... and one of them was FATTY FATTY and all of a sudden, they flew the coup with the tapes and then, you know, when I became successful, all of a sudden, you know, the tapes appeared ... unfortunately!
kk: lol ... of course, of course ...
BR: (laughing) You know! Yeah, unfortunately they appeared. (lol)
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Since Bobby feels so strongly about the quality of his "Fatty Fatty" single, we're not going to feature it as part of our series. However, we ARE going to feature another non-charting early Bobby Rydell track sent in by a Forgotten Hits Reader who wondered why the label seemed to be going for more of a "group sound" than your typical solo Bobby Rydell record. I never did get the chance to ask him about that ... so Bobby, if you're reading this, please fill us in! It's a song called "Please Don't Be Mad" ... and it's a really good track.]
kk: There had to be some mixed emotions here ... I mean you started doing this at a very early age ... so when those first couple of records didn't take off for you, was there ever a time where you felt like "Hey, maybe this just isn't supposed to happen to me"? "Maybe this just isn't meant to be." This had to be a difficult time for you ... certainly there was the thrill and the excitement of being in the studio, making the records ... but then there was also the disappointment when these records didn't turn out to be hits. Even the first couple of Cameo sides failed to make an impression on the pop charts.
BR: Oh, absolutely ... after all of the turn-downs from, you know, major companies, major record labels, and then I finally signed with Cameo and I guess I was, I dunno, maybe sixteen at the time, and I had three records for Cameo and they all bombed ... they did nothing ... and I was really, really happy playing drums ... so I thought that maybe this is not for me ... my career in life is to be a drummer. And then all of a sudden, Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann and Dave Appell came up with a song called "Kissin' Time" and that became the first hit. It was the summer of '59 and I was seventeen years old.
kk: Now those guys, they're not really among the best known songwriters ... it's fair to say that in the scheme of things Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann and Dave Appell, all of whom were affiliated with the label would be perceived as fairly obscure songwriters ... but they certainly fed their artists at their label with material and they seemed to really have a handle on exactly the kind of sound they were going for. The bulk of your Cameo output was created by some combination of these guys, which they seemed to craft specifically to help shape your image. Now along the way you also recorded songs written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and Gerry Goffin and Carole King ... Tony Hatch ... but the majority of your hits came courtesy of the in-house label principles. Did you ever dabble in song writing yourself during this time?
BR: No, no, I never tried ... I never tried writing tunes at all. But you're right, absolutely … I always said, "You give me the material and I'll just sing them" and then the writers would submit their tunes and we'd just go in and record them. But we had some great songwriters sending us tunes to record, absolutely.
kk: How much influence did you have in regards to picking the material and how it went down once you were inside the studio? I know in your book you make reference to a couple of songs that you didn't really think fit your style ... maybe you had a few doubts if these would be hits or maybe they weren't really in your wheelhouse ... but then once you'd recorded them, you were happy with the results. You were still willing to go in there and give it your best shot and then once you heard it, you ended up liking it.
BR: No, I never said that. Anything that Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann and Dave Appell put in front of me, I never questioned it … I just went in and recorded it. I never questioned ANY material that was given to me by them.
kk: Was there ever a surprise where you thought, "This'll never be a hit" and then it was.
BR: No, never. I didn’t know when what we recorded was going to be a hit … I mean, it sounded good to ME, but I didn't know if it was gonna be a hit.
kk: Well, especially, I guess, after the first few records WEREN'T hits!
BR: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, it was just another recording. Put it out there and let's see what happens. Like I said before, everything was Lowe, Mann and Appell ... they wrote the songs and I'd go in, listen to them and rehearse them and then we'd record them. I really can't remember any of the tunes that I disliked with Cameo ... it was all very, very good material, and everything they wrote, I went in and learned the tune and we recorded them. And I was lucky when "Kissin' Time" turned out to be my first hit record.
I remember when the movie "Bye Bye Birdie" came out, I was in London and I did a command performance before The Royal Family with Ann-Margret ... and while there I recorded with a gentleman by the name of Tony Hatch and one of the songs that I recorded for Pye Records in London, in The UK, was "Forget Him", which eventually became my third million seller and the powers that be at Cameo ... Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann and Dave Appell ... they had nothing to do with the publishing and they didn't really want to release the song because they wouldn't be getting any money from the publishing rights! And there was a disc jockey in Toronto, Canada, by the name of Dave Johnson, he was on CHUM Radio, and he went on the radio and started playing it and then it caught on and got played throughout Canada and then it leaked down and got played in The United States ... I believe first in Detroit ... and then, of course, Cameo was forced to release the record nationally ... and thank God they did, because it became my third million seller. But I think that was just one of only a couple of my songs that weren't written by Lowe, Mann and Appell.
kk: "Forget Him" is actually my favorite of yours, by the way. And it ended up being a HUGE Top Five Hit here in The States that I always felt should have been a springboard for many more hits to follow. Instead it ended up being your last great hurrah on the US pop charts thanks to The British Invasion.
BR: Yeah, it was a good record, it was a really good record and it's one of the songs that I recorded that is a fan-favorite and it always gets a good response whenever I do it on stage.
kk: Well, I've known Tony Hatch for several years and he speaks VERY highly of you. As you follow along with this series you'll see some of his comments about this session as well.
BR: Oh, wonderful … excellent! You know, my God, I don't think I've seen Tony SINCE 1963 but the guy's a marvelous songwriter ... "Downtown" for Petula Clark, "Call Me" for Chris Montez, he's written quite a few hit records. He's just a marvelous talent.
kk: And that record just seemed to have such a clean sound to it compared to some of the Cameo stuff.
BR: Yeah … well, what they used to do ... and I've been asked this question before ... the difference between recording here in The States and recording overseas, and specifically the UK 'cause that's the only place I ever really recorded outside of The United States ... and when we did the session, it was basically an album and one of the songs that came out of it, of course, was "Forget Him" and everything in the studio was dry ... there was no echo, no echo on the musicians, no echo on the voice ... everything was cut dry and then in the mix, when they went back in, that's when they added the echo so it was really a very, very clean sound without any of the tom-foolery, so to speak.
kk: It's interesting in a way because, ironically, these sessions over in England with Tony Hatch were done just on the eve of The Beatles hitting it big here in America.
BR: You are correct!
kk: So you were over in England making records and we're about to get invaded by The Four Mop-Tops from Liverpool! And America never knew what hit 'em!
BR: Absolutely, absolutely! And while there, I did the command performance with Ann, Ann-Margret, and then recorded with Tony Hatch, and then I toured with a young lady by the name of Helen Shapiro, who is still working today, and she's marvelous ... she's a GREAT singer ... and that's when I first met The Beatles. They were in front of us in one car and we were traveling on a bus throughout the UK and at one stop the four guys came on the bus ... and they knew me, because this was 1963 and as far as I was concerned, they were just four guys who were gigging ... you know, they did nightclubs, they did weddings ... and we met, we shook hands, and the only thing I'm sorry about is that we never took a picture because that would have been a GREAT picture of them on the bus, which would have been taken just prior to them becoming what they became in 1964.
kk: Now let me ask you, when this all happened back in 1964, everybody thought that this was just going to be a flash-in-the pan ... it wasn't going to last ... it was just some new little novelty thing that had come across the ocean but pretty much ALL of the American artists were knocked off the charts for a very long period of time.
kk: At what point was it real for you? At what point did you begin to feel "I've gotta deal with this ... what am I going to do now?" Were you painfully aware as it was happening because prior to that you had a pretty good run up the charts ... something like 20 Top 40 hits over the past four or five years ... and then literally overnight the British artists took over the charts and the magazine covers and the tv spots, and so on ... it seemed to be all they were playing on the radio ... The British Invasion was an apt description of exactly what was going on at the time.
BR: Well, it was not only myself, Kent, but I think the majority of the artists here in The United States were affected ... the British Invasion happened and it hurt a lot of the American artists … all of a sudden the British artists were selling lots of records and this is what the jockeys were playing ... everybody was playing the songs by The Beatles and The Stones and so forth and it came to a point where they finally said, "Hey, we've got to go back to playing some of the American artists" and then things started picking up again, but basically back then, 1964, just after 1964, my recording career was over ... and "Forget Him" was my last major hit on Cameo. But, you know, you just continue working at your craft and you continuing working and doing what you do.
kk: I think the audience that you played to that was following your stuff, especially in the clubs, pretty much allowed you to continue performing through a different avenue. I mean, you weren't really crossing paths with The Beatles for the same audience.
BR: Oh no, no, not at all. They were working venues that sat thousands and thousands of people and people like myself and Anka and Avalon, we were still doing club dates ... 500-seating rooms and 300-seating rooms ... and that was how we were able to continue to work, and that was the nice thing about it ... I've never really stopped working since 1959.
kk: And then you actually recorded a Lennon and McCartney song ... you did the original version of "A World Without Love", right? And how did YOUR version come out ahead of the Peter and Gordon version? It almost seems like a case of the established American artist getting the nod first over some unknown British duo ... until America discovered just who these guys were. One reader wrote in: "Bobby's record was the best of the US artists stealing the UK sound!"
BR: That's correct ... we recorded it first ... but actually my manager and I were driving into New York City and we got into the area where you could hear WABC Radio and all of a sudden we're driving and we hear (singing) "I don't care what they say ..." and that was already in the can! We had already recorded it and we were like "What the heck is this?" And so, just on principle, we put the song out, but Peter and Gordon had a two week jump on us so they really had the hit record. Mine charted ... and there were times when jockeys across the country got so fed up, they wouldn't play Peter and Gordon's and they wouldn't play mine ... then some would play me and some would play Peter and Gordon ... so some of that may have cancelled each other out. But you know, I saw Paul Schaffer in New York when we did a press conference for the release of the new book and Paul Schaffer did a thing when he was with Letterman and it was funny as hell ... you know, "Here's Peter and Gordon's version of 'A World Without Love" and he would go (singing very softly and sweetly) "I don't care what they say, I won't stay in a world without love". And then he goes, "And here's Bobby Rydell's version" (big, booming voice) "I don't care what they say ..." (laughing) It's as funny as heck!
kk: OK, so was that a conscious decision to record something with a British feel to it? Had you been looking for something along those lines, maybe a Lennon and McCartney tune? How did you come across that one in the first place?
BR: You know, I never picked any of my tunes … it was all Lowe, Mann and Appell ... they picked all the material and this song just happened to fall by my wayside and who, how, when, where, what, why, I don't know ... but we went into New York City and recorded it.
kk: Well, here in Chicago it actually did very well. They charted both records at the same number so they shared a spot on the chart ... until it went to #1 and then it was only the Peter and Gordon version.
BR: Yeah, that's what I was talkin' about, you know ... some jockeys would play both of them, some wouldn't play either one of them. It was really a matter of if they got fed up, with all the PR and stuff.
kk: Well I remember that I heard yours first here on WLS ... and I guess Peter and Gordon ... well, let's just say that Peter Asher certainly had a distinct advantage with Paul dating his sister at the time!
BR: Absolutely! (lol) It was all in the family! (lol)
kk: And here's another thing that I thought was a little bit ironic ... right around this same time, or just after, you left Cameo and moved over to Capitol Records at a time where Capitol was pretty much just pushing The Beatles and The Beach Boys and not much else. So how did that happen?
BR: Well, yeah. How did that happen? Well, you know, Cameo had its run and my manager at the time, once again, Frankie Day, decided that it was time to move on and I signed with Capitol. And one of the first things I recorded at Capitol was a version of Paul Anka's "Diana" and it was done like sort of like a necktie ... (singing) boom-boom-boom, boom-boom-boom, "I'm so young and you're so old ... and yada yada yada" and the record was starting to make noise but then I believe Wayne Newton came out with something, I forget what the tune was, and they dropped all of the PR on "Diana" because they figured it was starting to climb and when they dropped it, the record kinda got lost ... but I think if they would have pursued that, I coulda had a Top Ten Record with "Diana" because it was totally different than Anka's ... and it was a damn good record, I must say. But you know, I had my good times with Capitol, I never had any major hits with them, but I recorded some really, really good tunes.
kk: Well, I was gonna say ... certainly you were trying to make the best records you could at the time ... you went into this whole thing with the best intentions and gave it your best effort but if the label doesn't help promote them, they're really not going to go anywhere.
BR: Oh yeah, for sure, for sure. As a matter of fact when I was with Capitol, I was doing "The Milton Berle Show" out in California ... the show only lasted for six months ... but one of the songs that I recorded for Capitol was a song called "You've Gotta Enjoy Joy" and that was written by Milton Berle ... in fact, that was his theme song on his show and it was a big band arrangement written by one of the great arrangers in California named Bob Florence, and I had people like Louie Bellson on drums and all of the top cats in California and it was really a swingin' record, which I LOVED ... I absolutely ADORED doing that kind of music ... I love big band music ... but it never happened. But like you said, I recorded some really good pieces of material on Capitol.
kk: I believe all that stuff is out of print right now ... I went looking for some of these tracks because I thought it might be kinda neat to feature a couple of them because I'm guessing that other than some of your diehard fans, most people have never heard this material. It sounds like you had a lot of fun recording over there ... what are some of your favorite tracks that you recorded for Capitol Records?
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Tom Diehl sent us a few Capitol tracks to share. As it turns out, ALL of this Capitol material is available now on CD and for download … look for links at the end of this article so you can add these tracks to your collection.]
BR: Yeah, that would be wonderful if you could feature a couple of these ... I'm not really sure where you'd find them ... but there was another song arranged by Bob Florence and it's a song called "Blue For You" ... a wonderful piece … an absolutely wonderful piece of material ... a ballad, but done with a big band arrangement. Like I said, there's a lot of good stuff I did with Capitol.
kk: Going back to Cameo / Parkway for just a minute, at one point they paired you up with Chubby Checker for a few recordings and, of course the big Christmas record. Did you consider this to be more of a gimmick move at the time? You both had already had a number of successes on the charts as solo artists ... had you guys known each other before? How did you get along and do you still keep in touch? There are some on the list who feel that the Rydell / Checker version is the best one ever of "Jingle Bell Rock".
BR: Well, as a matter of fact, the story goes ... and it's a true story ... that one of Chubby's first records was a song called "The Class" and I was a hand-clapper (laughing) in the studio during the recording of "The Class" and that's when I first met Chubby ... and then, of course, as things happen, he recorded, of course, "The Twist" and I'd already had quite a few hits, so I was hot and now Chubby was hot and so they decided to put the two of us together to do an album. And it specifically wasn't released during the holidays but we had songs on there like "Jingle Bell Rock" and "What Are You Doing New Year's" but it wasn't specifically a seasonal kind of thing that we did for this album … and it did very, very well for both Chubby and myself and, of course, for Cameo.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The "Bobby Rydell / Chubby Checker" album first charted in mid-December of 1961 … and STAYED on the chart for 30 weeks! While there are several tracks that lend themselves to the holiday spirit, the duo also cut "Side By Side", "Swingin' Together", "Teach Me To Twist", "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" and a medley of hits called "Your Hits And Mine Medley".]
kk: So did you guys ever tour together then at this point or do any shows or television appearances together in support of that record?
BR: Well, in fact, I do a show called "The Golden Boys" and that's with Frankie Avalon and Fabian, two dear friends, and at one point Frankie left the show to do a movie with Annette called "Back To The Beach" and when Frankie left for a couple of, I dunno, three, four months, to make the movie, Chubby took his place, so it was Chubby, Fabe and myself doing "The Golden Boys".
kk: Are you still doing "The Golden Boys" shows?
BR: Oh yeah, yeah ... we first started doing this show back in 1985 and it was a tremendous success and I turned to Frankie and, you know Frankie and I go way, way back ... I think I was ten years old and he was maybe twelve or thirteen ... he's a couple or three years older than me ... and after we'd been touring for awhile, I turned to him ... and I call him Cheech, in Italian Frank is Cheech, and I said, "Cheech, how long is this gonna last? A year? Two years tops?" And this was 1985 and now it's 2016 and we're still doing it.
kk: Well, I've got to say that you sound great. I mean, you're practically The Bionic Man now, right? You've got all these new parts! It's like a complete rebuild! (lol)
BR: (laughing) You know, I guess I am! (lol) I've got a new liver, new kidney, I've had a heart surgery ...
kk: (laughing) You've been thru it all!
BR: (laughing) I've been thru it all! Oh yeah ... all I need now is a lobotomy and I'll be fine!
kk: Well, being from Chicago, people want to know, do you have any plans to come out to Chicago? Actually, Frankie Avalon was just here for Mother's Day.
BR: Really? Well, I love Chicago, it's one of my favorite towns in the whole world, and, matter of fact, my drummer was originally from Broomall and from where I live, that's only about fifteen or twenty minutes away, but he met a girl ... we were on a cruise ship ... and he got married and she lived in Chicago ... and my drummer moved out there, I think somewhere near Elmwood Park.
kk: Oh wow, I actually lived in Elmwood Park for awhile ... it's not too far from where I'm at right now.
BR: And he's been out there now ever since he got married ... seventeen, eighteen years ago or so. I certainly look forward to coming to Chicago ... I don't think there's anything planned in the immediate near future but I've always loved the town.
kk: So your health is good ... about how many dates a year do you do? Where are we most likely to see Bobby Rydell perform in concert? A cruise ship? A Las Vegas show lounge? Are you doing a lot of cruise ships?
[EDITOR'S NOTE: A look at Bobby's website gives you his full itinerary ... and he's got quite a few shows coming up. See link below]
BR: Ehh ... the things that I'm doing now is a cruise called Malt Shop Memories and I did an informercial for them, or for Time / Life quite a few years ago and it was a big, big seller ... in the Top Five of their all time Time / Life best selling CD's through all these infomercial things and it became so big that they started doing cruises and the cruises are called Malt Shop Memories and I've done, I think, four so far, and the last one was 2015, and I guess I'll be doing it again in 2017. So the last cruise we did is we got myself and Avalon and Neil Sedaka, Little Anthony, Lou Christie ... and the people just go bananas because you know the people on the cruise, they start signing up for the next cruise because if they sign up early for the next cruise they get some kind of a discount and they're like alumni ... and it's amazing, it's really amazing ... and the cruises always do well because it's like 3000 people on a big ship and there's shows every minute of the day. There's always something to do somewhere.
kk: It's interesting because ALL of those artists you just mentioned have all just recently been thru Chicago ... we've got an old theater here ... it was built back in the 1920's during the old vaudeville days ... called The Arcada Theatre and the guy who owns it seems to be really prone to booking those kinds of acts. Neil Sedaka was just here toward the end of last year ... Little Anthony's coming up in about a month ... Frankie Avalon was just here for Mother's Day ... so let me talk to him because you would just be a natural to perform there.
BR: Oh, absolutely, what's the name of the theater again?
kk: It's called The Arcada Theatre and it's in St. Charles, Illinois ... it's a totally restored theater ... one of those old, small 900-seaters
BR: Well definitely ... I've got to tell my manager ... oh yeah, yeah, those old theaters ... they're fantastic and we've played a lot of them across the country ... and they're great, these refurbished theaters ... they're just marvelous.
kk: It just seems like a perfect fit so I will mention this to the owner. His name is Ron Onesti and we kinda help promote some of their stuff and actually, I've helped promote some of the Malt Shop Cruises over the years, too. I just think this would be a real natural fit for you.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Ron Onesti has already been talking to Bobby's manager, Dick Fox, about booking a Chicago date. In fact, Dick Fox also manages the career of Lou Christie ... so don't be surprised to find BOTH of these guys coming into the Chicago area real soon ... maybe as soon as November of this year … so stay tuned to Forgotten Hits for more details! Lou Christie tells me that he and Bobby have done several dates together recently ... so this is a show you're not going to want to miss!]
BR: Well, OK, please talk to whoever you have to talk to. Thank you, Kent!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Bobby says that he has talked to his manager, Dick Fox, and the final details are being worked out. Although no official date has been booked or announced yet, he says that it will NOT be a double bill … Bobby will come in and do his show and then Lou Christie will do his own show later. Ron Onesti booked Lou Christie for last year's Italian Fest in Addison and he was great … that's when I got to meet him for the first time. This just means we've two more GREAT shows to look forward to at The Arcada Theatre!]
kk: Happy to do it ... plus then I get to see you, too! (lol)
I can't wait to meet Bobby in person in November when he hits The Arcada Theatre! More details to come ...
And LOTS more Bobby tomorrow in Forgotten Hits when our EXCLUSIVE interview continues. Stay tuned!
Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits: Do you have time for a few more questions?
Bobby Rydell: Oh 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!
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: https://www.facebook.com/thephiladelphiamusichalloffame/
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.
Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits: Folks want to know more about your first impressions of Ann-Margret when you worked with her on "Bye Bye Birdie" and if are you still friends. "Bye Bye Birdie" has always been one of MY favorites ... one of my kids' favorites ... and now one of my grandkids' favorites ... it's just a timeless piece of history. How often do you get the chance to see each other these days? There was a certain infectious chemistry between you two in "Bye Bye Birdie" that still comes across on the screen today after all these years. Her next film was "Viva Las Vegas" with Elvis Presley ... and obviously that relationship sizzled both on screen and off screen. What were your thoughts on this at the time?
Bobby Rydell: Yeah, right, right ... well, it's a classic ... it's like "Grease" ... "Bye Bye Birdie" is like "Grease" and they do it in high school and plays all over the country.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: It's no coincidence that the high school in the hit musical "Grease" is called Rydell High.]
Ann recently wrote a blurb in my new book, you know, which was very sweet of her, and she called me a couple of weeks ago and I was in Florida and she just said, "Bobby, I just never knew all of this stuff that you went through. I just finished reading your book and it's absolutely marvelous and God bless you" and Ann and I have been in touch since '63 when we made "Bye Bye Birdie". As a matter of fact, I called her a couple of weeks ago ... I was leaving the Orlando airport and I called her and we spoke about the book and how are you doing and how's Roger (her husband Roger Smith) doing and then I said, you know, out of the blue, I said, "Ann, back in 1963 you were 21 and I was 20 ... why didn't we get married? (laughing)
BR: (laughing) And she laughed ... she's a sweetheart ... she really is a VERY nice person.
Bobby and Ann ... then and now
Bobby and Ann ... with Bobby's original manager, Frankie Day
kk: And the timing of it all, if you think about it ... the very next movie ... she's sweet, innocent Kim McAfee in "Bye Bye Birdie" ... and then the very next movie is "Viva Las Vegas' …
BR: Yeah, right, right ... "Viva Las Vegas" with Elvis Presley ... (laughing) ... I think that's why we never got married! (laughing)
kk: (laughing) Yeah, that probably had something to do with it (lol)
BR: Yeah, I think it had something to do with Elvis (lol) and I can't blame her ... I can't blame her.
kk: Yeah, she certainly sizzled in that one! (both laughing) A bit of a jump from sweet and innocent Kim McAfee to sex kitten Rusty Martin in "Viva Las Vegas"!
You worked with some real seasoned veterans at the time ... George Burns took you under his wing and got you some key gigs in Las Vegas ... I know he worked out a similar arrangement for Bobby Darin early on in his career right before "Mack The Knife" shot thru the roof ...
BR: Bobby Darin AND Ann-Margret
kk: Oh yeah, that's right!
BR: Yeah, yeah, Ann-Margret worked for George and that was my first appearance in Las Vegas, back in 1960 .... I did two weeks with George Burns at The Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas and what a thrill that was to work with him. And I remember I would do my thing and he would call me back on and we would do a soft shoe together with a derby and a cane and the people absolutely loved it. You know, the old man with the young kid doing steps to "Some Of These Days", the old tune "Some Of These Days", and when I was done, every night for two weeks I used to stand in the wings and watch him ... EVERY night ... and studied the way he delivered a line, the timing that he would use, he was incredible. And I was very fortunate to work with people like him ... George Burns, Jack Benny and Red Skelton ... Danny Thomas and Perry Como .. Milton Berle ... and I was a puppy at that particular time ... I was a very young guy ... I was in my early 20's and the whole idea was to learn ... LEARN from these people, just by watching them.
kk: And Red Skelton ... you guys seemed to really click together to the point that he made you a semi-regular on his television show ... what was he like to work with? How did that bond develop? Why do you think you two clicked?
BR: Red was very, very close to me and I was very close to him. And I think he took me under his wing because, you know, he lost his son Richard ... I think he was 15 or 16 years old ... to leukemia.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Skelton's son died ten days shy of his tenth birthday]
And we became very close, to the point where he invited me out to his house in Palm Springs after we taped one of The Red Skelton Hour shows and his wife said to me, "Bobby, I can count on one hand the number of people that Red has invited to his home in Palm Springs" ... and he flew me and my manager out to Palm Springs ... and then flew us back out from Palm Springs to Los Angeles and then we took a commercial airliner ... at that time TWA was the airline that was flying ... and so we got TWA and they flew us back from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. But yeah, he was very close. Matter of fact, I just did an infomercial with Darlene Love, and she's wonderful, and it's for Time-Life as well, and it'll be coming out, I guess, in a month or however long they take, you know, to get these things ready ... cut it, master it and so on and so forth ... and after that I believe they're coming out with some of the Red Skelton videos and they asked me to stay and talk about him, which I did, and I totally lost it. I started crying. (gets choked up)
kk: Yeah ... well, that was a big step in your career, especially to happen so early on.
BR: Oh yeah, I did something like twelve shows with him.
kk: But talk about a mentor for a young kid coming up ... I mean, George Burns and Red Skelton ... you mentioned Milton Berle earlier ... they don't get any bigger than that!
BR: And Jack Benny as well.
kk: These are people who shaped and defined the early days of television. Incredible, really. Somebody told me to ask you about Paul Whiteman. One of your first big breaks came from appearing on the Paul Whiteman Show. Although now long since forgotten, Paul was a pretty big deal back in the day. Tell us a little bit about what that meant to you and how you feel it helped your career.
BR: Yeah, I was ten years old. It was an amateur show here in Philadelphia that actually came out of the American Bandstand studios, where they actually broadcast American Bandstand ... that was the studio ... it was WFIL-TV here in Philadelphia, Channel 6, and it was a way to give amateur talent a chance to get a break in the business and I won on the show and I became a regular. So I'm ten years old and I'm on the show for about a year and then it went off the air and at eleven years old, I'm out of work! I had no job! (laughing)
kk: You know it's funny because his is not a name that everyone immediately recognizes but somebody had sent me some information and, oh my God, the career that guy had!
BR: Yeah, as a matter of fact, when I did the show, he had a live orchestra with the show and the piano player was Bernie Lowe!
kk: Is that right?!?
BR: Yeah, who then seven years later became my boss with Cameo! But back then he was the piano player on The Paul Whiteman Show. I think the thing that he's most known for is his version of "Rhapsody In Blue", which was a marvelous, marvelous piece of material.
kk: Somebody told me that that was actually written FOR him.
BR: Well that I don't know ... that's very possible. I don't know the answer to that for sure.
kk: Again, someone told me that, dating back to the '20's, he had over 200 hit records.
BR: Oh yeah, for sure.
kk: And yet his is not a name that typically comes up ... you don't realize that there's a connection to where he also helped some of these soon-to-be rock stars make a name for themselves, too.
BR: Yeah, yeah. Sure, yeah.
kk: You've been singing most of these songs for a long, long time now ... what are some of your personal favorites? Obviously, I would have to think that "Volare" and "Sway" would have to be up there ... these two seem to have stood the test of time ... they seem to keep goin' and goin' and goin' and have become "signature tunes" for you ... but what are some of the others that really stand out for you … maybe some of the "not so obvious" choices?
BR: Oh, "Volare", "Forget Him", "Sway" … "Old Black Magic" and, of course, "Kissin' Time", which was my first … you know a LOT of the songs I recorded for Cameo were just good pieces of material … "We Got Love", "I'll Never Dance Again" was another one, "Cha Cha Cha" …
kk: Oh yeah, "The Cha Cha Cha" ... that's one I really like …
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Yorkie's name is Cha Cha!]
BR: Yeah, "I've Got Bonnie", you know, even the B-Side of "Wild One", "Little Bitty Girl" was a hit record … as a matter of fact, it was a double-sided hit, "Little Bitty Girl" and "Wild One" … they both charted.
kk: Yeah, you had a couple like that, I think.
BR: Yeah, I did, yeah.
kk: I know you've mentioned before that "Wildwood Days" was a personal favorite because of the connection to what it meant to you at the time, coming from that area.
BR: Well, my grandmother used to have a boarding house in Wildwood for years ... and I used to go to Wildwood every summer, dating back to when I was an infant, we would go down to Wildwood, and really up until the time I started traveling on the road and even then, when I came off the road, if I had a couple of weeks or a week off, I'd go down to Wildwood, New Jersey, and stay with my grandparents and just go out on the beach with all the guys and girls from South Philly and just have a wonderful time. These were great times to be around.
kk: We were down there a few years ago for the first time and Paul Russo, who I guess you know from Cool Scoops, he sent some photos of you that were taken at his place and we're going to run some of those as part of the series ... and we went down there a few years ago and got to see his place.
BR: Oh really?
kk: It's an interesting place ... a lot of fun. Having grown up and lived my whole life in Chicago, it's interesting to see another area. I mean, Chicago's got a rich musical heritage, too, of course, but you guys kinda had a lock on the market for awhile there.
BR: Yeah, I guess we did. It was myself and Avalon and Fabian and Anka … The Everly Brothers ... oh my God, there's so many ... Bobby Darin ... yeah, it was a wonderful time for all of us.
kk: Reading your book, it kinda sounds like that's what you're trying to do now ... more from "The American Songbook" along with the hits ... it's become a big part of what you do now when you perform. I know you do a little Bobby Darin thing as part of your show and all that. Certainly this music means a lot to you.
BR: Well, yeah, absolutely ... and it's like we said earlier when my dad used to take me around, I was always, as far back as I can remember, I was always a big band lover ... from a very, very early age ... and I listened to big bands and jazz and then, around 11, 12 years old, Sinatra, my champion, even when I was that young ... so in my shows today, of course, I incorporate most of my hits, but I love doing tunes from The American Songbook.
kk: And, of course, Sinatra became a close friend, too, didn't he?
BR: Yeah, the first time I met him, I was nineteen years old at the Copacabana and he was sitting there with Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen and Joe DiMaggio and here I am, nineteen years old, and I was in awe ... I just sat there with my jaw open ... I didn't say two words ... I was just in awe of just sittin' with them, with these four wonderful people. And then through the years, I used to go see the old man and he'd always introduce me, I'd always see him backstage and so on and so forth, and the last time I was in his company, while he was here at the Sands in Atlantic City and that's quite a few years ago, my kids were, I don't know, I think twelve or something like that, twelve years old, and I took them to see Sinatra and my son was in awe of him and he said, "Man, he sure can sing!" I mean, his pipes were something ... and whenever he was around and I was around, we'd always hang out together and one of the last times was in Vegas ... he was married to Mia Farrow at the time ... that's how far back I'm talking about ... and we just sat in the lounge and we talked ... and then he went out into the casino and started conducting a blackjack game. He was behind the dealer and once he got seen at the table the whole casino was now at that table, you know. And Sinatra was dealing blackjack for crying out loud!
kk: So obviously he's one of your favorites ... who are some of the other ones who were your recording idols prior to your own career in music? Who inspired you early on? And were there any other big influences along the way?
BR: Well, you know, he's really the only one that really inspired me ... a guy I'm very close to, and he lives in Vegas now, is Steve Lawrence, and he's one hell of a singer ... just a great singer ... him and Eydie, when they used to do shows together, they were awesome ... just the music alone and the arrangements and they both could just sing like crazy, my God, the both of them were just wonderful. And really all of those people, you know ... Tony Bennett, Perry Como ...
kk: Tony Bennett, who's still doin' it and now he's singing with Lady Ga-Ga!
BR: Yeah, God bless him, God bless him ... he just recorded an album with Lady Ga-Ga ... I mean he's still doin' it and I think he's eighty-something ... 89 years old ...
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Tony Bennett will turn 90 on August 3rd!!!]
kk: Another I would think, and maybe only because you recorded some of the same songs ... like "Sway" and "Volare" ... Dean Martin? You were kinda the younger version of Dean Martin, appealing to the younger crowd with these same classics. He had his own appeal and his own audience ... but you made those songs crossover so that younger audience could enjoy them, too ... and that's what makes those songs timeless.
BR: Right ... yeah, for sure, absolutely, yeah. As a matter of fact, a guy who I like today is a guy by the name of Michael Buble ... and I think one of his first tunes that introduced him to the public was "Sway" ... he did a version of "Sway" ... I think that was one of the very first songs that he recorded.
kk: And he's got quite a following now, too.
BR: Oh, absolutely ... and rightfully so.
kk: Looking back, what do you consider to be some of your landmark career milestones? Which are the ones that blew you away and really stick out in your mind? Maybe your most exciting public appearance experience?
BR: Oh, doing The Red Skelton Show, doing the The Jack Benny Show, doing Danny Thomas / "Make Room For Daddy", doing The Perry Como Show, The Kraft Music Hall, all of those shows were big moments … and then I was with Milton Berle for six months … unfortunately, that was on ABC and after six months, ABC cancelled the show, but, you know, I worked with the GIANTS back then.
kk: We can't do an interview like this and avoid these next two topics.
The two biggest bombshells revealed in the book was your relationship with your mother and your years of drinking. Addressing your mother first, I got the feeling early on in the book that your mother was indifferent to you pursuing a career in show business ... but by the end it sounds like she was the over-the-top, bi-polar stage mom of everybody's nightmare, wanting to call and coordinate every shot and every aspect of your career choices. One of our readers, who actually read your book before I did, told me "You don't hear much about Bobby's mother early on in the book ... but she really gets a lot of attention toward the end." You make no secret of the fact that your dad was in your corner from day one ... and did everything he could to help facilitate the advancement of your career to the point that his encouragement helped make you stick with this and expand your abilities. When did things change with your mom?
BR: Well, first of all, she didn't know what my father knew, as far as the talent that was inside me … like I say in the book, my father was the first one to see it … and the only reason I'm in the business is because of my dad. I think it's written in the book at some point where she says "What are you doin' with the kid?" I'm seven years old and my father would answer back, "Jennie, the kid's got talent" and my mother would say "Of course you're gonna say that … you're his father." And that's the way things stood until things started happening.
kk: And then it almost sounds as if she tried to take control.
BR: She'd tell me how to dress … what to wear … how to wear my hair, which shoes, you know, all of that. I think at one time she used to buy practically all of my clothes.
kk: That had to be kinda strange for you, too … I mean after NOT being involved early on, to assuming that kind of control later on … that's something you had to be aware of at the time, right? It must have seemed odd to you right away to see this kind of change ... and then have to deal with it.
BR: Well, yeah, I did … like I say in the book, everybody thought that my mother was the greatest person on two feet until she came into the house behind closed doors and then she became the person that she was.
kk: The book delves deeply into your battle with the bottle (hence the title "Teen Idol On The Rocks"). Knowing that this chapter would eventually be coming up, I found a certain irony in that early on in the book you describe a new member of your band, a drummer who, after coming offstage, thought that he had just given the greatest performance of his life when, in fact, because he was so intoxicated, it was awful and embarrassing, only he couldn't see it ... yet later in life you tell how you took the stage hundreds of times after drinking heavily ... I cannot help but wonder if these performances weren't considerably worse than you ever could have possibly imagined ... or remember. (Big time credit has to go to Frankie Avalon and Fabian for putting up with all your nonsense … is "tolerant" the right word? Your friendship went WAY back but still it had to be painful for them to see you in this state.) You must have had some moments like this yourself where you "overrated" your performance?
BR: Ahh, not before my wife passed away. Up until then, I was pretty cool. But once Camille passed in 2003, that's when the drink became a very dear friend. Even if I had a few drinks before a performance I was always cool enough to be able to get up on stage and do what I do. I don't think I was really ever, you know, drunk out of my mind when I did the shows with those guys.
kk: Had there not been an intervention of some type at the point that there was, we would have likely have been reading a very sad obituary about teen idol Bobby Rydell several years ago. For you it really came down to life and death surgery at one point … and you were strong enough afterwards to be able to turn things around. Is there a day that goes by that you don't think about this and the pain you put some of your loved ones through? How hard is it for you today to avoid those pitfalls? Alcoholism is a sickness, it's a disease … are you still tempted by the bottle from time to time? I mean, it's a lifelong battle, isn't it? I mean it never really leaves you.
BR: No, no, absolutely not … once you get your life back again, it's just like the book says … a tale of second chances … why screw that up again?
kk: That's so good to hear … like we said earlier, you're working with a total rebuild at this point … a real bionic man … you've got to take care of yourself!
BR: Yeah, yeah.
kk: Unlike many show biz biographies, your book was not the typical tell all romance novel in any sense - in fact, other than your two wives (and perhaps a passing but unattainable fancy toward Ann Margaret), no other women are really mentioned between the covers of your autobiography. Now surely there had to be SOME action "between the covers" enjoying the riches of the teen idol lifestyle! The way the book is written, you come across as some sort of either a saint or a monk. Without going into any explicit details … I mean, this isn't the Howard Stern Show … come on - give us some dirt! Before history writes you off forever as the perfect boy scout, share at least ONE story ... share just one "Wild One" with our readers!!! I mean, c'mon … everybody knows the lifestyle of a teen idol. (laughing) Is there ANYTHING you can tell us?
BR: Yeah, yeah (Laughing ... followed by a very long pause) …
kk: I'm not asking you to name names or anything … but we all know this had to be a pretty wild and exciting time for a young kid coming up in the business. A pretty exciting lifestyle.
BR: Absolutely. (laughing)
kk: You're not gonna tell us, are you?
kk: And leave it at that?
kk: OK, here's a good one … and this may be a good way to wrap things up …
In hindsight, given the opportunity, the choice and the chance to do it all over again, is there anything you'd do differently? What, if anything (other than the double organ transplant I presume!) would you change?
BR: Well, I wouldn't have drank as much as I did (laughing) It almost killed me, for Christ's sake!
Order Bobby's book here ...
Good response to our week-long Bobby Rydell Series.
Here are some of the comments we received before, during and after the series ran ...
Bobby Rydell - Part One - So far, so good.
Confession time. I grew up digging Bobby Rydell and I always thought his vocal range was underrated.
Hell, I still play Bobby's very enjoyable " Cha Cha Cha" on you tube about twice a week and in 1960 I wanted to attend "Swingin' School."
In reality, why was the kid so successful? Easy ... at a time when two thirds of white American parents thought rock 'n roll was the music of Satan, Bobby was this non-threatening kid with a big smile and perfectly coiffed hair style who would treat mom and pop's daughter with, uh, respect. Or so it appeared.
Rydell could never play ball in the same league with Chuck, Bo, Jerry Lee or the Five Satins but he does qualify as a second string Dion. He's on the same level with Ricky Nelson.
Plus, I truly admire Bobby's fight to overcome problems with the sauce.
I will give him my highest compliment: yes, he is a rocker.
kk, congrats on your interview. Truly excellent
I was 12 when my parents took me to see him for the first time at Monticello supper club in Framingham Mass. I got his autograph. How I wish I had a camera at that time! He was plastered all over my walls growing up,along with Fabian and then, the Beatles! I have seen him through the years on tour with the Boys of Bandstand. I really must read his book.
And then ...
Your piece on Bobby Rydell was FABULOUS!! I saved it all up and just read everything tonight.
He has always been one of my favorite performers, since the time I saw him when I was about twelve. I was lucky to have seen him many times in Atlantic City with The Golden Boys - Frankie, Fabian and Chubby, at various performances. Forget Him is still one of my top favorite songs, even after all these years.
Funny, listening to him sing his version of World Without Love, the British accent he tries to put on while singing. I wonder, if it was supposed to be the American version, why he was shooting to sound British? Maybe because it was a Lennon / McCartney tune?
I'd love to be in the running to win a copy of his book!!
Thanks again Kent, for everything you do to keep our oldies alive!!
Sorry, but the book winner has already been selected ... congratulations to Mike DeMartino of Chicago!
'Forget Him' ... oh yes! My favorite too! I would absolutely forget him if that were ever sung to me.
Teen Idols? British Invasion? When you are IN the time it just flows and makes sense. I liked the music.....all the music. Bobby Rydell sings 'World Without Love', Peter & Gordon sing 'World Without Love'. I heard Bobby's first. Was it because of that or that the notes go up at the end of the line in Bobby's versus P&G where the notes went down that made Bobby's better for me? Now I cannot choose between the two. The Beatles didn't record it so it was fair game in my eyes. Strange, but that was the case ONLY if The Beatles did not record it.
Bobby's smooth, sultry, girls-want-to-faint voice ... HE (or someone like him) could find me and be my boyfriend? Perchance to dream! I did!
Rambling reactions from the first installment.
Love the Rydell interview!
I was blown away by his story about "Forget Him." It is certainly a fave of many of us here, but to find out that a US established hit artist recorded the 45 in the UK and it became a hit BEFORE it was a hit here is pretty unusual! Sure enough it happened as he said it did!
It first charted in the UK on May 23, 1963, and reached #13 over a massive (for the time) 14 weeks run! By coincidence, the Fab 4 were getting their first US minor successes at this time! Of course, in the UK, Bobby's song was already battling the home Brit hit groups that were unknown in the US at the time.
The 45 eventually found its' way to CHUM in Toronto just as he said. It charted in October on CHUM and filtered down and hit Billboard's Hot 100 in early November, again making a LONG chart run of 16 weeks, peaking at #4!
For its' progression, here's the ARSA info:
Of course, that Tony Hatch guy was a pretty good writer and had something to do with the success. After all, he wrote the Cryan Shames first hit too! Haha.
A couple of things I thought of while writing this and reading your interview:
How about ALL of those picture sleeves with Bobby's head profile only? Someone at Cameo certainly thought head shots of Bobby on almost EVERY 45 had to be common for every release. They almost always had new head photos on every new single to get the teen sex appeal even if a 45 might not be worthy of being a hit occasionally. I think these really helped people see his face and say "THAT'S BOBBY RYDELL!" if they spotted him anywhere or on TV. Much alike Elvis sleeves, even tho Elvis did not have a sleeve every time.
As far as Bobby playing clubs that would not necessarily include pop groups so much, it must have been similar to Uk groups playing the cabaret circuit, such as the Tremeloes and even the Hollies did in the 60's.
You mentioned "Rydell High" from Grease. This is the tribute I immediately noticed when Tom Hanks gave Freddy Fredrickson Bobby's voice in "That Thing You Do!"
I wonder how Bobby felt about this obvious portrayal of himself. Pretty cool, I thought. Great campy feel.
In case you haven't seen his performance from 11/7/59 of his first top 10 record on Dick Clark's Beechnut Show, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csqvBhbwX1I
His first hit too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVb1Qk4hWJ0
Fast forward to Bobby's "Forget Him" 1964 followup single on American bandsatnd on my 8th birthday!! A nice short interview with Dick alfterwards! Bobby explains his UK recordings with Tony Hatch!
What fun, reading your interview with Bobby Rydell!
He mentioned working with Louie Bellson on a recording so I had to search for it, as Louie is my all-time favorite drummer. Louie was a super-nice guy, just like Bobby. Bobby Vee is supposed to be another guy who is very friendly and approachable.
I don't know if Bobby Rydell recorded an all-big band album, but if not, should have. He sounds very comfortable, and right in the groove with all the horns.
Regarding his friendship with Frank Sinatra, maybe Frank saw a little of himself in Bobby, when he was that age.
My favorite song of Bobby's is "The Cha Cha Cha". It is so much fun to listen to. I would always wait for the two drum breaks and try to pretend I was the drummer! Upon hearing the song again, I noticed a vibraphone in the mix. Very cool. Bobby said he likes Michael Buble's version of "Sway". Wouldn't it be a real kick if Bobby attended one of Michael's concerts, and then got up onstage to sing the song with him?
My mom used to be bothered when Bobby would add "uh" after a phrase, like "you-uh, me-uh, this-uh, that-uh" etc., but lots of singers did it back then, and still do. When I would see him on TV, I thought he seemed a bit overconfident, but I realize now that he was just having fun, and that's what show-biz is all about.
- John LaPuzza
Here's what I would say to Bobby Rydell if I had the chance to speak with him ...
I grew up watching the Philadelphia years on American Bandstand and have always considered that era as my favorite in pop music. You were a big part of that and I have always considered two of your hits, Volare and Forget Him, as all-time favorites.
Two questions come to mind ...
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 ?
Secondly, I as a fan, I was always frustrated at the delay in releasing the Cameo Parkway catalog on CD. As an artist, what was the frustration like on your part, as almost all of the other teen idol music was released while artists like you and Chubby Checker had to wait, not knowing if your fans would ever have access to the original versions of all your hits ?
I also want to say that there needs to be a place for artists like yourself, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Chubby Checker, Bobby Vee, Jan and Dean and countless more in the Rock Hall of Fame. From the moment American Bandstand came on national television in 1958 until the Beatles arrived in America in 1964, the music many of you performed was the soundtrack of lots of lives and our foundation for all that followed.
I kinda missed the golden Bandstand era ... I didn't discover pop music until The Beatles came along and then I was completely sucked in by The British Invasion.
Sure, I watched American Bandstand over the years ... but I just never really got into the whole lip-synching bit ... and, never being a dancer, that also held little appeal to me. As a music fan, I enjoyed things like "Rate A Record" ... it was fun to see some of these new releases go on to be big hits ... although a big percentage of them never did.
Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Chubby Checker, Jan and Dean ... ALL of these artists have been on our "Deserving And Denied" list for quite some time as being worthy of Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction. (I'd include Paul Anka in that "early era" list, too) Will it ever happen? It seems to get less and less likely every year ... which is a real shame as the committee only seems to concentrate on the new "eligibles" each year, leaving great acts like The Guess Who, The Moody Blues, Electric Light Orchestra and several other highly worthy acts in limbo. (kk)
I, Eddie Kelly, along with other American Bandstand regulars such as Carmen Jimenez, Arlene Sullivan and Frank Lobis, were flown to Los Angeles to be participants in Dick Clark's 33-1/3 American Bandstand Anniversary Special. Bobby was appearing with Frankie Avalon and Fabian. We spent some quality time with Bobby and had a few drinks in the lounge. This was 1985.
I saw him again and we chatted a bit at the 40th Anniversary of AB at the original studios in Philadelphia in 1997. He's one of the great and better guys ... really down to earth and never affected by his fame.
I interviewed Bobby back in '72 at a little dinner club in my hometown of Lakewood, NJ. I make the cuts into about a 40 minutes special featuring all of his biggest hits. He was wonderful to me, a then 19 year-old music geek / radio dude.
I told him that when my wife and I attended his book signing / birthday bash in NYC a few weeks ago. I mentioned that to him ... I don't think he even remembered performing in Lakewood, NJ ... but that's ok, as he likely sang at hundreds of small venues in his day, especially during low periods of his career. But he sure did sing well that night.
It's great to hear that you're going to be talking to him. I would have new questions, now that I've read his book.
1. Tell us more about the guys responsible for the sound coming out of those studios in Philly. I mean ... the musicians, the charts ... and especially, the rockin' bands that played behind the Cameo / Parkway artists. I know some were done in NYC, but the majority were cut in Philly.
2. Also, tell us MORE about the guys who produced, arranged and wrote the tunes. Did he ever have a hand in lyrics or arrangements?
3. His version of "Jingle Bell Rock" along with Chubby Checker is one of the best Christmas records ever made. Tell us more about that session. Was he pals with Chubby and the rest of the roster there? Their version of that holiday classic truly rocked ... showing Bobby's strength in up-tempo tunes.
I think he could have stayed in the mainstream had he developed a harder edge just as the British Invasion happened. "Wildwood Days" was one example from '63. My only comment about that is the DAVE CLARK FIVE sounded very much like the Cameo / Parkway hits that Rydell did. See if he agrees. Big Saxes ... BIG reverb ... BIG compression and limiting to make the records SPARKLE.
4. Tell us MORE about how Cameo / Parkway fell apart ... be specific.
I know that gambling of one of the main players there played a large part in the quick demise of Cameo / Parkway.
5. Does he think HE should be in the R&R Hall of Fame? What about Chubby Checker?
I will tell you, Kent, that I ENDED an interview just as quickly as it started with Mr. Ernie Evans. He was not only rude to ME (thinking I didn't know about his music -- which of course I DID) and was obviously pissed that he was playing at a small venue on the Seaside Heights, NJ, boardwalk in a dive bar. But he could have be nicer. I know not everyone wants to do an interview before a show ... but I was there between two shows. I was going to do a flattering piece on the guy for air use. But when it became apparent he wasn't interested, I just took the mic and tape machine and walked out.
Most people don't care too much about the behind the scenes stuff ... but record pigs DO. And that's why I think he could shed some light on some of this fascinating stuff. Philly was the epicenter of the music world for about five years ... much of it dominated by Rydell, Checker, etc..
That ought to hold you for a few minutes of great answers.
Big Jay Sorensen
Without a single exception, every person I have ever talked to who has met, worked with or interviewed Bobby Rydell describes him as one of the nicest guys in show business. I remember several years ago when Forgotten Hits was brand new one of our readers talked about the time he took all of his Bobby Rydell albums to a live show and asked Bobby to sign them. It really was kind of a selfish move ... but Bobby didn't hesitate, telling the fellow, "Hey, if you bought 'em all, I'll sign 'em all" ... a virtually unprecedented response.
Meanwhile, nearly to a man, every one who has ever talked to me about Chubby Checker describes him as extremely difficult to get along with. I dunno ... maybe he's just bitter, feeling that he's never really gotten his due as an artist, acknowledging his contribution to the history of rock and roll ... and there's some truth to that. Chubby is the ONLY guy to hit #1 TWICE with the same recording and kick off a national dance craze ... TWICE ... each time he did it. In 1960, the kids got up and twisted ... and a couple of years later, it was their parents visiting all the twist clubs that sprung up all over the nation. When we campaigned heavily for his rightful induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame several years ago, his fan club approached us and said, "Don't worry about Chubby ... the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will take care of itself" ... again, hardly what one would expect from a fan club of a particular artist. All I know is that it's now nine years later and he STILL hasn't ever even been listed on the ballot ... and I think that's just wrong.
I think we hit quite a few of the points you suggested during our interview ... see if you agree. (kk)
Bobby played Rochester as part of the Golden Boys (with Frankie Avalon and Fabian) and he was, by far, the most naturally personable. I was fortunate to emcee the show and spent about 15 minutes with them in their trailer and enjoyed talking to Bobby the most.
One of my first 45s was Bobby Rydell's "Volare" and I played it to death! LOVED it! Had no idea anyone had done it previously, just as what happens decade after decade with remakes. However, thanks to my brothers, I already loved his 45s, much like Freddie Cannon or Neil Sedaka. Their 45s were always spinning at our house.
BTW, Bobby tried doing a couple of Grass Roots tunes for Reprise. In 68, he issued both "The Lovin' Things" and "The River Is Wide" as A sides! I taped his RCA 1970 45 "It Must Be Love" off American Bandstand's "Rate a Record" so Dick Clark was still pushing the Rydell wagon. It was up against the Osmonds' "Movin Along," who were also kind of has beens at the time ... however they would quickly become giants. I taped both off AB and really liked "Movin Along" (I was 14 then), which could have easily been a re-release follow-up to "One Bad Apple" after they hit big.
When I first saw that Bobby had cut two songs that would ultimately go on to become hits for The Grass Roots while doing the research for this project, I was kinda shocked. I thought, "Wow, even though he wasn't hitting the charts any more, he still had a great ear for music and could spot a hit song a mile away. So it was quite a shock when Bobby told me that he didn't pick any of his own material ... he just recorded whatever they put in front of him. On the other hand, this means that whoever WAS making those decisions at the time felt that Bobby could still be making contemporary recordings if given the chance. Unfortunately by then, radio wasn't paying attention anymore. (kk)
I can't wait to read about your Bobby Rydell exploits ... cool stuff. The guy is, and always was, Mr. Smooth Voice.
EVERYBODY'S got to cha cha cha, as far as I'm concerned!
I only met him once, and what a sweet, kind gent.
Very interesting to find out that Bobby only filled in ONE NIGHT as the drummer for Rocco and the Saints after hearing and reading forever that he and Frankie were both in the band. I suppose technically they were but certainly not as I thought.
Way to dig out the facts and great interview.
This was a big reveal for me. For over half a century now we've heard about how Bobby Rydell (on drums) and Frankie Avalon (on trumpet) were in Rocco and the Saints together and that both went on to enjoy HUGE pop records as worldwide teen idols. To find out that they did exactly ONE gig together was quite a shock (and even that was with Bobby sitting in.) Will history be rewritten as a result of our interview? Probably not ... like they always say, when the legend is better than the truth, print the legend ... but Forgotten Hits readers now know the truth. (kk)
I am really looking forward to you devoting the entire week to Bobby Rydell. My favorites of his has got to be SWINGIN' SCHOOL and I always did like his version of THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC.
I discovered this tonight online about Bobby Rydell. It's from 2001 and the A & E Biography series.
Bobby Rydell - Wild About Bobby
Here's the A&E Biography special for Bobby Rydell from 2001. Includes some great old clips and photos, as well as interviews with: Dick Clark, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Ann-Margret, James Darren, Linda Hoffman, Bobby himself of course, his family, and many more. A great MUST-watch for any Bobby fan. Do enjoy!
Hi Kent ...
I have not seen Bobby for a long time. He recorded one of my songs, "Sideshow", in the sixties.
Bobby is a great guy ... I love his voice! I went to the session when Bobby did "Sideshow" and worked with the producer. I wish I had more to share.
Lots of love,
Bobby Rydell has been here many times.
He donated his time to sing at our Italian Festival many years ago in North Wildwood for a friend who had cancer. Little did we know his wife Camille would get cancer not too long after that.
He was here at Cool Scoops with his grandchildren and daughter and l was helping her to sell Wildwood Days Bracelets. They were a big hit for us all. Bobby even did a commercial for us at Cool Scoops!
He took his childhood sweetheart and wife's passing badly. His friends, the Golden Boys, helped him throughout the rough times.
Bobby underwent double organ transplant a few years back and is brand new! He still sings great and is touring with Frankie and Fabian still allm over the country. He is the headliner this October in Wildwood at the fabulous 50's Event!
He a great guy and very nice person.
It is my pleasure to have known him!
Paul Russo / Cool Scoops
P.S. I have included a few rare pics and also pics with him here at Cool Scoops.
Bobby the teen idol was an unpretentious, down to earth guy who was a delight to work with and know. He was a regular guy with no attitude, Bobby was one of the nicer artists I worked with. He had no star ego that got in the way. Of the many teen idols of the day, Bobby Rydell stood out as one of the truly great vocalist. The guy has chops!
His recording sessions moved quickly. In the studio, Rydell was a true professional. He took direction well and would nail the keeper in just a couple of takes.
At the time I first worked with Bobby he was already a star and I was just starting my first real job in the business. While some were a little skeptical about the new guy behind the board, if Bobby reservations he did not show it. He gave me the confidence and room to do my thing.
I never forgot that.
I met Bobby Rydell several years ago and you could tell he was in a lot of pain over his wife Camille's illness and subsequent passing.
Some of his performances were not commensurate with his talent and at times he was unreliable and problematic at appearances and shows.
I really thought he was going to be gone a few years ago.
When I met him at his home, Thistle Dew Studio with John Ricciutti and a recent benefit show for The Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame, he was a different person. He was really down to earth, charismatic, humble and a gifted story teller and impressionist. He really lights up a room and makes everyone around him feel comfortable.
His book is a great read, refreshingly candid, loaded with great entertainment industry anecdotes (and notable name drops), heartbreakingly poignant, a rich, vivid tapestry of music and entertainment history in the second half of the 20th Century (and beyond). Every public book signing appearance Bobby makes is a huge hit and the crowds adore him. He's really been thru a lot and he is in a really good place at this stage of his life.
Check out the new episode of John Ricciutti Presents covering Bobby Rydell's "Teen Idol on the Rocks"
The interview explores Bobby's great new book which is selling like hot cakes. The interview and book are refreshingly candid and cover Bobby's battle with Alcoholism (Including Organ Transplant) and several heart breaking, pivotal and exciting periods in Bobby's Life.
I've attached a few pictures of Bobby from shoots and appearances.
The interview was produced by Radnor Studio 21 and Character Driven Productions
Be sure to check out the interview clip via the link above ... good stuff! (kk)
I love your interview style, my friend. The Rydell interview is up there with your best work.
I wish the news people would ask questions like you do. There is no evading your questions.
You keep hammering, in a gentle way, until your question gets a satisfactory answer.
I like how you kept at Bobby to explain his feelings on the Philadelphia slights from the Hall of Fame and the way you kept at him about Klein's withholding of all of that wonderful music.
You are a dogged investigator! Geraldo's got nothing on you, Kent!
Thanks for the kind words.
I have to admit that it was a little more difficult this time and, as a result, I pushed a little harder on this one ... but I wanted this to be as good as it good be ... and, based on the comments I'm seeing, I think we did ok ... hope Bobby reads this and feels the same way. (Special thanks, too, to Randy Alexander, who helped set all of this up for me ... he's familiar with the work we do here in Forgotten Hits and I know that he definitely helped get me some extra time with Bobby.)
It's gotta be tough in a way ... Bobby's on a major promotional blitz right now, doing TONS of interviews and appearances in conjunction with the book. At some point he must get tired of answering the same questions over and over so I tried to get into some areas that perhaps the average "non-music-guy" journalist wouldn't think to ask. (I read a couple of other published interviews that he's done and the first three all compared him to Justin Bieber! That was definitely NOT the direction I was going to go with mine!)
I am delighted to write about Bobby Rydell. He's one of the nicest people I ever had the pleasure of working with and the session on which we recorded FORGET HIM was one of the easiest I've produced.
Let me say right away I was very sorry to hear of his health problems and really do hope he's been able to leave them behind.
So how did we come to work together? In the early 60s, Pye Records, the label I worked for, was expanding rapidly. As was the norm in those days, producers like me (even George Martin) worked as in-house salaried staff. No royalties. My roster of artistes was varied and my productions included Cast Albums, comedy singles and albums and a Scottish duo.
As part of its expansion, Pye entered into licensing deals with Warner / Reprise and Cameo / Parkway and the deals included bringing various artistes from these labels to the UK to record. It also helped that everyone loved the British sound. In a short space of time I had the pleasure of producing Frank Sinatra, Keely Smith, The Everly Brothers, Chubby Checker (hard work!) and, my personal favourite, Bobby Rydell.
I was familiar with Bobby's warm sound and I wrote FORGET HIM specifically for him. The session was organized before he arrived in the UK. I was producer and writer and also sketched the chart. Bobby and I met as soon as he arrived in the UK and rehearsed a few songs but we both agreed that FORGET HIM should get the priority treatment.
A few days later we were in the studio and FORGET HIM came to life. I remember we recorded in the morning with everyone (orchestra and backing singers) taped at the same time. Most singers hate morning sessions before the voice has properly woken up but it didn't worry Bobby. In fact we nailed the Master in two takes.
I never had any worries about FORGET HIM and was thrilled when it charted in so many countries.
I still regularly perform the song myself in a nice slow easy Latin style. That's about as much energy as I like to give these days.
"Forget Him" is, without question, my all-time favorite Bobby Rydell track ... it just seems to have a MUCH cleaner sound than many of the others. You guys totally nailed it in the studio on this one.
It's a shame because that record was in The Top Five right as The Beatles were hitting the chart here in America. Instead of spring-boarding a whole rash of hit singles, it ended up being Bobby's last big hurrah on the pop charts. Thanks, Tony! (kk)
You missed your calling.
This is one of the best interviews I've ever read.
Forgotten Hits is ALWAYS entertaining and informative - but you can be especially proud of this one.
I very much looked forward to your piece on Bobby Rydell.
It looks like you were able to conduct the in-depth interview with Bobby that I've always wanted to do.
The only thing I might have done differently was get Bobby to comment more on each of his hits. He did talk about a few and the "Wildwood Days" story was precisely the kind of insight I would seek into all his hits. It was interesting to note that Bobby simply recorded anything placed in front of him and admired Perry Como -- because Como told me he did exactly the same thing! According to Perry, if he -- a former barber -- had chosen his own material, "I'd still be back cutting hair or something."
I'm not surprised by Bobby's interest in "Great American Songbook" material. Think about the generation of song stylists he cherished and his love of Big Band Era material (which today forms the heart of what we now call "The Great American Songbook"). Most adults in the '50s and '60s -- including the show biz veterans he met and worked with -- were convinced that rock 'n' roll was a passing teenage fad and that it would soon fade away. Even Buddy Holly, who wrote and sang "Not Fade Away," wondered about that in one interview! The old hands who managed Bobby and ran Cameo-Parkway all told him and other teen idols they cared about that if they wanted long-running careers, they'd have to shift from that flash-in-the-pan rock 'n' roll stuff to the kind of music popular among adult nightclub audiences of that era (the early '60s). That's why Rydell was encouraged to record "That Old Black Magic," Bobby Darin was pushed to cut "Mack The Knife," etc. Doing so would enable them to ease out of that "fleetingly popular kid stuff" known as rock 'n' roll and into long-running supperclub stardom alongside Jack Jones, Vic Damone, Buddy Greco, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and, of course, Frank Sinatra. Even Frankie Valli, a huge Sinatra fan, shared the same aspiration -- which was why Valli chose to create a singing career for himself apart from the teen-oriented Four Seasons with not a rock tune but a middle-of-the-road supperclub song which would work onstage in Vegas: "Can't Take My Eyes Off You."
I'm glad that following the passing of Allen Klein at least some of the output of Cameo-Parkway has finally been made available to radio and the public. The fact that it took so long, though, has lead to a generation or more growing up without ever hearing the labels' hits -- while the output of other record companies active at the time dominate oldies airplay. Bobby Rydell was second only to Chubby Checker among the Cameo-Parkway stars, which ranged from The Orlons to The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp to Bob Seger, The Tymes to Charlie Gracie, The Ohio Express to The New Colony Six, John Zacherle to Ed McMahon, The Hardly Worthit Players to Clint Eastwood!
The History Of Rock And Roll
As mentioned during our week long Bobby Rydell series, Ron Onesti has booked The Teen Idol for a one night only, special appearance at The Arcada Theatre.
Complete details are below ... and we've even got a chance for a couple of lucky Forgotten Hits Readers to win a pair of tickets to see the show.
Bobby Rydell makes his first-ever appearance at The Arcada Theatre on Saturday, November 26th ... tickets are on sale now thru the link below ...
And drop me an email (with BOBBY TICKETS in the subject line) and we'll enter you in our special drawing to win a pair of tickets to the show.
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Plus Bobby's doing a bunch of other appearances as a way of promoting his new book "Teen Idol On The Rocks". PR Extraordinaire Randy Alexander shares this information with our readers ...
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
BOBBY RYDELL in Conversation with Anthony DeCurtis
92nd Street Y
Lexington Ave. at 92nd St.
at 8:00 PM
BOBBY RYDELL TO EMBARK ON NATIONWIDE
SPECIAL EVENTS & BOOK TOUR BEHIND ACCLAIMED
NEW AUTOBIOGRAPHY, ‘TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS’
‘Justin Bieber of the Camelot Era’
to Bring Candid, Compelling
‘Tale of Second Chances’ to Fans of All Ages
with Series of Intimate
Concerts, Conversations, and Book Signings
Story of Rise to Superstardom through Alcoholism and Life-Saving Double Transplant Surgery Hailed as ‘Captivating,’ ‘Charming,’ ‘Extraordinary,’ ‘Unbelievable,’ ‘Highly Entertaining,’ ‘Deeply Personal,’ ‘Sometimes Painful,’ ‘Fascinating’ ... and More!
PHILADELPHIA – With reviewers unanimously agreeing that multitalented entertainer BOBBY RYDELL has told one hell of a story in his compelling new autobiography, TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS, the Justin Bieber of the “Camelot” era will be bringing his brutally candid and compelling “Tale of Second Chances” directly to his fans with an extensive nationwide Special Events & Book Tour.
Running concurrently with his ongoing concert performances, both solo and alongside fellow South Philly “Golden Boys” Frankie Avalon and Fabian, Rydell’s promotional Special Events & Book Tour will allow Bobby Watchers young and old to see and hear all sides of America’s original teen idol as he combines traditional book signings with distinctly intimate performances and conversations with Grammy award-winning writers and musicians, and other music and entertainment media veterans. Rydell will be signing copies of TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS: A Tale of Second Chances (Doctor Licks Publishing, 249 pp., $16.95) at all special events and personal appearances as well.
Among the interviewers scheduled to be “in conversation” with Rydell will be Rolling Stone contributing editor and Grammy-winning essayist Anthony DeCurtis, Ralph J. Gleason Award-winning author and Grammy-winning musician, arranger, and record producer Allan Slutsky, veteran New York TV personality Bill Boggs, and longtime Philadelphia music and entertainment columnist and radio personality Chuck Darrow. Slutsky, winner of the first Rolling Stone/BMI Gleason Award for writing Standing in the Shadows of Motown, later released as a highly acclaimed feature film, also is Rydell’s TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS co-author.
DeCurtis will be “in conversation” with Rydell at the 92Y in New York City (July 27), part of a prestigious decade-long series that has included Lou Reed, Sting, Deborah Harry, Alanis Morissette, Questlove, Clive Davis, and Dion. Darrow will chat with Rydell as part of “An Intimate Evening” concert performance at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park, NJ (Aug. 10); Boggs will lead a discussion with Rydell at the Friars Club in New York in October, and Slutsky and other music journalists and media personalities will host Q&A sessions this fall at numerous special concert events across the country.
From his vivid childhood on the fabled mid-20th-century streets of South Philadelphia through his more recent battles with alcoholism, and his lifesaving double-transplant surgery (he shares a liver with an eight-year-old girl), Rydell “has unbelievable stories to tell, and he’s sharing the good, the bad, and the fascinating,” says Parade Magazine. The Huffington Post adds: TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS is “pure rock n’ roll nostalgia with a big dose of personal memories that will tear your heart out. ... another reason to embrace him even more!”
Rita Cosby, Emmy-winning TV and radio host, calls the book “captivating, charming and extraordinary as the man himself,” professing her love for “its soaring story line.” Stu Bykofsky, widely regarded veteran Philadelphia Daily News columnist, praised Rydell’s “conversational style” and marveled how he “cuts himself no slack when he discusses how and when he crawled into the bottle” in a book “so honest and warm it makes you glad he got through it and is performing today.” Fox News, Closer Weekly, Radio Times (NPR), Goldmine, ABC News Radio, Associated Press Radio, Premiere Network, Westwood One, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Liz Smith, Mitch Albom, Cousin Brucie, John Fugelsang, Public Television’s Steve Adubato, and dozens more media already have clamored to interview Rydell for the book.
The attention surrounding TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS is just one aspect further confirming Rydell’s still explosive career. Aside from continuing to tour around the world as a “saloon swingin’” solo artist and with fellow South Philly “Golden Boys” Frankie Avalon and Fabian in a road show with over 30 years of staying power, Rydell will be gracing the silver screen next year in Taylor Hackford’s The Comedian with Robert De Niro ─ 54 years after his indelible song-and-dance acting stint opposite Ann-Margret in the iconic movie musical Bye Bye Birdie.
Humorous, tragic, and inspiring as well, TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS stands as one of the most important non-fiction books of 2016.
TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS is available NOW at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and book stores throughout America. Autographed copies and books with customized personal messages can be ordered exclusively at www.bobbyrydellbook.com.
TEEN IDOL ON THE ROCKS ON TOUR
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Bobby Rydell In Conversation with Anthony DeCurtis
92nd St. Y
Buttenwieser Hall 1395 Lexington Avenue at 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128
Tickets & Info: 212-415-5500
Discussion and song with Rolling Stone senior editor Anthony DeCurtis, followed by book signing.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
An Intimate Evening with Bobby Rydell - The Original Teen Idol "Concert Conversation and Book Signing"
Tim McLoone's Supper Club
1200 Ocean Avenue
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
Dinner/Doors: 6:00pm - Show: 8:00pm
Tickets & Info: 732-774-1155
In this INTIMATE EVENING of musical performance, conversation and book signing, BOBBY RYDELL will not only perform his hit songs like "Volare," "Wild One," "Sway," "Wildwood Days," "Forget Him," "We Got Love" and others, but will also share stories from his incredible life.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
B&N - Plymouth Meeting
2300 Chemical Road, Plymouth Mtg., PA 1-3pm
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
16 S. Main Street, Doylestown, PA 6:30-8:30pm
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Main Point Book Store
116 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA 3-5pm
Friday, October 14, 2016
Wildwood Crest Library
6300 Atlantic Avenue, Wildwood Crest, NJ 2-4pm
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Books & Greetings
271 Livingston Street, Northvale, NJ 1-3pm
Saturday, November 19, 2016
B&N - Broomall
1991 Sproul Road, Broomall, PA 1-3pm
MORE DATES TO COME ...
Official website: www.bobbyrydell.com
Book website: www.bobbyrydellbook.com
YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/BobbyRydell
Copyright Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits, 1998 - 2017 ... All rights reserved