By Lola Rossi
Celebrating their 30th year touring as “The Golden Boys” Bobby Rydell, Fabian and Frankie Avalon will perform this Friday, January 8, 2016, in the Special Events Center at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. (800) 827-2946.
“In 1985, a guy named Dick Fox had an idea to put three Italian ‘Teen Idols’ from South Philly together for a Summer Tour,” recalls Bobby Rydell during a telephone interview from his home in Penn Valley, a Suburb of Philadelphia. “He called Frankie, Fabian and me, told us his idea and we all agreed to do it. So we did it, and it was tremendous. We had sold-out performances everywhere.” They traveled on a bus and did over 50 one night shows, throughout the country.
According to Rydell, after weeks of traveling, he and Avalon had a conversation about how long they thought the new show could last. “Maybe a year, year and a half, two years tops, and it’s over. But here we are, it’s 2016 and we’re still doing it, and the show is better than ever.”
Born and raised in South Philadelphia, PA, all three teenage heart throbs lived within two blocks of each other as children, growing up in the days when “hanging out on the corner” was cool. “Although Fabian lived a half a block away from me, I didn’t know him growing up. I met him when we were both in show business. Frankie and I go back a lot of years. I used to sing and do impersonations and at that time, he played the trumpet. We did a lot of USO Shows, Veterans Hospitals and teenage dances together, when we were kids.” The name of their group was Rocco and the Saints.
An only child, Rydell was born in 1942. “My Dad was in the Army overseas during the war. My Mother would write him and tell him ‘the baby is always singing, the baby’s always singing.’ I was three years old at the time. My Father wrote back to my Mother and said, ‘Well who knows Jenny, maybe one day we’ll have a star in the family.’ I still have the letter in my possession.” His Father would take him around to the local clubs and ask the owners to have his Son sing and do impersonations. “I always say that if I had any talent whatsoever, my Dad was the first to see it. I have been singing for quite a while.”
When Rydell was five years old, his Father took him to the Earl Theatre in Center City Philadelphia. “My Dad loved Big Band music and he took me to see the Benny Goodman Orchestra. The drummer in the band was Gene Krupa. I remember telling my Dad, I don’t know who that guy is, but I want to be him. I have been playing drums ever since.” In high school, Rydell played the drums in Marching Band, the Orchestra, and the Symphonic Orchestra.
Rydell’s first single to reach the charts was in 1959 with a song called “Kissin’ Time” recorded on Cameo Records; Philadelphia’s top recording label at the time. His recording career earned him 34 Top-40 hits on the Billboard Charts, placing him in the Top 5 Artists of his era. In 1963, he played the role of Hugo Peabody in the classic movie version of “Bye Bye Birdie” with Ann-Margret and Dick Van Dyke. In the Broadway musical and in the film “Grease,” the high school was named after him, Rydell High.
Fabian Forte was a handsome young man at 15 years old and was sought out by producers looking for Teenage Idols from South Philly. Avalon suggested they take a look at Fabian Forte. He didn’t seem to be very fond of singing at first, but after dedicated rehearsing and support from his family, he became an overnight success with the release of the song, “Shivers”. This helped him secure an appearance on Dick Clark’s Bandstand, the girls went wild for Fabian. He recorded a lot of songs that made the girls swoon. He was an actor in over 30 films and continues to perform with Avalon and Rydell.
Frankie Avalon was another handsome young man with a beautiful voice. He knew both Rydell and Forte when they were growing up. He started playing trumpet at a very young age, and by the time he was 11 years old, was performing on the Jackie Gleason Show. Avalon had 31 charted U.S. Billboard singles from 1958 through 1962. He has been a singing and acting “Teen Idol” from the start.
“There are kids today who are starting to fall in love with our music. We have a lot of fun doing the show. We’re three guys who hung out in Philly and now we’re three guys hanging out on stage. You will love the show,” shared Rydell.