Atlantic City Weekly

Still Golden After All These Years
By Joe Szczechowski
Atlantic City Weekly

January 5, 2006

In the late 1950s and early ‘60s, Frankie Avalon, Fabian Forte and Bobby Rydell sent female teenyboppers swooning while landing dozens of hit records on the charts.  Each of the South Philly-based teen idols gained his first national exposure through appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, which, at the time, was broadcast from Philadelphia’s WFIL studios at 46th and Market.

Songs like Avalon’s “Venus,” Fabian’s “Turn Me Loose,” and Rydell’s “Wild One” still bring back fond memories for many.  This Friday and Saturday, the trio will re-capture some of the fun and excitement of their heyday when they appear together as “Dick Fox’s Golden Boys” at Harrah’s.

The three singers have been filling showrooms as the Golden Boys for 20 years; ironically, that’s at least three times longer than any was able to maintain his original teen idol status.  And it’s much longer than any expected the reunion to last.

“We figured it would last maybe a year, two tops,” Rydell told Atlantic City Weekly last week.  “There’s no way in the world we thought we’d be doing this for 20 years.”

In 1985, manager/promoter Dick Fox had the idea of getting the trio together for a few appearances.  Originally billed as the “Golden Boys of Bandstand,” the initial shows were so successful that more and more had to be added.  Avalon, Fabian and Rydell wound up spending three years on the road, logging close to three hundred dates across the country in their initial tour.

“The show was extremely successful, right from the start,” Rydell says.  “We weren’t out to prove anything.  We just said to ourselves, ‘Here are three Italian kids from South Philadelphia, born and raised within two blocks of each other.  Let’s go out there and have fun.’  That hasn’t changed.  I think people see that attitude coming from the stage.  It’s a fun show to watch – that’s what’s made it so successful.  We have a great time doing it.”

It was almost a given that the local appeal of seeing three former American Bandstand stars performing together would make the show a popular attraction in this area, but the Golden Boys play to sold-out venues across the country.

“We draw tremendous crowds all over,” Rydell said.  “Nostalgia for that era continues to be very popular.  There’s at least one radio station in every city that plays oldies from the 1950s and ‘60s.  A lot of people enjoy the music from that era.  I think the popularity of our show has to do with the magic of seeing Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell performing together.  People may have seen us performing alone at one time or another, but the chance to see three of us together is what makes it special.”

All three singers open the show together, then each takes a solo turn.  Later, the trio reunites in a tribute to some of their contemporaries who have passed on.  “Frankie does  Ricky Nelson, Fabian does Elvis Presley , and I do Bobby Darin,” Rydell says.  “Then we finish with Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock.’”

While the show’s format hasn’t changed much over the years, the spontaneous banter between the trio means no two shows are exactly the same.  They may be older, but Rydell, who’s 63, Fabian who’s 62, and Avalon, who’s 65, still joke around like teenagers on stage.  Expect a lot of music and comedy, some dancing, and of course, all the hits.

Hits are something Rydell is no stranger to.  The singer enjoyed nineteen Top-Thirty hits in his career, including “Wild One,” “Swingin School,” “Kissin’ Time,” ‘Sway,” “Volare,” and “Forget Him.”  In addition, he placed over a dozen other singles on the charts.  It’s a track record of which he remains proud.

“I’ve been told that I’m listed in the Top-Fifty on the all-time list for number of charting records in Billboard magazine,” he said.  “I had something like 35 or 36 chart records, so I’m 50th on the all-time list, which is pretty decent.”

While Fabian’s and Avalon’s music has been readily available on CD for years, Rydell’s original hits became available on CD for the first time this past October, when Abkco Records released a 25-song retrospective entitled The Best of Bobby Rydell: Cameo Parkway 1959-1964.

  “I’ve gotten e-mails from fans all over the world who are thrilled to finally be able to hear the original versions of the songs,” Rydell says.

Born Robert Louis Ridarelli in South Philadelphia, Rydell says he knew early on that he wanted to be in show business. “When I was four-years-old I saw Gene Krupa in the Benny Goodman band.  Right then and there I said, ‘Yeah!  That’s what I want to do.’”  Rydell says that his father recognized his son’s talents early on, and encouraged him to develop them.

When not touring with the Golden Boys, Rydell remains busy with his solo show, appearing in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and in nightclubs across the country.  A true home-town boy, he still lives in the Philadelphia area.

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