Bobby was one of the many musical hit making “Bobby” pop singers of the early 1960s …. Vinton, Darin, Rydell, Vee.
The Bobby singers are largely disrespected and undervalued. Darin was the best by far but all the Bobby singers put out some fun, well-made pop rock.
They were also all (with the exception of Vinton who was of Polish extraction) of Italian-American extraction.
allmusic: Bobby Rydell was born Robert Ridarelli in
In 1950, Bobby Rydell entered the amateur show of Paul Whiteman; his first-place win gained him a regular part on the show. He stayed with the Whiteman show for three years and then went to join several local bands in
Rydell and the other “Bobby” vocalists all put out albums of traditional pop standards, as did other Italian Americans: Dion, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Annette Funicello, and Fabian (more or less). Perhaps because of that, subsequent “serious” rock historians dismiss their work. Perhaps there is a little cultural racism. Who knows? It is clear, though, that Italian Americans feature highly in this point of pop rock history just as they did at certain times in jazz and traditional pop.
It has become orthodox to suggest that between 1960- 1963 there was a white middleclass urban Northern puritan backlash against rock n roll and that the softer rock pop singers were the result. This is partially true though it should be noted that the guys and gals mentioned above also had trad pop in their “blood”. They surely must have grown up listening to their parent’s music, and their parents surely listened to Italian-Americans of their era: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Al Martino, Jerry Vale, Russ Columbo, Vic Damone, Louis Prima, Mario Lanza, Buddy Greco etc, many of who were still popular in the early 1960s.
Also, Pat Boone, though not Italian, had been mining standards and done albums of the same going back to the mid 1950s.
All that is relevant but the biggest single influence for softer pop rock at that time came from pops most influential stylist of that time, Elvis Presley. Elvis, from his earliest days, had been influenced by pop and loved Mario Lanza and Dean Martin. When he came out of the army in 1960 the success of his faux opera song “It’s Now or Never” (a retitled Neapolitan standard), his dramatic ballad “Are You Lonesome Tonight” (an old Al Jolson song), his appearance with Frank Sinatra on television and his Blue Hawaii soundtrack from 1961 (which included Bing Crosby Hawaiian standards) really confirmed that pop rock, with one foot in trad pop and the other in Italian styled faux opera, had market potential.
Bobby Darin took that to the next level by recording albums of trad pop in a trad pop manner (as opposed to Elvis rock combo format). Darin also found market success.
It was inevitable that subsequent singers would make music in this style.
And, many albums were made.
I should also say that there is a tendency to equate the early 60s pop vocalists with the boy bands or the manufactured teen pop stars of today but that is wholly unfair. Though, some were more manufactured than others, they all explored their musical roots which had one foot in Elvis Presley (maybe it’s a Catholic thing: have you met an Italian, Croatian, Spaniard, Polak or Irishman who doesn’t like Elvis?) and the other in the trad pop of their parents. The synthesis of these, though hardly “rockin’ always provided an interesting mix of pop styles across generations. They tended to treat the trad pop standards less reverently (with some rock ‘n’ roll sass) than when those same tunes are covered by pop artists today.
Rydell’s album is a good example of that. These aren’t faithful versions – thought (outside the box) has gone into them. It’s not rock n roll but it has some of the surliness off rock …
The big bonus is that Rydell can sing and can sing well.
Tracks (best in italics)
- A Lot Of Livin’ To Do – from “Bye Bye Birdie” – wow, a convincing big band version of this song that swings and it comes with a great Benny Goodman type clarinet at the start. In 1963 Bobby appeared as Hugo Peabody (Ann-Margret’s boyfriend) in the film version of the Broadway show “Bye Bye Birdie”
- Al Di La – a Italian love ballad, sung in, eerrrr Italian. Pretty and lush. The song is normally associated with Connie Francis (herself a Italian-American) who sang Italian and bi-lingual versions of the song in late 1962 early 1963. I’m guessing that Rydell’s was the original.
- Maria – from “West Side Story” – not as emotionally operatic as the original this is nonetheless a good version. I’m not sure if there is a bad version of this song as the song is well written heightened romanticism.
- I Can’t Stop Loving You – the Ray Charles standard. This song has been covered more times than can be counted.
- Stranger On The Shore – an Aker Bilk song with added lyrics. By way of trivia, Acker Bilks instrumental of this song became the first British recording to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1962. Looks like Acker spearheaded the British invasion!
– Often associated with Hoagy Carmichael who did it in 1930 there is more than a touch of Artie Shaw in here. It’s also been done by everyone. I suppose that’s why it’s called a standard. Lazy River
- My Kind Of Girl – another Acker Bilk song (with Leon Young) given the Benny Goodman treatment.
- Sealed With A Kiss – The Bryan Hyland hit from 1961 well sung by Rydell.
– from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – the Johnny Mercer-Henry Mancini tune. This is a beautifully evocative love song, perhaps one of the greatest written. Rydell takes it easy in Andy Williams territory though he adds a little rock n pop sass. Moon River
- Around The World – from “Around the World in 80 Days”. From the 1956 film with a vocal usually identified with Bing Crosby.
- Tonight – Another operatic pop number from “West Side Story”.
- Roses Are Red (My Love) – Bobby Vinton’s #1 in 1962 and firmly associated with him. Rydell gives it a good reading and changes the tempo to a Glenn Miller big band type of dance number.
Slick and quite relaxing …. What I enjoy most is the total lack of pretension in the material even when dramatic. It’s perfect music to sit down and have a drink to. You can lose yourself in the little narratives or you can just get sucked in by the melodies which are written to give all emphasis to a musical expression of the narrator’s emotions.
I’m keeping it.
Nothing no where
Al Di La
Sealed With A Kiss
Around The World
- Allmusic: “This 1962 LP was released as part of Cameo’s 4000 Series, devoted to pop albums recorded on 35 millimeter film instead of magnetic tape for improved sound quality”.
- Bobby Rydell also made something of a (minor) cultural statement when he teamesd up with label mate Afro-American Chubby Checker in 1961 for an album. allmusic: "There is also something to be said for two of the top black and white teen idols sharing equal billing on a record in 1961, singing "Side by Side" together and hamming it up; the liner notes even describe the two as great friends and "normal, very nice, well-adjusted teenagers."The artists’ names are cleverly arranged on the cover so that they intermingle and neither receives top billing. Bobby Rydell/Chubby Checker is more than a good-time teen record, it’s a statement for racial harmony".
- “Bernie Lowe (November 22, 1917 – September 1, 1993) was an American songwriter / record producer / arranger / pianist and bandleader.
Born Bernard Lowenthal in
Lowe founded Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Cameo Records in 1956, and Cameo was later expanded into the Cameo-Parkway Records label. The owners then signed a then unknown singer, Ernest Evans, to their burgeoning label. Evans would soon change his name to Chubby Checker, whose success helped Cameo-Parkway become one of the largest independent record labels in the