Ex-teen idols Lou Christie, Frankie
Avalon and Bobby Rydell, left to right,
entertained at the Island Resort & Casino
during the first weekend of October.
By STEVE SEYMOUR
A trio of former teen idols kept the hits coming during a weekend show at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris.
Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Lou Christie performed hits from the 1950s and 60s backed by a ten-man band including guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and a six-piece horn section.
Dubbed Dick Fox's Golden Boys, the three venerable singers performed before a wildly enthusiastic, if older, audience which fondly recalled the trio's early rock 'n' roll hits. My wife Sue and I enjoyed the Saturday, Oct. 4 show from our seats in the third row.
The program started with a history lesson in the form of vintage black & white film clips from Dick Clark's influential American Bandstand television program showing the three stars performing as teenagers.
Avalon, Rydell and Christie followed the nostalgic visuals by opening the concert with "Bandstand Boogie." The familiar theme song was closely tied to the ABC show broadcast nationally from Philadelphia, also Avalon and Rydell's hometown. (Christie, meanwhile, was born in Glen Willard, Pa.)
The singers, all from an Italian-American heritage, followed-up with a spirited version of "Three of a Kind," boasting their common musical, geographical and cultural background.
Following a bit of friendly banter, including some age-related jokes, each performed separately, with 66-year-old Rydell up first. A regular on Paul Whiteman's amateur hour TV show from 1951-54, Rydell later appeared on national programs with Red Skelton, Pat Boone, Danny Thomas and Perry Como.
Although Rydell has 30 hits to his credit, he opened with "Goody Goody," a 1957 doowop hit for Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers.
Next, Rydell delivered a solid version of "Wild One," his No. 2 smash from early 1962 and his biggest hit. Born Robert Ridarelli, the singer was just 19 years old at the time.
As scenes from "Bye Bye Birdie" played in the background, Rydell sang material from the 1963 color motion picture he starred in along with Ann-Margret. Rydell reminisced about portraying Hugo Peabody, Ann-Margret's boyfriend in the film and getting to kiss the Swedish-born actress, who played Kim MacAfee.
Rydell ended his set with faithful renditions of two of his greatest hits: 1963's "Forget Him," and "Volare," from 1960. Both tunes were No. 4 hits, according to Billboard magazine.
Christie launched his portion of the show with a rockin' take on "I'm Gonna Make You Mine," his Top Ten from the summer of 1969. The singer delivered a stunning version of "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing," a song which hit for an amazing five different acts in 1955, including the Four Aces.
By age 15, Christie was already a professional in pop music, having won a statewide scholarship competition while at Moon Township High School, near Pittsburgh. As a young performer, Christie appeared on such TV shows as Hit or Miss, Shivaree, Hollywood a Go Go, and Shebang, as well as American Bandstand.
Now 65, Christie treated his Upper Peninsula audience to two of his earliest hits. Both "The Gypsy Cried" and "Two Faces Have I" featured plenty of "yi, yi, yi" falsetto wailing with the audience eagerly joining in. The latter tune became Christie's opportunity to demonstrate his baritone and falsetto vocal capabilities in the same song. Christie, born Lou Geno Sacco, composed both hits with songwriting partner Twyla Herbert.
"Rhapsody in the Rain," from 1966, and "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me," a Mel Carter song from 1965, followed. Christie completed his set with "Lightnin' Strikes," complete with a ripping guitar solo. Another original composition, "Lightnin' Strikes" topped the charts in 1966. The singer received a standing ovation for his efforts.
Avalon opened his part of the program with "Beach Blanket Bingo," a pleasant reminder of the "beach" movies produced by American International Pictures he starred in along with Annette Funicello during the early to mid 1960s. For movie buffs, those titillating titles also included "Beach Party," "Muscle Beach Party" and "Bikini Beach."
Born Francis Avallone, Avalon worked in bands as early as 1953 and was a childhood friend of Rydell's.
David Seville's novelty song, "Witch Doctor," which hit the top of the pop and rhythm & blues charts, came next during Avalon's performance. The singer told the audience the song represented the sound of the 1950s, when he first entered the music scene.
The 69-year-old singer returned to a summer theme for "California Sun," which featured a rousing drum solo by Avalon's son, Frank. The older Avalon recorded the track, originally by the Rivieras, for the 1987 film, "Back to the Beach." Avalon also starred in the movie as the "Big Kahuna," opposite Annette Funicello.
Avalon tackled another soundtrack entry with "Beauty School Drop-Out," his contribution to the motion picture "Grease." Fans will remember Avalon also appeared in the 1978 film as "Teen Angel."
Two 1958 Avalon hits, "DeDe Dinah" and "Ginger Bread," in abbreviated versions, came next. Avalon ramped up the excitement with "Bobby Sox to Stockings," a Top Ten from the following year.
The singer offered earnest versions of "Why" and "Venus," his two No. 1 hits from 1959, much to the delight of the sold-out audience. Avalon closed his segment with "Where or When," originally a hit for Dion and the Belmonts.
All three vocalists contributed to "Rock And Roll Heaven," the 1974 Righteous Brothers tune, which opened the final portion of the show and served as a tribute to four rock legends. Avalon saluted Rick Nelson with "Mary Lou," Christie paid respects to Elvis with "Can't Help Falling in Love," while Rydell reprised Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife."
Bill Haley's "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" was given an energetic work-out with all three singers adding to the classic tune.
The stars then returned to "Rock And Roll Heaven," added "Old Time Rock & Roll" and said a humorous goodbye with the closing theme to the Mickey Mouse Club television program.
In an original incarnation including Fabian Forte, instead of Christie, the Golden Boys have been playing together since 1985.
The Avalon, Rydell and Christie package was put together by Dick Fox Entertainment, a New York City-based management firm.
Whether today's newly-minted teen idols will be remembered when they reach their "golden" years is anybody's guess.
As far as these ex-teen idols are concerned, Avalon, Rydell and Christie ably demonstrated their staying power as the "Golden Boys."