Frankie Valli in October 2012
|Birth name||Francesco Stephen Castelluccio|
May 3, 1934 |
Newark, New Jersey, United States
|Origin||Newark, New Jersey, United States|
|Genres||Rock and roll, traditional pop|
|Associated acts||The Four Seasons
also known as
The 4 Seasons
The 4 Seasons featuring the "sound" of Frankie Valli
The Wonder Who?
Frankie Valli (born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio; May 3, 1934) is an American popular singer, known as the frontman of The Four Seasons beginning in 1960. He is known for his unusually powerful falsetto voice.
Valli scored 29 Top 40 hits with The Four Seasons, one Top 40 hit under The Four Seasons' alias 'The Wonder Who?', and nine Top 40 hits as a solo artist. As a member of The Four Seasons, Valli's number-one hits included "Sherry" (1962), "Big Girls Don't Cry" (1962), "Walk Like a Man" (1963), "Rag Doll" (1964) and "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" (1975). Valli's recording of the song "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" reached number two in 1967. "You're Ready Now", a Valli solo recording from 1966, became a surprise hit in Great Britain as part of the Northern soul scene and hit number eleven on the British pop charts in December 1970. As a solo artist, Valli scored number-one hits with the songs "My Eyes Adored You" (1974) and "Grease" (1978).
Valli was born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio as the third and youngest son to an Italian family in the First Ward of Newark, New Jersey. His father, Anthony Castelluccio, was a barber and display designer for Lionel model trains; his mother, Mary Rinaldi, was a homemaker and beer company employee. He was inspired to take up a singing career at the age of seven after his mother took him to see the young Frank Sinatra at the Paramount Theater in New York City. His early mentor was singer "Texas" Jean Valli, from whom he obtained his last name. Until he could support himself with music, he worked as a barber.
Valli's birth year has been called into question. Valli never addressed the issue himself, until the 2007 posting at the Official Frankie Valli Site, sponsored by his current record label, Universal Records. Much of the previous official publicity surrounding his career used 1937 as the birth year. Other sources, such as the Bear Family Records release, titled "The Four Lovers" (BCD 15424), as well as a 1965 mug shot, available through The Smoking Gun, all identify his year of birth as 1934.
Valli began his professional singing career in 1951 with the Variety Trio (Nickie DeVito, Tommy DeVito and Nick Macioci). Valli's desire to sing in public was initially granted when, having heard Valli sing, the group offered him a guest spot when the group performed. In late 1952, the Variety Trio disbanded and Valli, along with Tommy DeVito, became part of the house band at The Strand in New Brunswick, New Jersey. For his part, Valli played bass and sang.
He cut his first single, "My Mother's Eyes", in 1953 as "Frankie Valley", a variation on a name he adopted from "Texas" Jean Valli, a favorite female singer. Around this time, Valli and Tommy DeVito left the house band at The Strand and formed The Variatones with Hank Majewski, Frank Cattone and Billy Thompson. In 1956, as part of an audition backing a female singer, the group impressed New York record man Peter Paul, who had them auditioning at RCA Victor a week later.
Renamed The Four Lovers, the group recorded several singles and one album's worth of tracks. They had a minor hit with "You're the Apple of My Eye" in 1956. Nickie DeVito and Hank Majewski left in 1958 to be replaced by Nick Macioci (now Nick Massi) and Hugh Garrity. Massi was in and out of the group, and, occasionally Charles Calello joined on accordion. The group continued to perform until 1959, when Bob Gaudio became a member. After a few more changes, the group was renamed "The 4 Seasons" after a cocktail lounge the group was at after auditioning in a big suburban bowling alley in 1960.
As the lead singer of The Four Seasons, Valli had a string of hits beginning with the number-one hit "Sherry" in 1962. As a footnote to this period of his career with The Four Seasons, the group's bassist and vocal arranger Nick Massi was replaced in 1965 by Charlie Calello, the group's instrumental arranger, and, then shortly thereafter, Calello was replaced by Joseph LaBracio, who went by the pseudonym Joe Long.
During the 1960s, Gaudio and his then-songwriting partner, producer Bob Crewe, worked with Valli to craft solo recordings with varying degrees of success. This concept of a major recording artist performing solo in opposition to his or her own group performances was rare in the rock/pop world (Buddy Holly and The Crickets were an exception) and may have given tacit approval to other groups and members of other groups to pursue such a path. The potential to dominate the charts with group and solo recordings was great, and Valli, Gaudio and Crewe occasionally rose to the occasion with both great performances and commercial hits. Valli was the original artist to record the Gaudio-Crewe composition "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)", a performance that was copied nearly note for note when recorded by The Walker Brothers, an American group based in England. The Walker Brothers version was a huge success. Valli continued to record solo performances and finally reached major success with the release of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", which reached number two in the charts and was widely recorded by many other artists.
Valli's debut solo album was a gathering together of various single releases and a few new recordings. Before the release of Valli's second solo album, a single was released in July 1967 with the A-side "I Make a Fool of Myself", a record that reached number 18. Timeless, Valli's second solo album release was more coherent and Valli took more time in recording it. Timeless contains one Top 40 hit, "To Give (The Reason I Live)".
Valli ended the 1960s with a string of recordings that were included in the Valli/Four Seasons album Half & Half or released as various singles. The only hit to emerge at this time was the recording of "The Girl I'll Never Know (Angels Never Fly This Low)", reaching number 52.
In 1975, his single "My Eyes Adored You" hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In the same year, he also had a number six Billboard hit with the disco-laden "Swearin' to God", while a further UK Chart success came with "Fallen Angel", written by Guy Fletcher and Doug Flett; and produced by Bob Gaudio. Valli was in the UK charts with this at the same time as The Four Seasons enjoyed a UK hit with "Silver Star" on which Valli did not appear as lead.
In 1978, he sang the theme song for the film version of the stage play Grease, a song written by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, which became a number one hit. He had two further chart successes the following year, "Save Me, Save Me" in November 1978, which entered the Billboard Easy Listening chart; and "Fancy Dancer" in January 1979, which entered the pop charts.
Valli began suffering from otosclerosis in 1967, forcing him to "sing from memory" in the latter part of the 1970s. Surgery performed by Los Angeles ear specialist Victor Goodhill restored most of his hearing by 1980.
In 1992, a new Four Seasons album was released entitled Hope and Glory.
In 2005, the musical Jersey Boys opened on Broadway. Besides performances of many of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons hit recordings, it features a biographical narrative, told as four separate points of view by each of the members of The Four Seasons (Tommy DeVito, Frankie Valli, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio). The musical dramatizes several real-life incidents from Valli's life, including his estrangement from his daughter Francine, who died in 1980. The show has been widely acclaimed, financially successful, and won six Tony Awards. The musical has touring companies around the world, as well as a version at Paris Las Vegas. This musical was adapted into a 2014 film of the same name directed by Clint Eastwood, starring three of the original cast members of the Broadway show: John Lloyd Young, Michael Lomenda and Erich Bergen. Vincent Piazza came in to play Tommy DeVito in the film having never taken part in the musical stage show.
In October 2007, Valli released Romancing the '60s, an album containing covers of his favorite songs from the 1960s, two of which—"Sunny" and "Any Day Now"—he had previously recorded.
In October 2010, a duet version of "The Biggest Part of Me" by Valli and Juice Newton was released on Newton's album Duets: Friends & Memories.
Valli made an appearance in 1985 on Miami Vice season 2 episode 5 titled "Buddies". He played Frank Doss, an outfit Boss.
He also made several appearances in Seasons 5 and 6 of the HBO series The Sopranos as mobster Rusty Millio (once referred to as "The Mayor of Munchkin Land"). Also, his and the Four Seasons' music is heard in other Sopranos episodes, especially in the one eponymously titled "Big Girls Don't Cry".
Valli has been married three times. He married his first wife, Mary Mandel, who already had a two-year-old daughter, when he was in his early twenties; they had two daughters together and divorced 13 years later in 1971. He married MaryAnn Hannagan in 1974, and that marriage lasted eight years. In 1984 he married Randy Clohessy, 26 years his junior; the couple had three sons and separated in 2004. In 1980 his stepdaughter, Celia, was killed when she fell off a fire escape, and six months later a drug overdose claimed the life of his youngest daughter Francine.
Valli has been a supporter of heritage-related causes, particularly the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). In 2006, he received the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award at the foundation's Anniversary Gala. In 2008, NIAF presented a scholarship in his name to an Italian-American music student during the foundation's East Coast Gala.
Many of Valli's solo recordings, recorded before 1975 were recorded with the participation of one or more of The Four Seasons.
|Date of release||Title||Billboard peak||Label||Catalog number|
|June 1967||The 4 Seasons Present Frankie Valli Solo||34||Philips||200-247 (Mono) / 600-247 (Stereo)|
|February 1975||Closeup||51||Private Stock||PS 2000|
|September 1975||Inside You
(five new tracks plus four previously released tracks, remixed; "The Night" with The Four Seasons)
|November 1975||Our Day Will Come||107||Private Stock||PS 2006|
|September 1976||Valli||—||PS 2017|
|November 1977||Lady Put the Light Out||—||PS 7002|
|August 1978||Frankie Valli... Is the Word||160||Warner Bros/Curb||BS 3233|
|November 1980||Heaven Above Me||—||MCA/Curb||5134|
|October 2007||Romancing the '60s||167||Cherry Entertainment/Universal Motown||B0009908-02|
- Compilations and miscellaneous Four Seasons albums with Frankie Valli "solo" recordings
- April 1970: Half & Half - Philips PHS 600-341 (five tracks by Frankie Valli; five tracks by The 4 Seasons)
- May 1972: Chameleon - MoWest MW108L (two tracks by Frankie Valli; seven tracks by The Four Seasons)
- December 1975: Valli Gold - Private Stock PS 2001
- April 1978: Frankie Valli Hits - Private Stock PS 7012
- December 1979: Very Best of Frankie Valli - MCA 3198
- August 1980: Superstar Series Volume 4 - Motown M5-104V1 (five tracks by Frankie Valli; four tracks by The Four Seasons)
- 1988: Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons: 25th Anniversary Collection - Rhino Records Inc RNRD 72998-2 (twelve tracks by Frankie Valli; forty-two tracks by either The Four Seasons or The Wonder Who?)
- 1990: Volume 2: Rarities - Rhino Records Inc R2 70924 (two tracks by Frankie Valli; sixteen tracks by The Four Seasons)
- 1994: The 4 Seasons Present Frankie Valli Solo / Timeless (2 LPs on 1 CD + bonus tracks) - ACE Records Ltd CDCHD 538
- 1996: Half & Half (plus 6 bonus tracks) - ACE Records Ltd CDCHD 635 (eight tracks by Frankie Valli; eight tracks by The Four Seasons)
- July 1996: Greatest Hits - Curb Records D2-77714
- May 2001: In Season: The Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons Anthology - Rhino/Warner Special Products R2 74266 OPCD-5508 (fourteen tracks by Frankie Valli; thirty-seven tracks by either The Four Seasons or The Wonder Who?)
- June 2007: ...Jersey Beat... The Music of Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons - Rhino R2 74852 3 CDs + 1 DVD (thirteen tracks by Frankie Valli; sixty-three tracks by either The Four Seasons or The Wonder Who?) (DVD contains two solo performances by Frankie Valli and ten group performances by The Four Seasons)
- April 2008: The Four Seasons Present Frankie Valli Solo / Timeless - Collector's Choice Music CCM-927
- April 2008: Closeup / Valli - Collector's Choice Music CCM-928 (this CD contains a longer version of "Swearin' to God" than the original album release of February 1975. This version clocks in at 10:35. Also, the tracks "Can't Get You Off My Mind" and "Easily" have been edited down from their original album lengths.)
- April 2008: Our Day Will Come / Lady Put the Light Out - Collector's Choice Music CCM-929
- April 2008: Frankie Valli... Is the Word / Heaven Above Me - Collector's Choice Music CCM-930
- May 2008: The Motown Years - Hip-O Select.com Motown A Universal Music Company B0010777-02 2 CDs (fourteen tracks by Frankie Valli; thirteen tracks by The Four Seasons)
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entry for "The Four Seasons".
- Vocal Group Hall of Fame entry for "The Four Seasons".
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