Bobby Rydel dies: 1960s pop idol and “Bye Bye Birdie” star – 79 years

Bobby Rydel, the epitome of the “teen idol” of the early ’60s, who used that fame in the lead role alongside Anne-Margret in the 1963 film“ Bye-bye, Bird, ”died today at the age of 79. The cause of death was pneumonia.

His death a few days after his 80th birthday was confirmed by radio legend Jerry Blavat, a longtime friend of Rydell of South Philadelphia. “Of all the children” of that era, Blavat said, “he had the best pipes and was the greatest artist. He told the best stories, did the best events and was the nicest guy. “

Rydel’s fame as the epitome of an American teen pop star a few days before the British rock invasion was such that Rydel’s high school in the Broadway musical and subsequent film “Grease” was named after him. The actor also played him in the play in the movie “Green Book”.

“It was so nice to know that high school [in ‘Grease’] was named after me, ”he said. “And I said, ‘Why me?’ These could be Anka High, Presley High, Everly High, Fabian High, Avalon High. And they came up with Rydell High, and once again, it’s an honor. “

The singer had 34 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the most memorable of which was “Wild One”, which reached number 2, and “Volare”, hit № 4. Among the other 10 best songs were “Swingin ‘School”, “The Cha-Cha-Cha ». His series of top 10 songs began with “We Got Love,” which peaked at No. 6 in 1959, and ended with “Forget Him” in 1964.

Portraits of Bobby Rydell at the House in Bryn More, Pennsylvania, April 18, 2016.

One of his first hits, “Wildwood Days”, ranked 17th only in 1963, but continues to be the anthem in the New Jersey area, after which it was named. Rydel’s mural adorns the waterfront in Wildwood, New Jersey.

In a 2020 interview, Rydel recalled how his role in “Bye-bye, Bird” expanded after he was selected. “I go watch a play and look at Hugo Peabody, and he doesn’t sing, no cues, no dancing, he just stood there. But when I went out to start filming, Mr. (George) Sidney saw some magic between Anne-Margret and me, and every day when I came back to Columbia Studios, my script got bigger and bigger and bigger. More dialogue, more singing, more dancing. And I’m not a movie star anyway, but if I had to be in the same picture, it’s a classic, like, “Lubricant”. And I am very happy to be involved in something so wonderful. “

Born on April 26, 1942, Robert Louis Ridarelli began singing and playing drums at the age of 6, and at the age of 7 began performing professionally at nightclubs in the Philly / South Jersey area at the urging of his father.

In 1950, Rydell won a talent show during the Paul Whitman Teen Club TV series and became a regular at the program. After three years on Whitman’s crew on air, the vocalist / drummer changed his name to Rydell and began playing in local bands such as Rocco and the Saints (an ensemble that also included another South Philly friend, Frankie Avalon). as his trumpeter).

After trying his luck with several unsuccessful singles for small independent labels, Rydel signed with Philadelphia Cameo Records (eventually Cameo / Parkway) and hit the charts with “Kissin ‘Time” in 1959. With this single and his subsequent “We Got Love” (his first million salesman), “Wild One”, “Swingin’ ”and his look at the classic“ Volare ”, Rydel became a true idol for teens.

Lazily loaded image

Anne-Margret (right) and Bobby Rydel dance during a scene with “Bye-bye, Birdie” at the September 14, 1962 film in Hollywood, California. It was the first film for singer-songwriter Bobby, 20, and the second place for actress Ann Margret, 21. (AP Photo)

In 1961, when Rydel performed at the Copacabana Show in New York in 1961, Rydel became the youngest performer to ever headliner at the famous nightclub, thus consolidating his status among Rat Pack fans as well as among teenagers ( in 1961 he also appeared at the Du Rock Festival, at the Paris Palais des Sports in Paris, France, which cemented his relationship with European and British audiences, for whom he will be the headliner of cabaret concerts to date).

In 1963, he played Hugo Peabody in the film version of the satirical musical “Bye Bye Birdie” with Anne Margret and Dick Van Dyke. His part was not the title rock star, but the jealous guy of the girl who got a chance to meet Birdie before he joined the army. In 2011, “Bye Bye Birdie” received a digital restoration, and Rydell appeared with Anne-Margret at a special Academy show at the Samuel Goldwin Theater (see video below).

By the following year, Rydel had left Cameo-Parkway Records and moved to Capitol Records, the same label on which his future Beatles rivals appeared.

In the late ’60s he moved to Reprise where he had no success. “Sir. Sinatra wanted me to be on my Reprise label, so of course I said yes, but there was no promotion,” Rydell told Goldmine.

Yielding its popularity to the whole mop-top, Rydel, Avalon and the rest of the neat teen team became lounge singers in Las Vegas and on international tours.

After 1965, Rydel never made the Billboard Hot 100 again, although he continued to release singles until the mid-70s, and one of his last songs, a disco called “Sway” in 1977, made a modest dent in adult contemporaries. schedule.

Rydell wrote the memoir “Bobby Rydell: Teenage Idol on the Rocks: A Second Chance Story.” The subtitle “On Stones” referred to a battle with alcoholism after his 36-year-old wife died of breast cancer in 2003.

“There’s been a lot of emptiness in my life, and there’s no one to go to bed with, no one to talk to, no one to smile to, no one to laugh at, no one to tell stories to,” he told Morning Call when the book was published. in 2016. “And, you know, I turned to drinking. And vodka has become a very, very dear friend – to the point that a few years later led to a double transplant. New liver and new kidneys because of all the drinking. … I hope many people who may have the same problem may learn from the book. There are quite a few people who, when writing the review, said, “I wish he could explain his alcoholism in more detail.” Well, maybe it will be another book if God has mercy. ”

After he married his second wife Linda, in 2012 he had a double transplant.

In early July of that year, he said, “My wife and I were lying in bed, and I told her, ‘Listen, darling, we’d better get everything done, because I won’t have time.’ And … she told me a couple of days before that, she said, “If you ever get liver disease, it’s going to happen around this time of year – the fourth of July, you know, crash, DUI, crash and so on and so forth And, unfortunately, a young girl from Reading, Pennsylvania, Julia – she was only 21 years old, she was hit by a car. And she became my donor. And not only did she save my life, but seven other people. [blood type] O-positive, meaning I can give to anyone, but I can only accept O-positive, and Julia was O-positive. It was a miracle how it all happened. It really was. “

Rydel has toured as a solo artist to this day and has been part of the Golden Boys stage production since 1985 with Frankie Avalon and Fabian. Three “idols” were preparing a spring-summer tour for 2022.

In a 2020 interview, Rydel spoke of the trio’s endurance as a touring act. “Now we’re doing a show, I’m sure you know about it, called ‘Golden Boys,’ and we started this show in 1985, and it was a huge success,” he said. “And I said Frankie – and I called him Chich, because in Italian, Frank – it’s Chich – I said, ‘Chich, that’s great, but how long will it last?’ A year, a maximum of two years, it’s over. ” Well, it was in 1985 and we’re going to 2021 and we’re still doing the show. It’s weird. “

Rydell was recently included in VarietyThe list of rock and pop characters of the 50s and 60s of the 50s and 60s, which many fans complained about, is not included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although he and other teen idols of his era were never considered to be included in the account for this honor.

In his 2016 interview for Morning Call, Rydel expressed some regret about how his career went. “It’s going to be six decades since, my God, 1959, when I had my first hit. And I’m so happy and happy that I can once again do what I really love. And this has been my life, again, since I was 7 years old. So, no, I can’t complain about my career. You know, he had his ups and downs, his ups and downs, and so on and so forth. But I’ve been through it all and I keep doing what I really enjoy.

“At 74, I no longer consider myself an idol of teenagers. I mean, the fans are still there, God bless them. I mean, they’re coming out, and I guess they remember back in the 50s how everything was great. It was just like the TV show “Happy Days”. … And I think all the fans who still come to the shows, they remember that and want to go back to those particular years when, yes, Bobby Rydel was a teenage idol. And it’s nice to have after so many, many years. “

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