One of the classic teen idols of the late 1950s and early 60s, Bobby Rydell, who died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 79, was just seven years old when he began performing on stage in his hometown of Philadelphia. For the next 70 years he sang everything from rock ‘n’ roll and soothing love songs to discos, Broadway classics and Italian pop tunes.
He ranked 19 singles in the Billboard Top 40, among the most successful ones being We Got Love, Wild One and Volare. It was right that his name was chosen for Rydell High School in Grizzly, Broadway, and then a musical in film that portrayed the lives of teenagers in the early days of rock and roll in the late 50s. If, as the New York Times critic put it, he was “more like a singer than a rocker,” Rydell’s photogenic appearance and attractive personality ensured that he would prove to be much stronger than many bright, more confrontational artists. Rydell and many of his generation were knocked off their pop pedestals by the dramatic arrival of The Beatles and their British counterparts, but he was resilient to major performers from a slightly earlier generation.
He was born to Robert Ridarelli in Philadelphia, the son of Jenny (in Sapienza’s virginity) and Adria “Al” Ridarelli. The father was a master in the machine shop. Bobby grew up on South 11th Street, and in 1995 his career achievements were recognized as his hometown when the street was renamed Bobby Rydell Boulevard. There is also Rydel’s mural on Wildwood Waterfront, New Jersey, a beach resort that inspired his 1963 hit “Wildwood Days.”
His father sparked his musical interest by leading him to the jazz bands Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman, and he began playing drums and singing at nightclubs in Philadelphia and New Jersey at the age of seven. When he was nine years old, young Robert got a spot on Paul Whitman’s TV teen club show and became a permanent member of the cast. After three years on the show, he began performing with local bands, including Rocco and the Saints, in which Philadelphia friend Frankie Avalon played the trumpet, and changed his name to Rydell.
After cutting a few failed singles, Rydel signed a contract with Cameo Records and first appeared on the charts with the major Kissin ‘Time (1959). The next album, We Got Love, sold millions of copies, sparking a series of hits including Wild One, Swingin ‘School, Ding-A-Ling and Volare. In 1961, when he was 19, he became the youngest headliner of the legendary Copacabana club in New York.
In 1963, along with Anne Margret and Dick Van Dyke, he landed the role of Hugo Peabody in the film version of the musical Bye Bye Birdie. Rydel recalled how the film’s director 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”.
He has been a regular guest on many TV shows, including those hosted by Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Joey Bishop, Perry Como and George Burns. “I was fortunate to spend my peak years as a recording artist in the golden age of television pop shows,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Bobby Rydel: A Teenage Idol on the Rocks – A Tale of Second Chance” (2016). His international reputation has been fueled by touring Europe and others to Australia, where he has toured 20 times, to Japan and the Far East. The Beatles rushed to meet him when he visited Britain in 1963, and Paul McCartney said that Lennon and McCartney’s song She Loves You was based on Rydell’s song, although he did not specify which one (Swingin ‘School is a likely candidate ).
However, by 1964 Rydel’s hits had dried up, although that year he finished 4th with Forget Him, and his generation of performers was set aside towards the seismic impact of the Beatles and the British invasion. His last appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 was in 1965 with Diana, who finished 98th. Even signing a deal with Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label in 1968 failed to undo that slide, and Rydel complained that Reprise didn’t give him a promotion.
Rydell could still enjoy enough public loyalty to tour regularly and appear in Las Vegas nightclubs and venues during the 1970s and 80s, performing a wonderful American collection of songs such as Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Richard Rogers, along with his repertoire of pop and light music. -material for listening. He enjoyed another glimmer of success in the charts with the 1976 disco version of his song Sway.
In 1985, he joined Avalon and another former teen pop star, Fabian, to form the Golden Boys touring group. In 2020, he recalled, “I told Frankie …“ It’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. “
There were some difficult moments along the way. The death of his wife Camilla Quattrone in 2003 after 35 years of marriage plunged him into life-threatening alcoholism. “Vodka became a very, very dear friend,” he said, “by the time it led to a double transplant a few years later. A new liver and a new kidney because of what they drank. “
He married Linda Hoffman in 2009. His illness caused by alcohol forced him to cancel a tour of Australia in 2012. After a transplant operation, he returned to the stage the following year with three sold-outs in Las Vegas. His career has had “ups and downs, its ups and downs,” he said, “but I’ve been through it all and I keep doing what I really enjoy.”
He is survived by Linda and two children, Robert and Jennifer, from their first marriage.