Frankie Valli (born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio; May 3, 1934) is an American popular singer, most famous as frontman of The Four Seasons beginning in 1960. He is well 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, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi, and Bob Gaudio -- the original members of The Four Seasons -- were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.
Early life edit:
Valli was born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio in the First Ward of Newark, New Jersey. His father, Anthony Castelluccio, was a barber; his mother, Mary Rinaldi, was a homemaker. 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, although it took him some time to settle on the spelling "Valli". Until he could support himself with music, he worked as a barber.
As with many other celebrities, 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 had used 1937 as the birth year. It is hard to tell when and why this occurred, but inference can be made that by chopping a few years off his age, he would seem more commercially viable to a younger audience. Other sources, such as the Bear Family Records release, entitled '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.
Music career edit:
See also: The Four Seasons - History
1950s - 1960s edit:
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" in 1960.
As the lead singer of The Four Seasons, he had a string of hits beginning with the number one hit "Sherry" in 1962. As a footnote to this period of Frankie's 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, Charlie was replaced by Joseph LaBracio, who went by the pseudonym Joe Long.
During the 1960s, Gaudio and his then songwriting partner, producer Bob Crewe (born Stanley Robert Crewe on November 12, 1931), 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". Though it only reached number two in the charts, the song itself 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)."
Finally, Valli ended the '60s 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.
1970s to the present edit:
"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.
In 1975, Valli's single "My Eyes Adored You" hit number 1 on Billboard's Hot 100. In the same year, he also had a number 6 Billboard hit with the disco-laden "Swearin' To God", while a further UK Chart success came with "Fallen Angel" written by Guy Fletcher & 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.
In 1976, Valli covered the Beatles song "A Day in the Life" for the ephemeral musical documentary All This and World War II.
In 1978, Valli 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 1 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 suffered from otosclerosis in the 1970s, forcing him to "sing from memory" in the latter part of the decade. Surgery restored most of his hearing by 1980.
In 1992, a new Four Seasons album was released entitled Hope and Glory.
In 2005, the Broadway musical Jersey Boys opened on the "Great White Way". Besides performances of many of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons hit recordings, the musical 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 was 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.
In October 2007, Valli released Romancing the 60s, an album containing covers of his favorite songs from the 1960s, two of which he had previously recorded. Those songs were "Sunny" and "Any Day Now".
In October 2010, a duet version of "The Biggest Part of Me" by Frankie Valli and Juice Newton was released on Newton's album Duets: Friends & Memories.
In October 2012, Valli is scheduled to make his Broadway debut with a week-long concert engagement at the Broadway Theatre in New York starting October 19.
Acting career edit:
Valli made several appearances in Seasons 5 and 6 of the HBO series The Sopranos as mobster Rusty Millio. He also made a special guest appearance (as himself) during Season 8 of Full House, on the episode "DJ's Choice".
Philanthropic activities edit:
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.
In May 2012, Valli received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his commitment to many humanitarian causes.