Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi formed the iconic group, The Four Seasons, in 1960. The Jersey Boys, the Tony award-winning musical about the band, is coming to Wheeling, Wednesday, Oct. 23. Told in four parts, the musical tells the story of the development and growth of The Four Seasons from the perspective of each band member.
But, before you go …
BECOMING THE FOUR SEASONS
The Four Seasons was not an instant hit. Frankie Valli recorded his first hit in 1953. In 1954, Valli and Tommy DeVito formed the band The Variatones. They changed the name of the band several times and finally settled on The Four Lovers in 1956.
They saw little success for years. In 1960, the group auditioned at a lounge in New Jersey. While they were not offered any work from the audition, they did take the name of the bowling alley there — The Four Seasons.
The Four Seasons’ success began in 1962 with the release of Sherry. Their signature sound of falsetto in the lead rather than just the background shook the music world.
The band released songs not just under the name The Four Seasons, but also as the Valli Boys, the Wonder Who? and as solo songs from Frankie Valli. However, all of these recordings were produced with the full Four Seasons band, usually in the same recording sessions as the others.
Encouraged by the success they started to experience, Valli and Gaudio came to an agreement. Gaudio would split equally anything he earned from writing and producing, and Valli would do the same with any earnings from singing, even outside of the group. This hand-shake contract still stands today.
By the mid-1970s, Valli was performing very little of the singing because of hearing loss. Gerry Polci stepped in until Valli had surgery to restore his hearing.
Through the ’70s and ’80s, band members changed, joining and leaving the group in accordance with their growing careers. Frankie Valli remained the only constant. In 2003, he revived The Four Season for a tour and since then has continued to tour as a solo artist.
• Bob Gaudio wrote many of The Four Seasons songs as well as songs for many other artists such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Nancy Sinatra.
• Gaudio wrote Sherry in about 15 minutes, right before a studio rehearsal for the band. It was originally titled Jackie Baby in honor of first lady Jackie Kennedy. It was eventually changed to Sherry, after Gaudio’s best friend’s daughter.
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• Walk Like a Man was written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe and is listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Crewe produced the song and was insistent on achieving the perfect take for the album. He blocked the studio door to prevent any interruptions. However, there was a fire on the floor about the studio, and the band was unable to hear the alarms and firetrucks. Eventually, a few firefighters had to break down the door to rescue the band.
• When Gaudio wrote December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night), it was about Dec. 5, 1933, and lauded the end of prohibition. Valli suggested he change the words, and now it is set in 1963 and is a reference to Gaudio’s courtship with his wife, Judy Parker.
• Gaudio was driving through a neighborhood when a little girl stopped to wash his window for spare change. She was so small she could only reach the driver’s side mirror. He didn’t have any change so he gave her a $20, and the look of shock on her face stayed with him. He later wrote the song Ragdoll about that experience.
‘THE JERSEY BOYS’
Broadway at The Capitol brings “The Jersey Boys” to town at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at The Capitol Theatre. While their harmonies were perfect on stage, off stage it was a very different story. The Tony-winning tale of how Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons became international pop superstars features such hits as “Sherry,” Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” Tickets are available online.
• Stacey Sacco is a Wheeling native currently living in Martins Ferry with her husband and four children. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and previously worked for several social service agencies. She is the production editor for InWheeling Magazine.