Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Life and Times of Bobby Rydell

 "I can't complain at all about my career. You know, it's had its ups and downs, it peaks and valleys, so on, so forth. But I've survived through all of that, and I'm continuing to do what I really enjoy doing."

- Bobby Rydell
Interview with the Philadelphia Sun Sentinel, July 21, 2016

In the 1960s, "Bobby" was a popular name among singers and teen idols.  There was Bobby Darin, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Curtola, Bobby Vee and Bobby Rydell.  Sadly, except for 87-year-old Bobby Vinton, they have all passed away.: Bobby Darin in 1973, Bobby Curtola in 2016, Bobby Vee in 2016 and Bobby Rydell just last year.  

Bobby Rydell was born Robert Louis Ridarelli in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 26, 1942.  He was the son of Jennie Ridarelli (nee Sapienza), a homemaker, and, Aldo "Al"  Ridarelli, a foreman in a machine shop.  Both of his parents were of Italian descent. and Bobby grew up in the Lower Moyamensing neighbourhood of South Philadelphia. 

Bobby and his mother, Jeannie

Bobby was a teen idol and part of the Philly music scene which also produced Frankie Avalon and Fabian Forte.  He was known for songs such as "Wild One" and "Volare," and for his portrayal of Hugo Peabody in the 1963 film adaption of the musical comedy Bye Bye Birdie in which he co-starred with Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret and Janet Leigh.

Bobby's father, Al, sparked his musical interest by bringing him to see the jazz bands of Arte Shaw and Benny Goodman.  At the age of seven, Bobby began playing the drums and singing in nightclubs in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

As a pre-adolescent, Bobby won a talent contest on the TV series Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club.  The nine-year-old won a spot in the cast, where he remained for several years.  Whiteman, a bandleader, had difficulty pronouncing "Ridarelli"  and Bobby's last name was anglicized to "Rydell."

As a teen, Bobby played in several bands in the Philadelphia area, such as Rocco and the Saints, for which he was the drummer.  Frankie Avalon was also a member of Rocco and the Saints and he played trumpet for the group.  

Bobby eventually signed a recording contract, and in1959, at the age of 16, his first hit, "Kissin' Time," appeared on the Billboard 100 .  According to a statement by his representatives at the time of his death, Bobby 34 Top 100 hits and over 25 million album sales during his career.

Bobby frequently appeared on television as a singer and an actor.  By the age of 17, the kid from South Philly with the high pompadour was a fixture on Dick Clark's American Bandstand.  

Below is a photo of Bobby with Dick Clark and fellow teen idols: From left: Fabian, Dick, Clark, Bobby and Frankie Avalon

Bobby appeared in a 1960 episode of The Danny Thomas Show entitled "The Singing Delinquent" (Season 7, Episode 29, Air Date: April 18, 1960).  He portrayed a talented young singer with a bad attitude, whom Danny tries to help.

Below is a photo of Bobby in a scene from The Danny Thomas Show in which he sings "All of Me."

During the golden age of the television variety show, Bobby was a guest on shows hosted by Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Perry Como and George Burns.  Bobby also appeared in a 1964 episode of Combat!, an hour-long World War II drama series.  He portrayed Mickey Shay in an episode entitled "The Duel."

The British Invasion of 1964 had a negative impact on Bobby's career as a teen idol.  The arrival of The Beatles and their British counterparts changed the pop scene dramatically.  However, Bobby did have some modest success on the charts with his cover of the Peter and Gordon hit "World Without Love" (Please lock me away) (1964).  In 1976, he recorded "Sway" with a disco flavour.  "Sway" is an English language version of a 1953 mambo instrumental song by Mexican composers.  Dean Martin recorded the most well known English rendition of the song in 1954.

In 1985, Bobby formed a trio called The Golden Boys with former teen idols Frankie Avalon and Fabian.  For years, The Golden Boys performed nostalgia concerts all over the world and delighted fans.

Below is a photo of the Golden Boys (Left to Right): Bobby Rydell, Fabian and Frankie Avalon.  


In 1987, Bobby guest-starred in an episode of the TV comedy The Facts of Life episode entitled 62 Pick Up (Season 8, Episode 18, Air Date: February 21, 1987.  He played himself in a flashback to the early 1960s.

Bobby was married twice.  He was married to his first wife, Camille Quattrone Ridarelli for 35 years, until her death of breast cancer on September 15, 2003.  The couple wed on October 5, 1968 and they had two children, a daughter, Jennifer Ridarelli Dulin and a son, Robert Ridarelli.

Bobby and Camille 1967

In 2009, Bobby wed Linda J. Hoffman (born Linda Ferrino) , a cardiac sonographer from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.  Bobby first met met Linda in 1964 when he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show. At the time, Linda had just been appointed Bobby Rydell's National Fan Club President.  

Linda went on to marry Jake Hoffman and Bobby wed his South Philly high school sweetheart, Camille Quattrone.  Bobby and Linda met again after Camille's death.  In October 2007 and they were married in Las Vegas.

Bobby and Linda in 2014

On July 9, 2012, Bobby underwent a double organ transplant (liver and kidney) at which was detailed in his 2016 autobiography Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances, a collaboration with award-winning author Allan Slutsky.  Bobby became a promoter of organ donations and a supporter of The Gift of Life, a nonprofit organization that assists families affected by organ transplants.

In January of 2013, only six months after his double transplant surgery, Bobby returned to the stage in Las Vegas.  He performed for three night to a sold out audience.  On April 5, 2022, Bobby Rydell died of complications from pneumonia  at Jefferson Abington Hospital in Abington Township, Pennsylvania, a a suburb of Philadelphia.  He was 79 years old at the time of his passing.  He was survived by his wife, Linda, his son and daughter, and five grandchildren.


* Bobby Rydell grew up on South 11th St. in Philadelphia.  In 1995, the street was renamed Bobby Rydell Boulevard in his honour.  In Wildwood, New Jersey, there is a mural of Bobby on the boardwalk of the beach resort that that inspired his 1963 hit "Wildwood Days."

* In 1961, Bobby's success as an entertainer prompted his father, Aldo, to resign from his job as a foreman at the Electro-Nite Carbon Company in Philadelphia after 22 years.  Aldo then became Bobby's road manager.

According to Bobby's official website, he was the youngest performer, at the age of 19, to ever headline the Copacobana Club in New York City.

* Bobby writes about his struggles with alcoholism in his autobiography Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances.  The book tells of his deep depression after the death of his first wife, Camille, and how it contributed to his alcoholism, jeopardized his career and led to his liver and kidney transplant.

* In his autobiography Bobby also discusses his relationship with his controlling mother, Jeannie, whom he describes as "high strung, bipolar, schizophrenic, manic depressive - anything you want."

* Frank Sinatra ranked Bobby as his favourite pop singer of the early 1960s.      

* Fittingly, Bobby's name was chosen for "Rydall High School" in Grease, the Broadway musical and later 1978 hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.  The musical depicts American teenage life in the late 1950s.

SOURCES: The Guardian, "Bobby Rydell obituary," April 7, 2022; CNN Entertainment, "Bobby Rydell 'Wild One" singer dead at 79." by Sandra Gonzalez, April 5, 2022; Parade (parade.com), "Rydelll High School Inspiration, 'Volare" Singer and Bye Bye Birdie Star Bobby Rydell Dies at 79," by Jeryl Brunner, April 6, 2022;  Philadelphia Sun Sentinel, "Philadelphia's former teen idol Bobby Rydell tells of life on the rocks in new book," by John J, Moser, July 21, 2016; Unexpected Philadelphia, The Great Photo Album Adventure: Linda Hoffman and Bobby Rydell," May 31, 2016; Wikipedia; IMDb (Internet Movie Database)

- Joanne