A Legendary Jersey Boy

Feb 16, 2022 782

BY: David J. Domino

Frankie Valli is a legendary Italian American singer. Known for his distinctive falsetto, his incredible career with The Four Seasons and wonderful solo career spawned numerous hit songs.

His long singing career was very successful and it led to the enormous success of Jersey Boys, a Broadway musical that tells the story of the wonderful career of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. In addition to that, around 200 artists have recorded cover versions of his signature song “Can’t Take My Eyes off You."

He was born Francesco Stephen Castelluccio on May 3, 1934 into a poor Italian household in Newark, New Jersey. Raised in Newark's First Ward, Frankie is the epitome of a guy who started out with nothing and ended up on top of the world. His father, Antonio Castelluccio, was a barber in a small barbershop. Antonio was an Italian immigrant from the town of Faiano, located in the region of Campania. Frankie's mother was Mary Rinaldi. Mary was from Dunmore, Pennsylvania. Her parents came from Avellino, which is also in Campania.

At age 7, his mother took him to see Frank Sinatra perform at the Paramount Theater in NYC. Right after the show, he became a Sinatra fan and began learning all that he could about singing.

He attended Central High School and often sang with his buddies on street corners in the early 1950s. Frankie decided to join the Variety Trio in 1954, which had Tommy DeVito and his brother Nick as members, along with their Polish American friend Henry Majewski. These singers changed the name of their group to The Variatones just after Frankie joined.

Nick DeVito left the group in 1959. After Nick left, Tommy hooked up with future film star Joe Pesci, who introduced DeVito and Valli to keyboardist Bob Gaudio. With Bob on-board, the quartet changed their name to The Four Lovers.

Majewski also left the group that year and was replaced by Nick Massi. The quartet was only named The Four Lovers for a short time. After they auditioned at a bowling alley called Four Seasons in 1960, they decided to call themselves The Four Seasons. Signed by producer Bob Crewe, the group cut their first single "Bermuda" in November 1961. It was released by Gone Records, but did not have any success. Around that time, little Frankie started calling himself Frankie Valli.

Their next song "Sherry" hit number one in September 1962. They had another number one that year with "Big Girls Don't Cry." The following year, they recorded "Walk Like a Man," which also became a number one hit on the pop charts.

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had another very successful single with "Rag Doll" in 1964. This song also reached number one on the pop charts. According to songwriter Bob Gaudio, it was inspired by a situation involving homeless children, who would run up to motorists to clean their windshields for spare change at stoplights in Manhattan. In the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, a young girl wearing ragged clothes approached Gaudio's vehicle. When he reached into his wallet to pay her, he found out that none of his bills were smaller than a ten, so he gave her a ten. The image of her stuck in his mind until he wrote the song.

Valli decided to start a solo career in 1965. His first single as a solo artist was “Can’t Take My Eyes off You,” which reached number two on the charts in 1967, and earned him a Grammy nomination. He had another number one with “My Eyes Adored You” in 1975. Valli recorded the theme song for the 1975 blockbuster film "Grease," written by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. The song also ended up becoming a number one hit for Valli.

Later that year, he decided to rejoin The Four Seasons when the group reformed. His last smash hit with The Four Seasons was with "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)." It was recorded in November 1975. The song became a number one hit in the United Kingdom in February 1976, and the United States in March 1976, remaining in the top spot for three weeks.

Valli is not only a gifted singer with a very popular music career, he is also a talented actor. He played the mobster Frank LoCascio in the 1998 TV movie "Witness to the Mob," mobster Rusty Millio on the TV show "The Sopranos," and lawyer Leonard Cassano in a 2014 episode of "Hawaii Five-0."

He has been married three times. He married his first wife Mary Mandel in 1954. They had two daughters together before the couple split in 1971. Frankie was married to his second wife Mary Ann Hannigan from 1974 to 1982. In 1984, he married Randy Clohessy. They had three sons together. But the couple called it quits in 2004.

Frankie Valli was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. He is still singing away to large crowds with his extremely popular falsetto voice.

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