Frankie Valli first rose to fame in 1962 as the lead singer of the Four Seasons, a pop & rock band many consider to be the most popular rock band before The Beatles. In 2005 when Valli’s life story was told as part of the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, a new generation became familiar with the Four Seasons’ music. The musical was turned into a film, directed by Clint Eastwood, in 2014. Now that some of the publicity around him has died back down, what is Frankie Vallie up to?
Frankie Valli Before Disco
In 1934, Francesco Stephen Castelluccio was born the youngest son of an Italian family in Newark, New Jersey. After seeing a young Frank Sinatra sing at a show his mother brought him to, Frankie Castelluccio was inspired to become a singer. He was mentored at an early age by “Texas” Valli, from whom Frankie adopted his last name. In the early years of his career, Frankie Valli followed in his father’s footsteps as a barber.
In 1953, Valli released his first song, “My Mother’s Eyes.” The next year he formed a quartet, and in 1956 they released their first record, “You’re the Apple of My Eye,” as The Four Lovers. Through the rest of the 50s, Frankie Valli and his quartet would played in an array of East Coast clubs, releasing additional singles under multiple names: Frankie Tyler, Frankie Valley and the Romans, the Village Voices, and the Topics are the most well-known pseudonyms.
Working with producer Bob Crewe helped bring the group into more popular social circles. After playing a show with the Royal Teens, their keyboardist, Bob Gaudio, joined with the Four Loves as a multi-instrumentalist. They also brought back their earlier bass player, keeping the recent addition on to arrange songs.
In 1960, the band was failing to find commercial success. This was not new to them, but with new members it was especially frustrating. After failing an audition for a gig at a bowling alley, they changed their name to the Four Seasons, after the bowling alley which rejected them.
Their first single as the Four Seasons, “Bermuda”/”Spanish Lace”, did enough to keep them on Bob Crewe’s roster, and they continued to work with him to provide background vocals. While working for Crewe, Gaudio wrote a song eventually titled “Sherry.” The song made enough of an impression (with Frankie Valli’s charisma) that Vee-Jay Records signed a deal with the Four Seasons and Bob Crewe to distribute the song. Notably, the Four Seasons were the first white artists to sign with Vee-Jay.
In 1962, the first album Valli’s band released as the Four Seasons was published by Vee-Jay, and “Sherry” became the not just the first charted song from the act, but hit number-one. Over the next few years, Crewe and Gaudio would guide the Four Seasons to wild success; from 1962 until 1964, only the Beach Boys matched them for record sales.
With the help of the Four Seasons, Vee-Jay Record was one of the most successful labels in the country. They were even responsible for releasing many of the first Beatles singles. When the Beatles moved to EMI, Vee-Jay was left struggling, and the Four Seasons moved to Philips Records.
Despite confusion about publication rights, the Four Seasons did not lose any of the fame they had accrued in the earlier half of the decade. Not even the British Invasion and Beatlemania did much to dampen American’s love of the band. There was a spirit of competition cultivated between marketing executives, even leading to Vee-Jay creating The Beatles vs the Four Seasons, a now-collectible two-disc record package.
During the latter half of the 60s, the Four Seasons’ popularity slowly deteriorated. They had numerous Top 20 singles, some of which were released under the name Frankie Valli, instead of as works by the Four Seasons. With rock moving toward a harder edge, Bob Gaudio partnered with folk-rocker Jake Holmes for The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, an underappreciated album that caused founding member Tom DeVito to leave the group. Their last release on Philips Records, “Patch of Blue,” was billed as being by Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons, but Valli’s solo success did not help his now-outdated quartet.
In the first half of the 70s, the group had another membership transition, including the addition of Don Ciccone and Gerry Polci as lead singers. They managed to maintain a strong live presence, but their pattern of hits had stopped.
Then, in 1975, Valli and the Four Seasons each had hit singles, with Valli releasing his first genuinely solo hit, “Swearin’ to God.” Later in the year the Four Seasons released Who Loves You, which embraced the sounds of disco and combined them with the vocal presence of Valli, Ciccone, and Polci. The album helped renew touring interest for the band, and helped give the resources needed to continue producing.
Franki Valli 1975-2005: Grease to Jersey Boys
Franki Valli bolstered his name outside the Four Seasons in 1978 when he lent his voice to the theme song of the motion picture version of Grease, which was Valli’s (and the Four Seasons’) last time in the Top 40.
The lineup continued to change, with Frankie Valli being the only consistent member, as the group continued to tour around the country. In 1980, Valli had surgery to alleviate hearing loss caused by otosclerosis over the past decade, and the next year, the group released Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons Reunited Live, which led to the group getting one more single onto the Hot 100.
East Meets West, a collaborative effort between the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys, was released in 1985, but was a commercial flop. Through the 90s, the group continued to tour, occasionally releasing anthology albums.
In 2005, the musical Jersey Boys opened on Broadway. It was a jukebox musical, which meant it used previously released, popular songs for its score. The show presents a dramatization of the formation, success, and eventual break-up of the original members of the Four Seasons. The musical used interviews with Gaudio, Valli, and DeVito to create a Rashomon effect. The year after release, Jersey Boys won four Tony Awards, and had helped bring a new light into the band, whose personal lives had been relatively private during the height of their fame.
Also in 2005, Frankie Valli appeared in the HBO series The Sopranos, which had used the Four Seasons music throughout the series. It wasn’t Valli’s first TV appearance (he was in an episode of Miami Vice,) and Valli has since been in Hawaii Five-0 and also had a role in And So It Goes, the 2014 romcom starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton.
Frankie Valli Now in 2018 – What He’s Doing Now
To capitalize on the success of Jersey Boys, Frankie Valli released Romancing the ’60s, an album of him covering his personal favorite songs from the 1960s. A film version of Jersey Boys, directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie was notable for bringing in many of the actors from the musical, despite more famous stars wanting the roles.
A lot of people who have seen the film want to know if Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito were really introduced to Bob Gaudio by the actor Joe Pesci, who (entirely coincidentally) played Tommy DeVito (Funny how?) in Goodfellas. Yes, Pesci did introduce Valli and DeVito to Gaudio, who would later help them skyrocket to fame.
Frankie Valli is still touring, with his schedule available on his website.