The Four Seasons Biography

This highly acclaimed New Jersey, USA vocal group first came together in the mid-50s with a line-up comprising vocalists Frankie Valli (Francis Stephen Castelluccio, 3 May 1934 (1937 is also regularly cited), Newark, New Jersey, USA), brothers Nick and Tommy DeVito (b. 19 June 1936, Belleville, New Jersey, USA) and Hank Majewski. Initially known as the Variatones, then the Four Lovers, they enjoyed a minor US hit in 1956 with ‘You’re The Apple Of My Eye’, composed by Otis Blackwell. After being dropped by RCA - Victor Records, they recorded a single for Epic, following which Valli departed in 1958. As a soloist he released ‘I Go Ape’ (as Frankie Tyler), composed by singer Bob Crewe. Meanwhile, the Four Lovers released several records under pseudonymous names, during which Nick DeVito and Majewski departed to be replaced by Nick Massi (b. Nicholas Macioci, 19 September 1935, Newark, New Jersey, USA, d. 24 December 2000, West Orange, New Jersey, USA) and Bob Gaudio (b. Robert John Gaudio, 17 November 1942, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA), a former member of the Royal Teens.

After combining with Crewe and Gaudio, the group evolved into the 4 Seasons, recording the single ‘Bermuda’/‘Spanish Lace’ for the Gone label, before signing with Vee-Jay Records. There, they released ‘Sherry’, which reached number 1 in the USA in September 1962. A brilliant example of falsetto, harmony pop, the track established the group as one of America’s most popular. Two months later, they were back at the top with the powerful ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and achieved the same feat the following March with the equally magnificent ‘Walk Like A Man’. All these hits were underpinned by lustrous, soaring harmonies and thick up-front production, which gave the Seasons a sound that was totally unique in pop at that time.

The 4 Seasons’ international fame continued throughout 1964 when they met fierce competition from the Beatles. A sign of their standing was evinced by Vee-Jay’s release of a battle of the bands album featuring the 4 Seasons and the Beatles. Significantly, when the Fab Four held four of the Top 5 positions in the Billboard chart during early 1964, the 4 Seasons represented the solitary competition with ‘Dawn (Go Away)’ at number 3. Other memorable hits included ‘Candy Girl’, ‘Ronnie’, ‘Save It For Me’, ‘Big Man In Town’ and ‘Toy Soldier’. The sublime ‘Rag Doll’ brought them back to the top in the summer of 1964. Nick Massi left the group the following year and was replaced by Charles Calello and then Joe Long (b. Joseph LaBracio, 5 September 1941, Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA). It was during this period that they playfully released a cover version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ under the pseudonym the Wonder Who?

The quality of their original material continued in 1965 and 1966 with exceptional hits such as ‘Let’s Hang On!’, ‘Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ’Bout Me)’ and the wonderful ‘Working My Way Back To You’. Valli, meanwhile, was continuing to enjoy solo hits including the US number 2 single ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. 1967 produced two more group gems with ‘Beggin’ and ‘C’mon Marianne’. By the end of the 60s, the group reflected the changing times by attempting to establish themselves as a more serious act with the full-length The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette. The album was poorly received, however, and following its release Gaudio replaced Crewe as producer. When Tommy DeVito left in 1970, the lucrative 4 Seasons back catalogue and rights to the group name rested with Valli and Gaudio. A brief tie-up with Berry Gordy’s Motown Records label saw the release of Chameleon, which despite favourable reviews sold poorly. Meanwhile, Valli was receiving unexpected success in the UK thanks to a northern soul dancefloor revival of ‘You’re Ready Now’, which reached number 11 in 1971.

Throughout the early 70s, membership of the 4 Seasons was erratic, and Gaudio retired from performing to concentrate on producing. Despite impending deafness due to otosclerosis, Valli was back at number 1 in 1975 with ‘My Eyes Adored You’. With an old track from Chameleon, ‘The Night’, adding to the glory and the latest group line-up reaching the US Top 3 with ‘Who Loves You’, it was evident that the 4 Seasons were as popular as ever. By now, Valli was sharing lead vocals with new members Gerry Polci and Don Ciccone. Immense success followed as the group became part of the disco boom sweeping America. The nostalgic ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)’ was a formidable transatlantic number 1 in 1976, but the following year, Valli left the group to concentrate on his solo career. While he again hit number 1 in the USA with the Barry Gibb movie theme, Grease, the 4 Seasons continued with Polci taking on lead vocals. Valli returned to the group for a double album recorded live at Madison Square Garden. A team-up with the Beach Boys on the single ‘East Meets West’ in the mid-80s was followed by a studio album, Streetfighter, which featured Valli.

In 1990, the group was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. They have continued touring into the new millennium, and in 2005 were celebrated in the successful Broadway musical Jersey Boys. Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons have become an institution whose illustrious history spans several musical eras, from the barber shop harmonies of the 50s to the disco beat of the 70s and beyond. It is, however, the many timeless quality hit singles of the 60s, written by Gaudio and Crewe, to which the group are indelibly linked.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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