April 15, 2010

Frankie Valli’s Reflections on Detroit, JB, and His Career

April 15th, 2010

Happy Birthday Frankie Valli

Tomorrow at Detroit’s Fox Theatre, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons will be appearing in concert! It’s a well-known fact that Detroit played a role in the Seasons’ musical success. Two reporters have recently interviewed Valli about his career, the success of JERSEY BOYS, and the music business. Here’s a preview:

Susan Whitall, Detroit News: Speaking with an accent that’s as Newark, N.J., as you’d hope, Valli is modest about his unique talent.

“There’s nobody who’s indispensable,” Valli declares. “There are kids out there who imitate everybody. The vocal mechanism is just a muscle. If you can figure out what a guy’s doing and work at it long enough, you can do it.”

He’s happy to have his life and career with the Four Seasons as the subject of “Jersey Boys,” the hit Broadway musical that had a successful run in Detroit late last year.

“It feels pretty good,” Valli says. “It was really more than I hoped for.”

The show even touches on Valli’s early days as a teenage jazz buff. Born in Newark in 1934, he grew up enraptured with jazz and singers like Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Dakota Staton and Joe Williams.

“I loved Jimmy Scott,” Valli says of the slim, suave singer with the ethereal tenor. “Sinatra was a major influence on me, and Nat King Cole and a lot of R&B groups. I took a little from the sophisticated singers, a little from the R&B singers and created a thing of my own.”

Christina Fuoco-Karasinski, MLive.com: In a way, Valli and the Four Seasons were never an act embraced by the industry, but Valli is unsure why. Perhaps it was because they didn’t “get in trouble” during their success.

“But we were kind of a renegade act,” he said. “We were not with a record company that owned us lock, stock and barrel. And, in all situations, we leased our records to record companies. When our time was over, they came back to us, so we own all our masters. So record companies didn’t look at that in such a terrific way.”


  1. I’m curious about the statement that “Sherry” first broke in Detroit, in the Susan Whitall article. That’s one I never heard before. I heard Hartford, CT, and of course, New York City. I’m wondering now if maybe some of the Detroit R&B stations like WJLB and WCHB, and WGES Chicago and some of the Vee Jay hometown stations in Gary, Indiana were on it first because of it being on the Vee Jay label. I know when McLendon changed WGES to WYNR, they were playing “Big Girls Don’t Cry” in very high rotation. By 1963, I have no doubt that stations in Flint and Detroit were breaking Four Seasons records.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — April 15, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

  2. I’ve done a little more research on early charts and radio airplay of “Sherry”.

    The ARSA site does not have many R&B format station charts, so I cannot say for sure that “Sherry” could not have been played on R&B stations around Detroit and Chicago before hitting the Top 40 charts. Maybe Frankie Valli remembers what other stations they visited, and if some were primarily R&B stations. “Sherry”, of course, was also #1 on the R&B Billboard charts (See Whitburn Publications).


    The first chart shown, with “Sherry” debuting at #16, is for WHYN Springfield, Massachusetts for the 8-11-62 chart. It is shown on the 8-24-62 WPOP Hartford, CT chart at #1 for the second week. That would put airplay back at least a couple of weeks to about the same date as the WHYN debut. The ARSA charts are kind of hit and miss at this point. Radio insiders claim that Joey Reynolds broke “Sherry” on WPOP Hartford, at least as far as Top 40 radio is concerned.

    The musicradio77.com site for WABC shows “Sherry” debuting at #4 on the 8-21-62 chart and for WMCA debuting at #4 on the 8-22-62 chart. Airplay on those would probably then date to around 8-14-62.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — April 16, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

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