January 1, 2008

Goldmine’s Interview with Tommy DeVito!

January 1st, 2008

Along with Frankie Valli’s candid interview, the current issue of Goldmine Magazine features an extensive interview with founding Four Seasons member, guitarist Tommy DeVito, who powered the band’s sound with his dynamic six-string abilities and spirited background vocals. Here’s a sneak peek of what Tommy had to say:

Goldmine: When did you start playing guitar?

Tommy DeVito: I started around nine years old. My older brother, Danny played guitar. We didn’t have any money in those days. It was very close to the depression. My father finally bought me a $12 guitar. My brother caught me playing his guitar, leaning over it on the floor because I couldn’t hold it in my lap. When I got caught playing it my brother gave me a beating. In those days his guitar was worth about sixty bucks, which is the equivalent of about four or five hundred dollars today. I was inspired hearing a couple of guys on the radio. I never took any lessons. I picked up a chord here and a chord there and started doing my own stuff. It came easier and easier as I got older.

GM: Before The Four Seasons came together, you headed up your own band.

TD: Yeah, that was The Variety Trio. I started that band with Nick Massi, one of the original Four Seasons and my brother Nick. Then I put Frankie Valli in the group and called it The Variatones.

GM: Bring us back to the night you first heard Frankie Valli sing.

TD: We worked in a neighborhood bar, the Bellebrook Tavern right on the same street I was born in Belleville, New Jersey. There was a side door to the back room and Frankie would come in that side door because he wasn’t old enough to be in a bar. He was only 15 or 16. We knew him from the neighborhood and hanging out on street corners with us. He came and watched us play and I knew he did these little ditties where he sang like Nellie Lutcher, a black girl who very famous doing “Moody’s Mood For Love.” I’d call him up to the stage and let him sing. He’d get off right way because he wasn’t really supposed to be in there, he was underage.

When he first started he had a very weak falsetto. But he worked hard on it and gradually he developed a very strong falsetto. And it’s a great voice. One of the best. As a singer, Frankie had a three and a half octave range.

GM: Did you see your future with Frankie fronting the band?

TD: No, at that time being young and playing around the bars you didn’t think anything like that. He was good enough to be put into the band later on. I took him on a couple of jobs when he was 17 or 18 where he played stand-up bass. He didn’t know how to play it at all, he faked it. At that time I just thought he had talent with his voice.

The Variatones lasted about three or four years. Then The Four Lovers got together in 1956, it was me, Frankie, my brother Nick, and Hank Majewski.

Later on we got Frankie a cocktail drum set that he also played while in the band. After the Four Lovers we had a group called The Romans for a couple of months. That lasted about three or four months until we became The Four Seasons.

1 Comment »

  1. That is the best interview with Tommy DeVito I have read. Just amazing going back and having him re-create that wonderful era for us and provide us with his insight into the truly talented individuals who came together and rocked our world. Thanks Tomooch!!

    Comment by LindaL — January 1, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

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