May 22, 2008

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Bob Gaudio, Robby Robinson, and Shannon Gaudio

May 22nd, 2008

Last month, the fantastic “Jersey Babys” CD was released! It’s brought a ton of enjoyment to not just kids and their parents, but it’s been delighting and bringing smiles to listeners of all ages (daily—for some of us!)!

In Part One of the JBB EXCLUSIVE Interview, we had a great time chatting with “Jersey Babys” Executive Producer, Danielle Gaudio-Lalehzar, who talked about what inspired her to create this incredible CD. In Part Two, we had the amazing opportunity to chat with the musical and artistic geniuses behind “Jersey Babys”—the legendary Bob Gaudio and the multi-talented Robby Robinson, who were co-producers and arrangers on the CD, and Shannon Gaudio, who served as artistic director and cover designer on the project.

Bob Gaudio
JBB: How were you able to capture the essence of the 4 Seasons’ music in “Jersey Babys”?

Bob Gaudio: I don’t know that we did capture the essence but, if we did, it will be released immediately. It really is a matter of doing what you do best. Sometimes there is a certain signature that reveals itself and sometimes not.

JBB: What was most satisfying in terms of creativity in doing “Jersey Babys”?

BG: Hearing my melodies in their most basic form. “Naked if you will.” Then, dressing them again.

JBB: Is there a particularly unique formula or style used in reproducing your hits when creating a children’s music CD?

BG: Simple, then complex, then simple again. Trying to create a musical playground. Keeping in mind this is my first venture into music for kids and, I have no idea what I am talking about.

Robby Robinson
JBB: When you first heard about the Jersey Boys project, what was your first reaction?

Robby Robinson: I was very curious. I went with Frankie & Bob down to see one of the early performances in La Jolla, and was blown away! It’s easy to say in hindsight…but it looked like a hit right from the beginning. It is a stunning production on so many levels…musically, theatricality, dramatically, on and on. Definitely a home run.

I also believe that there has been a bias among the music press covering the music of the Four Seasons. And it is partially BECAUSE of that bias Jersey Boys has exploded on the international scene in such dramatic fashion. And it has been quite fascinating to experience a whole new legion of fans coming to OUR concerts.

JBB: “Jersey Babys” is truly a spectacular production! How did you make “Jersey Babys” sound so much richer and more intricate than other similarly arranged children’s CDs? Had you ever created anything like this before?

RR: I have produced and arranged many, many children’s albums over the years, maybe 30 or more. So, I had a lot of experience in doing records for kids. But I have never done a “baby” CD before.

Working with Bob Gaudio is always a tremendous experience. And pun intended, these songs were many of his “babys.” I think one of the reasons why this turned out so well was that Bob never compromises. We probably put in a lot more effort and energy on this project than most people exert on albums that are targeted for kids. We worked on it for over a year. Bob knew that many people would be listening to his “babys” for years and he wanted them shown in an engaging and artistic light.

And Bob’s daughter Danielle was integral to the whole project. I have to say that Danielle seems to have inherited her father’s tenacity. She kept pushing and coaxing, giving her input and not hesitating if she didn’t like the way a song was coming out. She was always diplomatic and constructive, but never shying away from her honest perspective. We just kept working on the music until everybody was happy with the direction. I think the best records are the result of a collaborative creative effort. In producing “Jersey Babys,” everybody around the table brought their own gifts and strengths.

JBB: Watching you on stage all these years as Frankie Valli’s musical director and arranger has been an extraordinary experience! How would you compare arranging and directing music on the concert scene with the “Jersey Babys” experience in the recording studio?

RR: There are many similarities…. whenever you put together music, you keep working on it till your gut tells you it’s right. Of course many of the songs are the same that we do live in concert, so I knew them pretty well, although it was interesting that Bob kept correcting me on some of the melodies. My interpretation of the melodies had sort of evolved from years of playing live where Frankie would take liberties from the original records. I had kind of “forgotten” what the original melodies were!

Lots of differences of course…. First, it is never the same to create music for live performance vs. a CD. Music always exists in a context and WHERE you listen plays a role in the experience. This music is for kids, more accurately babies, NOT adults. To be listened to in a room with just a few people…not a theatre with thousands of people. Our basic palettes or instrumentations were very different…no live band, no singers. “Jersey Babys” was created all on keyboards which gave an extremely broad dimension of tones and textures. We were able to combine more traditional instrumental sounds such as violins, flutes, vibes, and pianos, with more exotic sounds that can only exist in electronic music. But as Danielle likes to say, a funny thing happened on the way to making a baby CD, we seemed to have made a record that grown-ups (especially Seasons’ fans) seem to enjoy.

JBB: Outside of the original Four Seasons, perhaps no one else is as familiar with their music as you are. Did the familiarity add to any particular challenges in creating a new 4 Seasons sound for kids?

RR: I wonder how many thousands of times I have played “Sherry,” “Big Girls,” and all the rest in 30 years of doing shows with Frankie. As a matter of fact, there’s probably nobody on the face of the planet that has witnessed more Frankie Valli performances than me. And the amazing thing is, Frankie shows no signs of slowing down. And forget “just like that bunny”… I think they must have modeled that Energizer Bunny after Frankie!

As to how my familiarity with the music may have created challenges, I think the positives outweighed the negatives. Of course, knowing the music intimately helped me in applying little counter melodies and harmony parts in a new and different way. It allowed me to take little thematic elements from the hits and twist them around or to magnify what might have been a minor part in the original record to be much more out front and with unique sound textures. And working alongside Bob Gaudio was a fantastic situation. He had LOTS of cool ideas for what he wanted to bring out in the arrangements. Bottom line is: Working on “Jersey Babys” was a very creative and stimulating experience. I would love to tackle a Volume 2 in the future… there certainly is no shortage of material.

Shannon Gaudio
JBB: Shannon, you and your sister collaborated on such a fun project! Tell us about the collaboration process.

Shannon Gaudio: Well, the cover completely changed from its first go-round. The original was going to be four young boys standing on the beach in familiar stance as the Jersey Boys iconic pose. Then, the years of retail started to kick in and then it changed to the cover you see now.

The cover was not as groundbreaking in graphic design as “Genuine Imitation Life Gazette,” which set a standard for album art work in its day. The actual newspaper inside was amazing, but it lagged in sales probably the same reason “Watertown” didn’t sell as well–because the artist image was not on the cover.

The album borrows what it needs from its musical counterpart, but truly stands on its own musically and Robby Robinson is just an amazing musician. Credit to all the folks who do their jobs with little or no recognition—the production and art departments. Maria McKenna and company really gave much TLC to this project as they do a stellar job of packaging, They did an awesome job on the “Jersey Beat” package.

JBB: Tell us how the music of “Jersey Babys” inspired you to create the design package?

SG: Well, I didn’t really hear much of the tracks until much of the art was on its way to Rhino. The inspiration was something that came from memory of being very young and seeing Frankie and the 4 Seasons at the Hollywood Bowl. I remember us there early in the day and just playing and running around through the seats before anyone was there. Then, as the night moved on, being out in the audience. The sun setting with a beautiful magenta as Frankie took the stage and hearing the amazing orchestra start. The similar feeling like seeing the Disney Castle at night — magical. Funny, this memory still stands like it just happened yesterday.

JBB: What about your favorites: Favorite “Jersey Babys” song? Favorite 4 Seasons song?

SG: The favorite track really has to be “Dawn” on the “Babys” CD. The 4 Seasons song is a very hard one ’cause there are many. The songs would have to be “Beggin’”–this I swear, done as a duet with someone like Amy Winehouse would be a killer; and “Who Loves You”—this track still shows the strength of a drummer in how well he can play a hi-hat. Also, “Lonesome Road” and “Don’t Think Twice,” just ‘cause I can hear my Dad’s voice on the right speaker. I always liked those song ‘cause they just make me happy.

Hearing what my sister accomplished makes me proud she stuck to her guns and followed through with this project.

Thank you again to the extraordinary musical and artistic geniuses Bob Gaudio, Robby Robinson, and Shannon Gaudio for taking the time to share their thoughts on their spectacular “Jersey Babys” production. For more information, visit the Jersey Babys website!


  1. The Jersey Baby’s CD is really a fantastic product,it clearly demonstrates the classical aspects and universal appeal of the melody lines on each of the tunes that seem draw the listener in close no matter what your age is…..Great stuff!

    Tom Austin

    PS. My 4 month old granddaughter “Annie” goes to sleep with it every night.

    Comment by Tom Austin — May 23, 2008 @ 8:07 am

  2. Terrific interview with the musical and artistic gurus behind Jersey Babys! It’s a wonderful CD!

    I especially liked reading Robby Robinson’s thoughts on the creation–he’s sensational in concert with Frankie Valli.

    Comment by Judy — May 23, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  3. The Jersey Baby’s CD shows what a great musician Robby Robinson is. When I heard it for the first time I heard some influence from composer Henry Mancini and early synthesizer pioneers Perrey and Kingsley. When you listen to Robby Robinson on the 1992 album Hope and Glory and listen to track number 10 called Even Now you can hear how brilliant he is. I wonder where Robby got his training and how he got interested in playing he keyboards?

    Comment by Marty — May 23, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

  4. What insight. I think these questions and answers show why these professionals do what they do and why others like me follow their work. It’s not the profit, or even the product, but rather the creative and collaborative PROCESS that challenges, enlivens and inspires. When Bob Gaudio addresses the question of capturing the essence and Robby Robinson speaks about ‘where music is listened to’ as an essential context and Shannon Gaudio refers to the evolution of the cover…all these conjure up an ethereal project brought to life… like the birth of a baby…a Jersey Baby!

    It sounds like the ultimate collaborative effort with Danielle’s gentle, but persistent perspective overseeing such musical depth. There is nothing more satisfying to be a part of than…everybody around a table bringing their own gifts and strengths. And the listening enjoyment from this CD is a result of that. I have to agree with Robby’s comment, “Bob knew that many people would be listening to his “babys” for years…” I know I will be.

    Comment by Audrey — May 26, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

  5. This music is so soothing for babies and so great for grandparents to remember all of the wonderful songs of The Four Seasons that we grew up with.

    Thank you Bob Gaudio for listening to your children.

    Comment by Rosemarie Lindia — July 6, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

  6. Just wanted to say hi to Shannon, keep up the good work.

    Comment by ken hatton — July 1, 2009 @ 11:36 am

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