December 23, 2006

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Tommy DeVito!

December 23rd, 2006

Tommy DeVito

Tommy DeVito is one of the main characters in Jersey Boys and gets the show off with a bang right after the opening musical number “Ces Soirees-La,” but he isn’t just a character in Jersey Boys, he’s a real live person that lived the rock star life portrayed on stage by Tony Award Winner, Christian Hoff.

Tommy was born on June 19, 1928 in Belleville, New Jersey. His musical career began in the early 1950′s with his brother Nick and Hank Majewski as the Variety Trio. They were performing in nightclubs when Frank Castelluccio (later known as Frankie Valli) joined the band. They renamed themselves the Four Lovers and had a minor hit in 1956 with “Apple of My Eye” and appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

After changing their name again, this time to the Four Seasons (singer/guitarist Tommy DeVito, keyboardist and songwriter Bob Gaudio, bass vocalist/vocal arranger Nick Massi, and lead singer Frankie Valli), the group struck gold with a string of hits beginning with “Sherry,” which remained in the Number One position on the Billboard charts for five consecutive weeks in 1962.

DeVito left the band in 1970 and currently lives in Las Vegas. His new CD of Italian folk and similar-style songs entitled “A Man for All Seasons, 1st Season Summer,” has just been released!

Jersey Boys Blog recently had the privilege of talking to original Four Seasons member and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Tommy DeVito. Tommy spoke about his new CD; his early years; his chart-topping years with the Four Seasons; and the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys.

JBB: Congratulations on your new CD! How did it come about? When was it recorded? Why did you decide to do Italian folk songs?

TD: Thank you. It took me about two and a half years to record it since I played all the instruments myself. I recorded it in New Jersey. At first, I decided to make the recording for my friends. Lots of my friends had been asking me to record the Italian folk songs for a long time. These were the songs I used to play years ago, before we became famous as the 4 Seasons.

JBB: Two songs that really stand out to me on the new CD are “Come Si Bella” and “Ginger’s Theme.” Could you fill us in on those two?

TD: Carmine DePalma, who lived in Frankie Valli’s neighborhood, created “Come Si Bella”. Carmine had cerebral palsy, and he really enjoyed writing music. He teamed up with Charlie Calello for this song. It’s a really great one.

Joe Pesci wrote “Ginger’s Theme.” I think it would be a great theme for a movie.

JBB: How did it all begin for you? Was it always your dream to have a band, or did life take you in that direction? What led you to playing guitar?

TD: I started playing my older brother’s guitar when I was about eight or nine years old. My folks were very poor; it was during the Depression, so we didn’t have money for my own guitar. My brother’s guitar was very big, so I had to lean over it to play. Yeah, my brother used to hit me every time he caught me playing it, but I kept playing. I really enjoyed it. Sometimes in school, my teacher would tell me to bring my guitar in the classroom to play for the kids. I grew up with it and really enjoyed it. Early on, I got into playing with some country music bands.

JBB: After so many years of struggling, what did it feel like when “Sherry” hit Number One on the charts?

TD: It’s hard to explain. You go from having nothing at all to selling a million records. There was really no time to think about it when it happened; it all came on so fast. It was a great, great feeling. You don’t know how great it was until you look back on it years later.

JBB: What part of the music industry did you like best? Live performing? Making deals? Or creating the music?

TD: It was all so good. It was great to make the deals to keep working, but creating the music and performing was every bit as good.

JBB: Do you have a favorite song? A favorite road appearance?

TD: I can’t get away from “Sherry”-that record will always be special to me since it started it all for us. I also love “Rag Doll” and “Dawn.”

If I had to pick one favorite road appearance, it would be the Roostertail in Detroit. That place was always my favorite. It was laid out so nicely. At night, when the 4 Seasons were closing our set, they had this beautiful waterfall with all kinds of colors in the background behind the band. It was just a great scene and a really great club.

JBB: When you first saw Jersey Boys, what was your reaction?

TD: At first, I had some mixed feelings. There were a couple of things that didn’t jive with me when I first saw it. But it’s doing great-so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

It’s really thrilling to see yourself being played on stage, and Christian Hoff does a terrific job playing me.

JBB: Did you give Christian Hoff any advice about playing you?

TD: Christian and I talked on the phone before he started playing me and I gave him a bit of advice about the character. Christian really did his homework for this part.

Christian Hoff is a wonderful person, a truly nice guy, and I’m just so glad to have him in my life. He has a beautiful wife and a new baby. He’s just a great guy.

JBB: Jersey Boys has become such a blockbuster hit musical-What is it about the story and the music that makes the audience feel so connected?

TD: Well, since it’s a story about me, I’m sure I see if differently from people in the audience.

I think people connect with it because they see the story about guys from the wrong side of the tracks who are toughin’ it up, arguing, and you’re also hearing the stories about the mob. It’s a rags to riches story about tough guys and good guys. There’s so much interest in what’s going to happen to these guys. It’s not just a jukebox musical; it’s great songs combined with a really great story.

JBB: There’s lots of talk about Jersey Boys becoming a movie. Who would you like to see play you in the movie version?

TD: Well, I’m so close to Joe Pesci, so I’d like him to play me in the later years, but I don’t know if that could happen. Maybe in the early years, somebody like Mark Wahlberg?

Of course, Christian Hoff could do a great job playing me on the screen!

JBB: Although the music industry has changed in the last 50 years, what advice would you give young men of today who are singing under street lamps dreaming of making hit records?

TD: I’d tell the guys to study long and study hard. If you have the desire, the drive and the determination, and the fire in your gut to succeed, you’re going to make it. You might go through a lot of disappointments and get doors slammed in your faces-we sure did–but if you have the determination and the talent, you can make it.

JBB: What do you think will be your legacy?

TD: How do I want to be remembered? First, I’d want people to remember all of the great music the Four Seasons did together. Then, I’d also want people to know that everyone makes mistakes-nobody’s perfect. I’m not ashamed to admit it-I’ve been punished; did some jail time; and I’ve paid my dues.

Jersey Boys Blog would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to Tommy DeVito for taking the time for such an amazing interview. This was an incredible opportunity to gain some insight into the enigmatic rocker’s life and his character in Jersey Boys. You’ll always be remembered as the founder of the of one of the greatest rock bands in history and as a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

Photo Credit:


  1. Wow… a JB Blog exclusive with ‘the’ Tommy DeVito. We don’t hear from him nearly enough! Very interesting that he played all the instruments himself this time!! Looking forward to Part 2… and 3…and 4 of this interview (and getting this CD). What an amazing surprise and treat to hear the holiday music on the blog. Keep up the great work, JB Blog!

    Comment by Audrey — December 24, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

  2. Mr. DeVito, I’m happy you’re finally getting well-deserved recognition for your efforts in putting together the 4 Seasons and, more importantly, sustaining the group through the early years. Enjoyed your CD, and Come Si Bella was indeed great!

    Comment by Howard — December 25, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

  3. Tommy:

    I’ve been a huge fan of the Seasons ever since I first heard of you in 1962 when I was 12 years old. Even after all these years I’m still an avid listener of your music, not just the hits, but album cuts as well. You helped to create something which gives so many people joy for a lifetime. I am also happy to hear about your cd, which I will be purchasing soon. I always felt that your lead guitar playing was underrated and not employed nearly enough in the records. When the Four Lovers LP was released, we are really able to hear how magnificent this aspect of your music is. Now, you are finally getting credit for it with your new LP. Good luck and G-d bless.

    Comment by Alan — December 26, 2006 @ 8:18 am

  4. Alan

    Your comments are so right on. Let us all not forget that the first sound you hear on “Sherry” is not a soaring falsetto voice but a magnificent guitar introduction courtesy of Tommy DeVito’s fingers. Let us also not forget Tommy’s great guitar solos on “Walk Like a Man,” “Let’s Hang On,” “C’mon Marianne” and “Tell It To The Rain.” Kudos too to Bob Gaudio who could replicate horns and strings on his organ. Both Nick Massi and Joe Long were great bass players as well. And with Ronald Roach or Joey Cass behind the drums, all their songs were performed flawlessly when performed live. Even when a horn section was added in 1967 (as depicted in Jersey Boys), the fellas still did the bulk of the band work. Great singers yes, but great musicians as well.

    Comment by David Cace — December 26, 2006 @ 6:33 pm

  5. Thanks to this interview and Tommy’s mention of his favorite spot in their touring, I noticed its reference when I saw the show this week. Gaudio tells Crewe that Frankie is at the Rooster Tail in Detroit when Gaudio is trying to get the station’s program director to hear Valli perform ‘CTMEOY’. Did the group go back there often?

    Comment by Audrey — December 28, 2006 @ 12:13 am

  6. Met Tommy, Frankie, Bob Gaudio and Joey Long the week the Seasons Half and Half album released. The Seasons did a show my Uncle Nick Alfano was involved with in my home town New Castle, Pennsylvania at the Holiday Inn in 1969 . The guys where light years ahead of their time. They had a killer horn section. Remained friends since.

    I recorded many studio cuts back in the early eighties and nineties and attended Youngtown State University Dana School of Music. People would ask who influenced your guitar playing… Tommy DeVito

    Comment by Anthony J. DiCarlo — February 16, 2007 @ 8:56 pm

  7. Tommy DeVito was my manager in the music business and he and his wife were and will ever be my friends. I am so happy for all that has happened for him. I have not seen him in years so it was great to see this and know that things have gone well for him. I have always wished him well…always will.

    Comment by Patty — January 10, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  8. Mr. DeVito, thank you so much for the wonderful music of the Four Seasons. Clearly, the Four Seasons and/or Jersey Boys would not be happening if it weren’t for Tommy DeVito. We’ve seen it twice alrady in Chicago, going to see it in Las Vegas on May 29th and once again in Chicago on July 4th. My hand to God – we can’t get enough of this production. Would love to meet the real Tommy DeVito. Kudos to Las Vegas on luring Jeremy Kushnier – he was the show in Chicago. Good luck Jeremy!

    Comment by Mary Ann — April 4, 2008 @ 9:44 pm

  9. Tommy, Saw the show on opening night in Vegas. Didn’t get a chance to say hello afterwards. Congratulations on a great show. All the best to you.

    – Tommy worked with me on securing the music publishing rights to Joe Pesci’s song “How do you like me so far” for the movie Olive Juice. As producer of the film, I was thankful for Tommy’s assistance in getting Joe’s approval on such a great song. Thanks again Tommy!

    Comment by Nick — May 22, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

  10. Audrey, I came in a little late to this discussion, but Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons were just about as popular in Michigan as they were in New Jersey.

    CTMEOY was #1 on both CKLW and WKNR (Detroit’s Top 40 Stations at the time) in 1967, whereas nationally it reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. I found links to the actual charts online where it is #1.

    While Michigan is home to many of its own artists, FV4S always seemed to be a favorite here also.

    Larry Santos, who wrote “Candy Girl” and “Coming Up In The World” for The Four Seasons, and arranged the studio session where “Dawn (Go Away)” was recorded, according to liner notes in the Rhino “Rarities” collection, has lived in Michigan for many years the last I knew.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — May 22, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  11. i thought TD was dead. the play says he died christmas eve.

    Comment by mike kinney — May 24, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

  12. Mike, Tommy DeVito is alive and well and will be turning 80 on his next birthday. Nick Massi was the 4 Seasons member who passed away on Christmas Eve, 2000.

    Comment by Susie — May 25, 2008 @ 12:21 am

  13. Ted, thanks for presenting the charts where CTMEOY is ahead of the Association’s “Windy”. “Windy” prevented CTMEOY from reaching the top on Billboard’s “Hot 100″!

    It’s interesting to go back to the classics that only made it to #2 and the song that kept them from reaching the top spot. The one that forever sticks in my mind is David Cassidy’s “I Think I Love You” keeping the Carpenters’ classic “We’ve Only Just Begun” off the top spot.

    Re CKLW in Detroit: I was in college in New Brunswick, NJ in the early 1970′s, and from about midnight-6 AM that CKLW signal came through loud and clear. Listened to it regularly from a thousand or so miles away.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — May 25, 2008 @ 9:06 am

  14. Howard, I always thought “Patch Of Blue” sounded like it was recorded specifically for the equalization and audio processing of WABC. But do you remember if it was ever played on WABC? You’d think it would have been a big NYC hit with the Tarrytown reference.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — May 25, 2008 @ 10:30 am

  15. Ted

    Like Howard, I too was in college in 1970 so I was not constantly listening to WABC and the like during those years like I was during my high school days but I can tell you that I never heard “Patch of Blue” on the radio. It may very well have been played but I didn’t hear it.

    The 4 Seasons did “Patch of Blue” and “Circles in the Sand” in concert along with the “Any Day Now/Oh Happy Day” medley from the “Half and Half” album. “Patch of Blue” was dropped from the act fairly quickly when it didn’t catch on. The “Any Day Now/Oh Happy Day” medley stayed and remained in the Act for a couple/three years. “Circles in the Sand” stayed in the act for about 6 months. When I first heard it in concert before it was released I thought it was going right up the charts. Less well known than even “Patch of Blue.” If I had to pick one FV/4S song that should have made it and didn’t my vote would be “Circles in the Sand,” though I must say the recorded version doesn’t match up to Frankie singing it live. It was breathtaking when done live. Bob Gaudio was the the “double-tracked Frankie” voice in concert.

    Comment by David Cace — May 25, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  16. David and Howard and others in the NY/NJ area, and speaking of WABC, they are airing a retrospective all day today of the glory days of Top 40 on MusicRadio 77. For those in the Midwest, WLS, the Big 89, is airing a similar retrospective. There will be airchecks, but I don’t know if or how many may include snippets of Four Seasons recordings.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — May 25, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

  17. Visited New York from Scotland and was fortunate enough to secure tickets to see the Jersey boys on Broadway.

    Was absolutely thrilled, and now cant get enough information on the Four seasons.

    Would have loved to hear them live.

    Comment by adrian thomson — May 30, 2008 @ 5:07 am

  18. Could anyone please tell me where I can find Tommy’s latest guitar CD? I love guitar music and the old Italian songs. I’ve tried all of the usual sites, but have yet to locate it. Also, is there a fan mail address for Tommy? Thanks.

    Comment by Mary Ann — July 9, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

  19. Hey Tommie
    Remember me and Don (Macavia) from Broken Wheel in Jersey and PA on the farm?
    Is Etta still around..loved her
    Glad to hear you are around and doing well..Happpppy Birthday!!

    Comment by Diane — October 19, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  20. Have two items on my christmas list that my kids can’t find. Tommy’s book and cd with italian songs. Tommy gave me my one and only bass lesson over 45 years ago in Silver Lake. Enjoyed show in Vegas and have my tickets for April show in Florida. Worked with a band in Jersey for 30 years and my favorite lounge to work in the 70′s was The Four Seasons in Union.

    Comment by JOE RISOLI — December 11, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

  21. Joe-
    So you got the gig that Frankie and the guys couldn’t?
    What was your band’s name? And did you spend any time at Jahn’s ice cream shop while you were working in Union?
    George O

    Comment by George O'Brien — December 14, 2008 @ 10:02 am

  22. Tommy,
    I knew you and your wife Edda while you were working at The Reef Bar in Las Vegas around 1975. I was a kid working athe gas station next door. Later we met again in Reno when you were Tommy Bell’s manager. I remember people saying you were one of the original members of The Four Seasons. Remember Joe Muse? You and Edda were always so good to me. Still in Reno, John Frye

    Comment by John Frye — January 20, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  23. My favorite character in Jersey Boys was Tommy DeVito.
    Saw it in New York on Broadway three times and today, February 14, 2009 at the Bushnell in Hartford, CT.
    My favorite performer is Christian Hoff and hope if a movie is ever made he’ll get the part.
    I would do anything to meet the real Tommy DeVito. What a guy.

    Comment by Jacky Rittlinger — February 14, 2009 @ 9:08 pm


    Comment by Jacky Rittlinger — February 14, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

  25. Did Joe Pesci use the name Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas out of respect or admiration for Tommy DeVito of the Four Seasons?

    Comment by Ennio Rea — March 3, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

  26. The story I heard is YES, the character in the movie is named after Original Four Season Tommy DeVito. Joe Pesci is an old friend of Tommy and the other “Three Seasons”. I heard it was kind of an inside joke, but it is amazing that it took until recently for the story to be told. IMAGINE how long it would have taken for moviegoers to realize that a character named John Lennon or Paul McCartney was named after a BEATLE!

    Maybe Howard remembers if teen magazines back then had the names of the Four Seasons and other groups of the era. The first time I ever read the Four Seasons names, it was in an article in Time or Newsweek. In one such article Frankie Valli briefly told the story of how it took 12 years for them to become “an overnight success”. It was the first account I recall reading where a pop music star admitted that Rock and Roll was hard work.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 4, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  27. I believe that to basically be the story Ted. In the book upon which the movie “Goodfellas” is based, “Wiseguy…” by Nicholas Pileggi, the Joe Pesci character is a real life person by the name of Tommy DeSimone.

    As a point of historical information, the liner notes to the 4 Seasons first album, “Sherry & 11 Others” contains a very brief bio of the group members. If you brought that album you would have known the subsequent references on albums (and later on Philips 45s) to “The 4 Seasons – featuring the ‘Sound’ of Frankie Valli.” You would have also known that the small print reference to the writer of [most] of the hit songs “B. Gaudio” [along with B. Crewe on most of them] was Bob Gaudio.

    In addition to the reference to Frankie Valli as the person with the distinctive “sound,” the “Sherry” album also refers to Bob Gaudio as a songwriter, organist and singer; Nick Massi as bass singer, player, and vocal arranger, and Tommy DeVito as lead guitarist. The “Live” on a stage, but not in front of a live audience, VeeJay album has an introduction by Frankie of Bob, Tommy, and Nick, and Tommy then introduces Frankie.

    There are a few other references but certainly not as many reference as to John, Paul, George, and Ringo, or the Wilson family.

    Comment by David Cace — March 4, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  28. David, it is notable that even as late as the 1975 Private Stock album “The Four Seasons Story” there were few references to the group members, writers and arrangers full names. There was still just the B. Gaudio, B. Crewe, P. Farina, etc. Who would have guessed P. Farina was Peggy Santiglia of The Angels unless they were pretty much insiders? Also, arrangements were noted as just by “Calello” on that LP.

    I think I mentioned before that I grew up in a rather ethnically diverse middle class neighborhood, not unlike New Jersey in that respect, but where the kids only bought singles, at least before the Beatles and British Invasion. 45s usually only had the producer, songwriter, publisher, etc. Bobob Productions and Gavadima Music were a puzzle to be solved later. I just knew I loved the music and combed the radio dial for the next release. My favorite local stations were “way ahead of the curve”, possibly because Joey Reynolds left quite a footprint even after leaving WTRX and later WXYZ, so I didn’t have to wait long.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 4, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  29. I was looking up references to “Bobob” online and I turned this link up, David. “Bobob” was kind of hard to link to Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe in the search, however.

    BGDC had dropped to #4. The information on Billboard mirrored the single information, as it mainly still does today. It is amazing that Goffin/King has four songs they wrote on the chart and a couple for Barry Mann, one with Dave Appell, by the Orlons.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 4, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  30. Tommy, Must let you know how much my gang luv 4 seasons – particularly yourself – you are being played so magnificently by Glen Carter in the London production – try to see it. Your music is so fab – even now – I grew up with it in the 60′s – and you all gave me so many memories.
    Luv Rita (from Durham, England)

    Comment by RITA LOOKER — April 14, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  31. Wow….glad to see you’re still involved in the music and entertainment business. I remember you and your wife as wonderful people. When I met you I was playing the piano for Roy Clayborne (at the Dunes, in Vegas) and I think you were managing Tommy Bell (from my home town, Flint, Michigan); as I recall I think you were trying to book Roy or something. Congratulations on the movie and you look great, man..

    Guy Merritt – Flint, Michigan

    Comment by Guy Merritt — December 7, 2009 @ 10:49 pm

  32. Guy, interesting that you brought this up. While researching another topic, I came across another interesting connection with Tommy Bell. Denise Ferri sang backup on Tommy Bell’s “You Can Have What’s Left Of Me”, produced by Tommy DeVito. Denise Ferri sang backup with Bernadette Carroll and Peggy Santiglia (Farina) on Frankie Valli’s “Cry For Me”, “You’re Ready Now”, and “The Proud One”.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — April 27, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

  33. Tommy Devito’s such a legend! Sounds like a pretty nice guy, I’d really like to meet him one day if possible. Jersey Boys is my favorite musical of all time! I saw it with my family in Tulsa and we all really enjoyed it! Of course Ijust had to sing along to all of the songs because I’m a HUGE Four Seasons fan! Love them. Tommy sounds like a neat guy.

    Comment by Lacey Franklin — September 20, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

  34. Just saw Jersey Boys in Adelaide, Australia. I am well into my sixties, and knew all the words of the songs!! It had all my favorite qualities, great music and underworld connections. The true story of Tommy D would make a great movie, and there would be a great number of actors who would be willing to play the part. Tommy, get out of the clubs and off the golf course and get this project going.

    Comment by Rex Broad — November 15, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Please leave a comment