December 5, 2009

What Ever Happened to Four Seasons Member Lee Shapiro?

December 5th, 2009

Lee Shapiro and Frankie Valli

How many of you remember Lee Shapiro, who was a member of The Four Seasons back in the 1970s? Check out this great story on the former Seasons’ keyboardist and musical director!
As “Jersey Boys” comes to Detroit’s Fisher Theatre, a Jewish member of the 1970s Four Seasons picks up where the play leaves off.

The Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys,” which opens Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit, tells the story of the legendary singing group the Four Seasons in the 1950s and ’60s. In the ’70s, lead singer Frankie Valli performed with four new members, including New Jersey-bred Lee Shapiro. In a Detroit Jewish News exclusive, Shapiro, “the Jewish kid” of the group, for the first time tells his own story about the latter years of the Four Seasons to David Sachs.

In the mid-1960s, 11-year-old Lee Shapiro and his mother sat in their Glen Rock, N.J., living room, watching the Four Seasons perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” But what especially caught the eye of Lee, a prodigious young pianist, was that the Four Seasons’ key musical player was their keyboard player, Bob Gaudio. The Beatles, Lee’s fave at the time, featured no piano — just John and George on guitar, Paul at bass and Ringo on drums.

Excited and intrigued by the Four Seasons’ keyboardist, Lee pointed at the TV and said, “See, Mom, someday I could play piano and be in a rock band just like this!”
Little could the talented sixth-grader imagine that only eight years later he would live out his fantasy and become the Four Seasons’ new keyboardist — and the legendary Italian American rock group’s first Jewish member.

“It was beshert,” mused Shapiro, looking back.

It could only have been destiny that made his dream come true. In 1973, Shapiro was a college sophomore at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, where his interest was orchestration (composing the musical text for each instrument in a song’s arrangement).
A musician whom Shapiro had played club dates for heard the Seasons needed a keyboardist and recommended him to their road manager. He, in turn, dropped in to hear Shapiro’s Buddy Rich-style jazz gig at a New Jersey nightspot. Impressed, he tipped off lead singer Frankie Valli.

“At my audition,” Shapiro remembers, “I began by playing the first chord of the intro of ‘Dawn’ and Frankie began singing, ‘Pretty eyes of midsummer’s morn …’ I stopped cold — I couldn’t believe that before me was the great voice I heard so many times on the radio.”

Valli offered to make the fresh-faced 19-year-old the group’s new keyboardist and musical director. Besides all his piano talents, Shapiro had the smarts to write arrangements for any new songs they added while on the road. Gaudio, the band’s creative genius, remained the group’s producer and songwriter, but no longer wished to tour.

“I told my parents of Frankie’s offer,” Shapiro said. “My father wanted me to take over his electrical contracting business. But my mom was more into the arts, and she was for it — although she wanted me to finish school first.

“When I asked my orchestration professor, a classical music follower, if I should join the Four Seasons, she said, ‘I don’t know who that is — but if they’ll pay you to orchestrate and play, I think you should leave. You can always go to school.’
“She seemed old to me then, but she gave me some pretty cool advice!”

On his first day, Shapiro was asked by Valli to compose and arrange a completely new orchestral opening for the group’s concert that night in Chicago. “I was so scared,” Shapiro said. “But I wrote it; we rehearsed it; we played it that night; and Frankie didn’t change one note.”

Visit website to read the entire fantastic interview with Lee Shapiro!


  1. This was a great article. I would like to see more on all the former “Seasons.”

    Comment by Richard — December 10, 2009 @ 11:49 pm

  2. That’s funny that the piano player during those mid-70′s years was in fact Lee Shapiro. Everytime I saw those video performances of “Oh What A Night” & “Who Loves You”, I could have sworn that was indeed Bob Gaudio sitting at the piano singing along! I mean, look at those old pictures of Gaudio; then add a pair of goofy looking glasses and a feathered hairdoo and you get Shapiro! The likeness is uncanny. Great work Lee with all those memorable 70′s hits, disco as it may have been, you helped put “Frankie Valli & & The Four Seasons” back on the map!

    Comment by Anthony Ochoa — January 6, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

  3. When The Four Seasons first appeared as named on Ed Sullivan in early December, back in ’62, I had been taking piano lessons for a couple years. I also thought it was cool that the tall guy, Bob, played piano. Although I only achieved being a fair piano player, I did actually end up writing a very short, simple, piano composition. Just music, but no lyrics. But I never had dreams of joining a rock band. And even though my father was known around town as a decent guitarist and guitar teacher, he had a dickens of a time teaching me to play even the simplest chords on a Ukelele. Again, no rock bands for me. I ended up being a decent clarinetist, but no Benny Goodman for sure. But that night, December 9, 1962, when Ed Sullivan had the Four Seasons on for the first time, it was as significant to me as most people found The Beatles on Ed Sullivan just a little more than one year later.

    Comment by Ted — January 7, 2013 @ 3:08 am

  4. Thanks, this was very informative and I’m sad I wasn’t there to see them. I’m pretty sure I’m the only 13-yearold to have almost all their LPs.

    Comment by David Reeves — February 16, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

  5. Hey!…..I’m over here!. Me and Polci are part of the group “The Hit Men”
    Playin’ the songs we recorded and performed when we were with Frankie as two of The 4 Seasons in the 70s.
    Check us out at

    Comment by lee shapiro — June 5, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

  6. We loved your work, Mr. Shapiro. Thanks for the update. While the Inner Circle of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Fans may have wished times had never changed, they had inevitably changed by the mid 1970s. The Four Seasons changed styles just enough to have two HUGE hits and a few minor hits in the 1970s, in addition to several HUGE and slightly lesser Frankie Valli solo hits. Your work contributed greatly to that hit making machine! Thank you again, Lee, for your contributions!

    Comment by Ted — June 5, 2014 @ 11:42 pm

  7. Why didn’t the 70s 4 seasons make it into the movie. I was waiting for them to appear. Why did they break up? They always looked so happy performing together.

    Comment by Pam — July 21, 2014 @ 9:47 pm

  8. He sure was a cutie that Lee Shapiro and the keyboards……… amazing.

    Comment by Pam — July 24, 2014 @ 7:26 pm

  9. Just saw Lee & The Hitmen Sat. night. They are a fantastic group. Each musician is top notch & extremely talented. My wife said Jerry Polci is the best drummer she has ever heard. Thank you Lee for putting your group together. We have seen you four times at the Broadway in Pitman,NJ& we are always well pleased with your performance. It sure brings back the memories of our younger days.

    Comment by John — February 23, 2015 @ 1:40 pm

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