Frankie Valli is Coming to the Valley

There's more to Frankie Valli than Jersey Boys.
There's more to Frankie Valli than Jersey Boys. SolarScott/Wikimedia Commons

One viewing of Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the jukebox musical Jersey Boys, and some people think they know everything there is to know about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. But music biopics often fudge the line between truth and movie fiction.

What you don’t know about Frankie Valli and the boys from Newark could fill the Meadowlands. Read on to educate yourself.

Frankie Valli and Joe Pesci shared a passion for cutting hair

Both men were haircutters before achieving fame. Since no man is a barber unto himself, Pesci was the stylist Valli would go to to cut his hair. That’s funny? Funny how? Does that amuse you, like a clown? Bing! Pow!

The ‘Sound’ of Frankie Valli, explained

Rather than give Valli top billing in 1964, the group became “The 4 Seasons Featuring the ‘Sound’ of Frankie Valli” to quantify what a force of nature Valli really was. It was more like the “sounds” of Frankie Valli. The singer has three distinctive vocal registers, which were presented simultaneously on early hits like “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” They were later siphoned off and marketed separately as three different recording acts. (No other singer has ever done this.) The group’s secret identity was officially blown when they released a Wonder Who single with a song credited to The 4 Seasons on the flip side, inadvertently inventing the split-single in the process.

Valli sings for only 38 seconds on the band’s final No. 1 hit, ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’

Latter-day Four Seasons drummer Gerry Polci handled most of the lead vocal chores, while bassist Don Ciccone tackled the falsetto parts that were usually designated for Valli. It actually may only be 19 seconds that Valli sings because they could’ve just flown in the first pass, which sounds identical to the second one. Incidentally, that’s almost as much time (26 seconds) as rapper TKO’s sample of the original recording featured on his 1993 interpolation “Oh What a Night.”

Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio formed a partnership to pay off Tommy DeVito’s gambling debt and buy him out of the band

One thing Jersey Boys accurately depicts is how ex-con and Four Seasons guitarist Tommy DeVito ran up a $1 million tab in Las Vegas with the band’s money. This couldn’t have come at a worse time. The band’s hits were few and far between after the release of the psych-pop concept album Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.

Valli and Gaudio, the Seasons’ keyboardist and songwriter, formed a partnership. They assumed DeVito’s debt, which was closer to $2 million after taxes. Gaudio retired from the road, but he and Valli would split performance profits and Gaudio’s songwriting royalties and production monies. Valli shared in the profits of Gaudio’s work (penning an album of songs for Frank Sinatra, some Motown releases, and several albums for Neil Diamond) while he played smaller venues when the group was out of favor.

When Valli scored a No. 1 hit with “My Eyes Adored You” in 1974, it’s a safe bet that most of the $2 million was paid off. This partnership, which started with a handshake, is still in operation today. You can rest secure in the knowledge that Gaudio is getting half of Valli’s ASU Gammage take, while Valli is getting half the ASCAP performance rights.

Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons are scheduled to perform on Sunday, February 16, at ASU Gammage. Tickets are $35 to $69 via Ticketmaster.
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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic