Gary James' Interview With
Bobby Rydell

One of the earliest teen idols of the '50's was a man from South Philadelphia named Robert Lewis Ridarelli. He gained fame as Bobby Rydell. His hits were numerous and included "Kissin" Time", "Wild One", "Volare", "We Got Love" and "Sway".

Q - Is it true that you'd sit in front of the TV when you were four years old and try to do impersonations of people like Milton Berle and Johnny Ray?

A - Yeah. Hey, you know everything already!

Q - Your father gave you a lot of encouragement in the early days. Was he a frustrated musician?

A - No, if anything he was a frustrated singer. He played the violin. He was the first to see some talent in me.

Q - At seven years old you were working nightclubs in Philadelphia. How did that affect your schooling?

A - It didn't affect my schooling at all. My father used to take me around to different nightclubs on weekends and ask the manager if I could sing a couple of songs. The manager would say, "Yes" and I'd get up and sing.

Q - You grew up within the same three blocks as Fabian, James Darren and Frankie Avalon. What accounts for that much talent coming from such a small section?

A - The Dick Clark Show, Bandstand. Other than that, Philadelphia's got some good musical schools.

Q - I'd read that you always wanted to be a teen idol; that's why you took dancing, singing, and drum lessons?

A - I didn't know what a teen idol was. I played drums in a group and Frankie Day became my manager. He's the one who took me around to all the different record companies. I was turned down at first because the record companies felt there were already enough Fabian / Frankie Avalon type singers around.

Q - Your mother suggested to you that you record "Volare". Why did you listen to her suggestion?

A - My mother has a real good ear as far as my club act goes. She offers constructive criticism. I did an album that was never released. We were looking for a single and after listening to the album she said to do "Volare."

Q - Dick Clark helped your career out quite a bit, yet he's been criticized for paying his Caravan of Stars entertainers salaries of $200 a week while he booked his show for $2,500 a night. Did he take advantage of the performers?

A - No, he didn't. He paid me a pretty good salary and I forget what it was. Dick Clark was the "Grand Slam Home Runner." He wouldn't play a record on Bandstand unless the record was doing something elsewhere.

Q - Do you remember the Caravan of Star tours you were on?

A - Yes, it was absolutely tremendous. There was this din...constant screaming. I don't know what the decibel level was. You didn't even have to sing, just open your mouth. I'd spend 6 1/2 weeks traveling on a bus. You'd drive to the concert, check in at the hotel, eat, perform, back to the hotel, get up the next day, and travel to the next town.

Q - When David Cassidy retired from the business he said, "I'm getting out while I'm still in one piece and have my sanity." Did you ever have those feelings?

A - I never felt like that. It's a good business. I had a good manager when I was young and a good Italian family upbringing.

Q - Is the process by which someone becomes a Pop star much different today than it was when you started? Is it harder today?

A - I really don't know. I have my own production company and just recorded some tapes for Steve Alaimo of Miami, Florida president of TK Records. They have artists like K.C. and the Sunshine Band and Foxie. I'm hoping my new material will result in a contract with TK.

Q - What's your greatest failure and your greatest success to date?

A - I've been blessed and lucky not to have any failures. My career's slid a little, but that happens to everybody in the business. You have to keep your name in the public eye. I have a marvelous wife and two great children. I've had many successes.

Q - Are you honored that in the movie Grease they have a Rydell High?

A - It's great. I'm 36 years old (in 1978) and have a high school named after me. I haven't seen the movie Grease or the Broadway play.

Q - How busy are you these days with performing?

A - I work 9 to 10 months a year. It's a drag being away from home. But when I'm home I don't do much of anything except play golf.

Q - Is rock 'n' roll here to stay?

A - Danny and the Juniors recorded it. It must be right. It's definitely a part of American history; a statement of America's lifestyle.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.