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Profile: Frankie Avalon

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Headshot of singer and actor Frankie Avalon pictured in a publicity portrait issued for the film, 'Guns of the Timberland', USA, circa 1960.
Archive Photos/Getty Images

Born:

Francis Thomas Avallone, September 18, 1939, Philadelphia, PA

Genres:

Pop, Adult Contemporary

Instruments:

Vocals

Contributions to music:

  • Along with other pop idols, helped "legitimize" rock and roll as a cultural phenomenon
  • The most recognizable actor amongst the first generation of teen idols
  • Along with Annette Funicello, brought beach culture to the masses with his early-Sixties series of musical comedies
  • Performed "Beauty School Dropout" in the 1978 film version of the Broadway musical Grease

Early years:

A true child prodigy, Frankie Avalon was already a noted performer by the time he achieved success as one of the late Fifties' spate of teen idols. Groomed in the same South Philly scene (overseen by Dick Clark) that produced Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, and Fabian, Avalon actually suggested that talent scout Bob Marcucci, then looking for talent for his fledgling Chancellor label, sign the lead singer of the band he was playing trumpet in. But Marcucci thought Frankie had a better look, and after two marginally successful singles, the young performer hit with "DeDe Dinah."

Success:

Seven Top Ten hits followed, most notably the Number Ones "Why" and "Venus," (which both made surprising inroads at black radio!) but by the turn of the decade, Avalon was already out of the rock and roll game, turning his thoughts to acting, and, when he performed at all, to adult contemporary fluff. But his biggest success came with a series of seven American International "beach" movies in the early Sixties, which scored big with surfing and hotrodding teens. Along with costar Annette Funicello, he became an icon of Kennedy-era youth.

Later years:

In 1978, Avalon sang "Beauty School Dropout" in the movie production of the hit Broadway musical Grease, further solidifying his place in that bygone era. 1987 also saw the release of Back to the Beach, a winking beach-movie homage that brought Avalon into the consciousness of yet another generation of teens. These days, when not touring the oldies circuit, Frankie hawks his successful signature brand of pain relievers and tanning products.

Other facts:

  • Played in an early group called Rocco & The Saints, which also featured future teen idol Bobby Rydell
  • Recorded the original version of "Cupid," later a hit for Sam Cooke
  • Filled in on the infamous "Winter Dance Party" tour of 1959 after Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash
  • Re-recorded "Venus" as a disco song in 1976 and had a dance hit with it

Awards/Honors:

  • South Philly Walk of Fame (1997)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Venus" (1959)
  • "Why" (1959)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "DeDe Dinah" (1958)
  • "Ginger Bread" (1958)
  • "Just Ask Your Heart" (1959)
  • "Bobby Sox To Stockings" (1959)
  • "A Boy Without a Girl" (1959)
R&B:
  • "Ginger Bread" (1958)
  • "Venus" (1959)
  • "Why" (1960)
Top 10 albums:
Pop:
  • Swingin' On A Rainbow (1960)
Other popular recordings: "I'll Wait For You," "What Little Girl," "You Excite Me," "Two Fools," "Don't Let Love Pass Me By," "Don't Throw Away All Those Teardrops," "Togetherness," "Tuxedo Junction," "Where Are You," "The Puppet Song," "All Of Everything," "Who Else But You," "A Perfect Love," "You Are Mine," "A Miracle"
Covered by: Donny Osmond
Appears in the movies: "Jamboree" (1957), "Guns Of The Timberland" (1960), "The Alamo" (1960), "Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea" (1961), "Sail A Crooked Ship" (1961), "Panic In Year Zero!" (1962), "Operation Bikini" (1963), "The Castilian" (1963), "Drums Of Africa" (1963), "Beach Party" (1963), "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), "Bikini Beach" (1964), "Pajama Party" (1964), "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965), "I'll Take Sweden" (1965), "Ski Party" (1965), "How To Stuff A Wild Bikini" (1965), "Sergeant Dead Head" (1965), "Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine" (1965), "Fireball 500" (1966), "The Million Eyes Of Sumuru" (1967), "Skidoo" (1968), "The Haunted House Of Horror" (1969), "The Take" (1974), "Grease" (1978), "Blood Song" (1982), "Back To The Beach" (1987), "Troop Beverly Hills" (1989), "The Stoned Age" (1994), "Casino" (1995)
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