Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.
Welcome to “Searchin’ For The 50’s!”
I was inspired to do this segment when I was reviewing some of the things people were searching for that sent them to my blog. While some of the search terms sent them to a post with the exact information they were seeking, I realized that not every search term gave a direct answer to what people were looking for.
So for this section, I’ll be answering questions that were asked via search string.
Today’s string is “50’s Heartthrobs from Philly”
Yes, the 1950’s was the Dawn of the Teenage Heartthrobs. It was the first decade in which young stars were the center of a teenage frenzy. From Elvis to the Everly Brothers, there was no shortage of talented, attractive boys who made the girls swoon.
This particular search string is looking for heartthrobs “from Philly“. Ahh. I know exactly who they mean. And if you don’t, let me tell you!
At the end of the 1950’s decade, there were a group of boys who all seemed to emerge into stardom at once. These Italian fellas from Philadelphia became legends in their own time. You could even revere them as the “Early Pop Icons” of the music industry. While they didn’t exactly possess the raw, show-stopping talent of the early Rock N Roll pioneers, these boys helped shape the music world by producing classic songs that will always be essential jukebox hits.
So let’s meet the boys from Philly! And here they are…
Frankie Avalon was born on Sept 18, 1940, as Francis Thomas Avallone in Philadelphia, PA. He was the first of the “Italian Boys from Philly” to really make a big splash. Frankie toured with Buddy Holly & The Crickets in 1958. He also stepped in after the tragedy of February 3rd, 1959 to go on the remainder of the tour. Frankie is mostly famous for his beach movies with Annette Funicello, as well as his hits “Venus”, “Bobby Sox to Stockings”, “Just Ask Your Heart” and “Dee Dee Dinah”.
If you liked Frankie, Fabian wasn’t too far behind. Also from Philly, Fabian was born as Fabiano Anthony Forte on February 6, 1943. Fabian started his career after being randomly discovered by a record exec. in the late 50’s. He’s mainly known for pop songs and he was featured in a few movies in the 1960’s. Some of his music hits were “Shivers”, “I’m A Man”, “Hound Dog Man” and “Tiger”.
Robert Lewis Ridarelli was also born in Philadelphia on April 26, 1942. Known professionally as Bobby Rydell, he started his career in the late 1950’s after winning a TV talent show. His first hit was “Kissin’ Time” in 1959, but he was more popularly known for “Wildwood Days” and “Volare” in 1963. He starred in Bye Bye Birdie with Ann Margret the same year. Mr. Rydell’s career spanned several decades and he was loved the world over. He passed away on April 5, 2022 just 21 days before his 80th Birthday.
So there you have the “Main 3” boys from Philly, who can definitely be considered heartthrobs from their area of that era. Their last names were “Americanized” because ethnic diversity was generally frowned upon by the American public at the time. So why were there all these Italians from Philadelphia showing up in the industry anyway? Well, there’s not a really terrific, diplomatic way for me to explain this, so I’ll just tell it like it is. In the 50’s, cities had sections for each ethnic group. People rarely associated outside of their groups. However, a positive thing about music is that the public learned to open their minds about other ethnic groups. Despite trying to cover up their Italian last names, it wasn’t long before folks realized that some of the biggest stars on the charts were, indeed, Italian-Americans.
Also, remember that although it was the end of the 1950’s that these fellas made their career debuts, they were perhaps better defined as early 1960’s stars, when Pop was prevalent and Rockabilly began to die out. (Rock N Roll did not die out, it just evolved, but that’s for another post.)
Well, that’s it for this edition of “Searchin’ For The 50’s!” For more Heartthrobs of the 1950’s era, please check out Fifties Study Hall: Heartthrobs of the 1950’s.
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