Four Seasons 101

Posted: September 29, 2010

While the story told by "Jersey Boys" could pass for fiction, it pretty much portrays actual events in the lives of the four Newark, N.J.-area performers who sold more than 100 million records between 1962 and 1978.

The group had its roots in the 1950s, when falsetto-voiced singer Frankie Valli (born Francis Castelluccio in 1937) joined forces with brothers Tommy and Nick DeVito and Hank Majewski to form a doo-wop-inspired quartet that was first known as the Varitones, then as the Four Lovers.

The quartet of working-class musicians scored a modest success as a recording act in 1956 with "You're the Apple of My Eye," written by Otis Blackwell, who composed such seminal rockers as Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" and Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up."

The unit stayed together through the late 1950s, ultimately losing Nick DeVito and Majewski but gaining bassist (and bass singer) Nick Massi and, most importantly, lyricist Bob Crewe (who never performed with them) and keyboardist Bob Gaudio, who would go on to write, or co-write with Crewe, the group's biggest hits. Valli and Tommy DeVito were introduced to Gaudio by a mutual friend, future Oscar-winning actor Joe Pesci.

In 1960, the reconstituted ensemble took the name the Four Seasons.Two years later, the Four Seasons released their first hit single, "Sherry," written by Gaudio. It was followed by two Gaudio-Crewe collaborations, "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man."

From there, the Four Seasons went on one of the greatest runs in pop history, even withstanding the musical tsunami that came from England in the form of the Beatles and the British Invasion.

With the Four Seasons - but especially as a solo act - Valli continued to top the charts, recording such 1970s signatures as "My Eyes Adored You" and the title track to the 1978 film blockbuster "Grease."

At 73, Valli continues to be a popular live performer. His regular engagements at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City are virtual sellouts. (He returns Nov. 19-21.)

And, of course, the success of "Jersey Boys" has introduced the music of the Four Seasons to new audiences, helping ensure the group's legacy won't soon fade.

- Chuck Darrow

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