Frankie Valli’s secret to keeping in vocal shape at 88: ‘I sing every day’


Frankie Valli’s secret to keeping in vocal shape at 88: ‘I sing every day’

At 88, the original Jersey Boy is still going strong.

The ever youthful Frankie Valli continues to tour with the Four Seasons. The important thing to note is that while Seasons may change — his backing trio’s original lineup retired long ago — the native son of Newark, N.J., remains vibrant.

Valli, who appears at Casino Rama on Friday and Saturday, has lost none of his vocal ability, as witnessed in a YouTube video of a Mohegan Sun Casino performance recorded earlier this summer. Both the smooth tenor that delivered such romantic chart-toppers as “My Eyes Adored You” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” and the immaculate falsetto that paced such classics as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll” and “Walk Like A Man” remain impeccable, seemingly unblemished by the passing of time.

What’s his secret to keeping his voice in such magnificent shape?

“I sing every day,” Valli said from his Encino, Calif., home. “You don’t have to do hours. A bodybuilder only needs 15 or 20 minutes to a half-hour a day for bodybuilding. And you have to do the same thing with singing.

“Occasionally I take a day or two off on the weekend if I’m not working. But I try to sing every day. I get up, take a shower and sing in the shower for about a half-hour.”

It’s the work that keeps Valli going.

“I love touring and I love performing. I just think it’s the greatest thing in the world to be able to go out there and have great audiences and get paid for it,” he said.

Born Francesco Castelluccio, Valli was bitten by the music bug early. His mother took him to see Frank Sinatra in the early 1940s.

“I couldn’t have been more than six or seven,” Valli recalled. “My mom took me to see him at the New York City Paramount Theatre. And I was just blown away. I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’

“I always sang around the house and on street corners with a bunch of guys who liked to do doo wop. That’s basically the way it started.”

As for that fabulous falsetto?

“I probably took it for granted because I thought that if I had it everybody had it,” he said. “I learned later on in life that that wasn’t so.

“The falsetto wasn’t anything new. R&B groups were doing it and using it as background. We used it singing leads and it made a big difference.”

Trying to make it in the era of the Clovers and the Drifters, it was a constant stream of auditions for Valli and his singers, with some success.

“You had to go the club and audition before you got hired,” Valli said. “We did a variation of different kinds of music when we worked those clubs. Because we had no hits, we did a lot of covers. We were well-rounded and had enough experience doing both.”

To make ends meet for a while, he followed the footsteps of his father, Anthony, and worked as a barber.

Before Valli made it with the 4 Seasons (they used the numeral back then), he took plenty of kicks at the can, recording under several names: Frankie Valley, Frankie Tyler, the Village Voices, the Romans, the Travelers, the Topics.

In 1959, Valli made two important connections that would prove vital to his future: an association with songwriter Bob Crewe and the addition of keyboardist Bob Gaudio, who penned what would become the quartet’s first No. 1 hit, “Sherry.”

The group was known as the Four Lovers when they finally settled on the name that would bring them worldwide recognition — and it came from a surprising source.

“There was a bowling alley where we auditioned for a job in a lounge,” Valli recalled. “We never got the job but, on the way out, we looked up and saw the sign, ‘The 4 Seasons.’ I thought, ‘What a great name for a group.’”

Released in 1962, “Sherry” was an instant smash, spending five weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. Then Gaudio and Crewe teamed up to create the 4 Seasons’ sophomore hit, “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” a song that also resided in the top spot for five weeks.

“Since Bob Gaudio was a part of the group, he was tuned into my singing and my range, and wrote songs musically that fit around the range of my voice,” Valli said.

So with two straight chart-toppers, Valli’s fortunes grew immensely and the band enjoyed the spoils of fame, right?

Not exactly.

“It didn’t really change very quickly. It took about a year or so,” Valli said. “We were with a small label out of Chicago called Vee-Jay Records and they weren’t too quick at paying. The only thing that really changed is that people knew who we were.”

Gaudio and Crewe continued to work their magic with Four Seasons chart-toppers, stringing together the No. 1 hits “Walk Like a Man” and “Rag Doll” and most of the group’s 27 Top 40 hits. They had a hand, either individually or as a duo, in the writing or production of such Top 10 hits as “Candy Girl,” “Dawn (Go Away),” “Ronnie,” “Save It For Me,” “Let’s Hang On,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Tell It to the Rain” and “C’mon Marianne” over a five-year span.

Despite their enormous success, Valli said the Four Seasons never made attaining chart success a priority when they entered the studio.

“We didn’t approach recordings thinking, ‘OK, let’s go make a hit,’” Valli said. “We just did songs that we loved: ‘Oh, that song sounds great, let’s do it.’ That’s the way it went down. We never tried to follow what everybody else was doing.

“I mean, certainly, ‘Sherry,’ ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘Walk Like a Man’ didn’t sound like anything that was out there. We proved that you could break through the barrier of having to make certain kinds of songs.”

In 1967, Valli launched a solo career with the Gaudio-Crewe penned “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” which missed the No. 1 position by one number.

“I never left the Four Seasons on any permanent basis, but it was another part of me that I wanted to do,” Valli said of his solo career. “I wanted to do solo records for music that was a little different than the music the Four Seasons was doing. Since I can do both … why not?”

After 1968, the group signed with Motown Records when they were put on the shelf. But one track in particular had Valli determined to salvage it.

“Actually, ‘My Eyes Adored You’ was recorded for Motown Records,” Valli said. “They had us for three years and nothing happened with it. When we left Motown, we bought back the track and brought it to Private Stock, which was a record label owned by (music executive) Larry Uttal. He heard it and he said, ‘I want this for my record company. It’ll be my first hit’ — and it was.”

The song landed Valli at the top of the charts in January 1975 and led to a revival of interest in the Four Seasons (numeral dropped), who enjoyed a return to the charts with two Bob Gaudio co-writes, “Who Loves You” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night),” the quartet’s last No. 1 hit.

Valli’s biggest solo hit was written by a songwriter who owned most of the late ’70s with his two brothers: Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.

The trio was enjoying unprecedented popularity with their “Saturday Night Fever” success. Gibb was working on another John Travolta cinematic vehicle when he reached out to Valli.

“Barry and I had talked about possibly doing some work together. It just so happened that he wrote this song ‘Grease’ and sent it to me.”

The title track of the hit film “Grease” was Valli’s biggest hit, selling well over a million copies. It would also be his last.

But the touring and the performing continues. Valli said he is thrilled to still be entertaining.

“The fact that I’m able to continue to do this is so satisfying. I can’t compare it with anything else.”


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Credit: Frankie Valli’s secret to keeping in vocal shape at 88: ‘I sing every day’