Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest multi-talented entertainer and now co- author of Teen Idol On The Rocks: A Tale Of Second Chances, Bobby Rydell. Bobby is best known as a 1960s teen idol with such hits as Kissin Time and Volare. During his career he sold more than twenty-five million records and today continues to tour internationally. In 2012 he underwent a double organ transplant.
Norm: Good day Bobby and thanks for participating in our interview.
Why were you attracted to becoming a singer and how did you become involved in the music business?
Bobby: From what my parents told me, I started humming simple melodies in the crib. But my father was a huge music fan and he took me to clubs all over South Philly when I was a kid, so I could sit in with the house bands, sing and do my imitations. I started when I was only 5 years old.
Norm: In your opinion, what is the most difficult part of singing on stage?
Bobby: My own voice is never the problem. The tricky part is adapting to all the different P.A. systems, different microphones and monitor systems, and the different orchestras. It’s just like anything else: some orchestras, P.A.’s and sound engineers are great—others are not so great. Those things can really affect your performance.
Norm: How do you go about choosing your songs and what was the first tune you learned? As a follow up, were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
Bobby: The first tune I learned was an old standard called “I’m Gonna Live ‘til I Die.” It was composed by a songwriter from the ‘30s and ‘40s named Al Hoffman. Sinatra and a lot of other people recorded it. My Dad was always playing stuff around the house and he used to take me to the old Earle Theater in Philadelphia. My song taste came from the singers I was listening to in my youth: Sinatra, Johnny Ray, pop songs of the day—stuff like that.
Norm: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Bobby: I just laugh it off. Every performer has those moments. Sometimes, I even make a joke out of it. I was doing a show last month at Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget casino and my voice cracked in a very exposed place in the song. I just told the audience, “Must’ve been one of those old Marlboros lurking around in my throat.” The audience cracked up. Making them a part of the performing experience and humanizing what you’re trying to do connects with them. As for a major train wreck mistake? I can’t remember ever having one of those.
Norm: Do you get nervous before a performance and what advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Bobby: Nerves always play a role in every performance. But once I hit the stage, I’m fine. Before the curtain opens, I just sit there calmly going over what I have to do in my head. As for beginners, my advice is to just accept it as something that is always going to be there. If you feel no nerves before an important show, you’re either lying or you don’t care enough about what you’re doing.
Norm: How often and for how long do you practice and what do you practice - exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?
Bobby: A lot of my practice is just listening to great singers like Sinatra, Bennett, and others, checking out their phrasing, how they interpret a lyric, and things like that. As to actual exercises, I save that for the shower, where I open up, sing scales through my range, which is from a low B flat to a high G.
Norm: How did you double organ transplant affect your outlook on life?
Bobby: Well of course, it taught me how precious life is and how lucky I am to still be here singing, performing, and just living. I also think a lot about the other person inside of me—the poor girl whose misfortune gave me a second life. I was a day or two from dying. They couldn’t find a donor match, and then she had the misfortune of getting hit by a car while walking the street. She was just a kid.
Norm: What advice can you give aspiring musicians that you wished you had gotten, or that you wished you would have listened to?
Bobby: For singers, learn to sing early from your diaphragm and not your throat. I almost wrecked my voice until I learned to do that. And listen to as much music as you can—all kinds of different styles. As for instrumentalists—since I’m also a drummer—I wish I’d learned to read better. I mean, I read, but I’m not a drop dead sight reader. It opens a lot of doors for you.
Norm: How many times in your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?
Bobby: I’ve been rejected dozens of times. Cameo/Parkway records was my last gasp chance at a recording career. Decca, Columbia—all the other labels turned me down. I lost out on The Graduate role to Dustin Hoffman. If you have a lengthy career, things like that happen. You just throw everything you can at the wall and see what sticks. You can’t take it personally or you won’t last very long.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in writing your autobiography, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Bobby: For years, all my friends and fellow musicians have said to me, “Bob, you have the greatest stories I the world. You need to get this stuff down in print.” I think my co-author ad I (Allan Slutsky) did a good job of capturing that and the times I in which I worked. I’ve also become an advocate for organ donation since I’m grateful for the process that saved my life and I think that comes across in the book too.
Norm: Can you share a little about your book with our audience?
Bobby: The book is a really quick read. It moves like Maserati on a highway. I didn’t hide anything. There’s no dead spots. All my experiences with Sinatra, the mob, Ann-Margret and Bye Bye Birdie, the recording industry, legions of screaming fans when I was a teen idol, the whole teen magazine thing with Annette Funicello, Shelly Fabares and all the other debutantes I was rumoured to be having affairs with—I didn’t leave out anything. And then I opened up about my struggles with the bottle and my eventual double transplant surgery.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Bobby: Definitely reliving my first wife’s death from cancer. My inability to deal with Camille’s death was what started me on my drinking binge. The other was revealing all the issues I had with my mother, who was “Mommy Dearest” on steroids. She lived through my career and made my life hell. She knew nothing about show biz, but tried to call all the shots. The arguments were endless.
Norm: If a movie were to be made of your life, which actor would you like to play your part?
Bobby: That’s a tough one. An immediate reaction for a lot of people would be to suggest a current teen idol like Justin Beiber, but he’s nothing like me. I was a much different kind of person. It would have to be someone who has a distinct Italian vibe, has some pipes, is skinny as a rail, and has comedic talents. Oh, and he’d have to have a great pompadour.
Norm: What projects are you working on at the present and what do your plans for future projects include?
Bobby: I just finished doing a spot in a new Robert DeNiro film coming out called The Comedian. Other than that, it’s all about my new book, getting a film deal, and doing the concerts on my schedule, both my solo dates and the stuff with the Golden Boys (w/Frankie Avalon ad Fabian).
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Teen Idol On The Rocks: A Tale Of Second Chances?
Bobby: The book is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and on my WEB SITE where you can get a personalized autograph version. We’ve already done a ton of PR so Teen Idol on the Rocks is all over the internet
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Bobby: Maybe it would be to ask, what keeps me going at 74? That’s simple: It’s all I’ve ever done since I was a young kid. When I can’t sing or entertain people anymore, then you can put me in a pie box. I still get antsy when I haven’t been on the stage in a while. I still love what I do and the people I perform for.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors