Bobby Rydell as TV Era Vaudevillian

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Today is also the birthday of Bobby Rydell (Robert Ridarelli, b. 1942). The Philly native started out as a child performer — he appeared on Paul Whiteman’s television program as early as age eight. He kept a hand in the business throughout his childhood and adolescence until he made it to the charts with 1959’s “Kissin’ Time”.  Other big hits included “Wild One” and “Swingin’ School”; all told, he had 34 top 40 hits. In 1963 he was cast in the film version of Bye Bye Birdie. And then…

Disaster struck the entire generation of teen idols of which Rydell was a member. It’s been instructive doing these posts and observing just how revolutionary early 1964 was in the music industry. For that was when The Beatles arrived and made everyone who came before them seem like dinosaurs. Some of them, like Fabian and Frankie Avalon I think, had been deadwood anyway. Others, like the Everly Brothers though deserved continued success, so the drastic nature of the sea change was regrettable. I am surprised to discover that Rydell may have belonged to the second category. In the attached clip, from the Perry Como Show, he proves himself a true vaudevillian: he not only sings his own smash hit tune “Volare”, but then does a very low comedy imitation of Frankie Fontaine, and then a passable imitation of Bobby Darin singing “Mack the Knife” and then an imitation of Como himself.  For the height of surrealism, there’s not much to match teenage girls screaming and shrieking at his Frankie Fontaine imitation.

To find out about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book:Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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