Still playing the classics

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Footage of a youthful Olivia Newton John and John Travolta dancing and flirting with each other at Rydell High will be forever etched into history thanks to the hit film ‘Grease’.


But what about the music legend whose name originally inspired the famous Rydell High to begin with?


To say that Bobby Rydell’s influence on popular music has been quite profound would be an understatement.


So much so that when the producers of the world’s largest selling movie soundtrack album, ‘Grease’, wanted to pay tribute to the era in which it was set, they named the school where most of the action took place as Rydell High.


In 1995 his hometown of Philadelphia named the street he was born the ‘Bobby Rydell Boulevard’ – quite a tribute to a city’s favourite native son.


And even Wildwood, New Jersey, has a street named for Bobby in appreciation for his massive hit ‘Wildwood Days’.


But despite his worldwide fame, Bobby is still humble and says he is only in it for his fans.


“I have a very good fan base and each time I come down to Australia it’s like a love affair,” he gushed.


“I just see the looks on their faces and no matter what I do, it’s like I can’t do anything wrong in their eyes.”


Bobby’s career spans six decades and encompasses every area of entertainment – making him deserving of his reputation as a classic performer.


He is a superb singer whose voice has matured over the years and he has proved to be an outstanding drummer, an agile dancer and an extremely fine actor, with an unsurpassed knack for comedy.


His debut in the late 50s as a rock n roll teen idol lead to starring roles on such hit films as ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ and plays such as ‘West Side Story’.


Bobby has also made countless network television appearances throughout the world on shows such as ‘Ed Sullivan’, ‘Jack Benny’, ‘George Burns’, ‘Milton Berle’, ‘Perry Como’, ‘American Bandstand’ and ‘Brian Henderson’s Bandstand’.


A polished performer at the age of 19, Bobby was the youngest ever person to headline the famous Copacabana in New York.


But it’s his successful singing career that brings him back to Australia year after year.


Bobby’s recording career earned him 34 top 40 hits placing him in the top five artists of the era.


His hits include singles ‘Volare’, ‘Wild One’, ‘We Got Love’, ‘Kissin’ Time’, ‘Swinging School’ and ‘Forget Him’, which sold more than 25 million records over the years.


Today, Bobby enjoys a busy schedule throughout the world as a headline performer.


Whilst he performs regularly in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, for the past 25 years he has also performed on hundreds of shows with Frankie Avalon and Fabian, with the trio as the Golden Boys.


Australia has welcomed him for some 20 years and now Bobby is gearing up for another tour next month.


“Every chance I get I can’t wait to come back to Australia,” Bobby said.


“My first appearance was in 1969 at the old Sydney Stadium. It’s exciting to see the people I’ve met over those years every 18 months when I come back.


“I could just live [in Australia] tomorrow. Everything is great and the reception is really phenomenal.”


Despite his myriad of hits, Bobby says his Australian fans are always keen to hear the old records – some of which he doesn’t even play in the United States.


“There are some big hits that are bigger in Australia than America and I never did them when I first came here,” he said.


“Fans came up to me and said ‘what about this, what about that’, so I started playing them.”


Pre-1962 songs like ‘The Cha-Cha-Cha’, ‘Good Time Baby’, ‘Swingin’ School’ and ‘Kissin’ Time’ are crowd favourites here in Australia, according to Bobby.


“‘Kissin’ Time was a hit for me in the States and Australia, to the point where I even recorded an Australia version of the song,” Bobby said.


The seasoned performer plays with local bands and musicians when he tours abroad, and he’ll tour Australia with the Allstars Orchestra and The AllStars when he comes down under in March.


“The musicianship in Australia is absolutely phenomenal. I’ve never had a problem with any band in Australia – that’s the least of my worries,” he said.


“The only time I worry is if I’m in a city and there’s no Oyster Kilpatrick on the menu, then I get really mad.”


Of all the teen idols of the day the singing and performance of Bobby Rydell was unquestionably the most polished.


The teen idol, now a seasoned performer, continues to sell out shows throughout the world, and without any doubt Bobby Rydell is a true American music icon.


He is well regarded in the music industry with the likes of Bob Hayden from Big Beat of The Fifties saying: “If you have not seen Bobby Rydell perform you have deprived yourself of something very special. When he returns to Australia make sure you are there!”


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