Born in South Philadelphia in 1939 as Francis Thomas Avallone, Frankie Avalon broke into show business as a child prodigy trumpet player, good enough to win talent contests, get on the Jackie Gleason Show, and make records for RCA Victor’s subsidiary, ‘X’ Records. But as childhood gave way to teendom, Avalon found himself playing backup trumpet in a local band called Rocco and the Saints. When queried by local impresario Bob Marcucci if there might be some local rock & roll singers who would be good enough to record some of his songs, Frankie suggested he check out the group’s lead singer, blond-haired and blue-eyed Andy Martin. Marcucci came to the gig, but was unimpressed with Martin, feeling that blond-haired singers didn’t have the right “look” to connect with females. But once he heard Avalon belt out a couple of tunes, Marcucci knew he had found what he was looking for, and a management contract was inked immediately.
It was another six to eight months before Avalon’s first single, “Cupid,” came out on Marcucci’s Chancellor label, and it wasn’t until his third release, “Dede Dinah,” that he had his first Top Ten hit. From there, it was an unprecedented run of hits, starting with his first number one in 1959, “Venus,” placing no less than six more records in the Top 40 in that year alone. Marcucci worked the formula, easing Avalon away from rockers into more “adult,” sap-oriented fare like a true pro, and was able to produce similar results with Fabian.
By 1962, Avalon’s four-year domination of the charts was coming to an end, but his career wasn’t. He teamed up with Annette Funicello and reinvented himself as a clean-cut, pretty-boy surfer in a wildly successful batch of Beach Party movies that got him through the ’60s in far better shape than most of his colleagues. The series was big enough to bring himself and Funicello back for an update in the ’80s, Back to the Beach. Ever the musician, Avalon insisted surf legend (and original cast member) Dick Dale be in this revival. Today, Avalon divides his time between hawking pain medicine on home shopping networks and appearing on the Golden Boys of Rock’n’Roll oldies show with Bobby Rydell and Fabian, looking handsome as ever.
Cub Koda, All Music Guide (allmusic.com)