BARRY LEVINE: Rock stars play switch-a-roo

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Dion and the Belmonts (Special photo)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part series on rockers playing musical chairs.

Although primarily known as an integral member of the Four Seasons, Bob Gaudio started his career as a 15-year-old with the Royal Teens, a group he formed in 1956 in New Jersey. The following year, the group released “Short Shorts,” which was re-released in 1958 on a different label, and it quickly rose to No. 3 on the charts. Gaudio left the group the following year.

Gaudio met lead singer Frankie Valli, then of the Four Lovers, when he was introduced by his friend, actor Joe Pesci, who won an Oscar in 1990 for his role in “Goodfellas.” The Four Lovers evolved into the Four Seasons, who became one of the most successful groups of all time, charting 33 Top 40 singles including five No. 1 hits – “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” in 1962, “Walk Like a Man” in 1963, “Rag Doll” in 1964 and “December 1963” in 1976.

The Four Seasons are the only group to have a No. 1 hit before, during and after The Beatles’ reign from 1964 to 1970.

Gaudio performed with the Four Seasons from 1962 until 1972 when he retired to concentrate on working as a producer and songwriter.

Besides being a highly successful singer, songwriter and record producer, Gaudio and his pal Valli formed the Four Seasons Partnership, which gave them ownership of all of the group’s materials. The partnership helped Gaudio amass a net worth of a reported $15 million.

Students at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., the Chad Mitchell Trio bolted on the folk scene in 1959 by recording and performing traditional folk songs. In 1961, the trio began to deviate from traditional songs by doing satirical material including the “John Birch Society” and “Lizzie Borden.” The group also panned GOP 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater with “Barry’s Boys.” Chad Mitchell, who formed the group, departed in 1965 and was replaced by, John Denver, an unknown from Texas.

Denver left the group in 1968 to start a highly successful solo career. He had six hits that placed first or second on the charts – “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in 1971, “Sunshine on My Shoulder” and “Annie’s Song” in 1974, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “I’m Sorry” and “Calypso” in 1975. He also starred in the 1977 movie “Oh, God!” with George Burns.

Founded during the late 1950s with Johnny Maestro as the lead vocalist, The Crests, a New York Doo-Wop group, had several Top 40 hits during the late 1950s and early 1960s including “Sixteen Candles,” which rose to No. 2 on the charts in 1959. Their other major hits included “Six Nights a Week,” “The Angels Listened In,” “Step By Step” and “Trouble in Paradise.” Maestro left the group in 1961 to begin a solo career.

He later joined The Del Satins, who merged with The Rhythm Method to become Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge. In 1969, they had a Top 5 hit with “Worst That Could Happen.” It was the group’s only Top 40 hit.

The 1984 teen film, “Sixteen Candles,” starring Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Dooley and Justin Henry, took its title from The Crests’ song, which was re-recorded by The Stray Cats for the movie’s soundtrack.

Following in the New York footsteps of the Flamingoes, Five Satins and the Dells, Dion & The Belmonts, a Doo-Wop group, formed in 1957 and signed a record deal in 1958. The group’s first release “I Wonder Why” reached No. 22 on the charts. Later in 1958, the group hit with “No One Knows,” which climbed to No. 19. The following year, Dion & The Belmonts scored with “A Teenager in Love” which reached No. 5. Before Dion left the group in October 1960 for musical, financial and personal differences, they scored with three other Top 40 hits, “Where or When,” “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “In the Still of the Night.”

Dion’s solo star quickly skyrocketed as he notched 13 Top 40 hits including “Runaround Sue” which climbed to No. 1 in 1961. Later in the year, “The Wanderer” reached No. 2. He followed with seven Top 10 hits — “Lovers Who Wander,” “Little Diane” and “Love Came to Me” in 1962, “Ruby Baby,” “Donna, the Prima Donna” and “Drip Drop” in 1963 and “Abraham, Martin and John” in 1968.

Tom & Jerry, a pair of New York schoolboys, joined forces in 1957 and the duo had their only hit later that year with “Hey Schoolgirl” which reached No. 49 on the charts. Tom & Jerry remained together through 1964 without placing another song in the Top 50. The following year, with Tom performing in England and Jerry in law school, they opted to reunite and record under their surnames, Simon & Garfunkel.

With the new name came tremendous success with 16 Top 40 hits, seven of which made the Top 10. They had a trio of No. 1 hits — “The Sounds of Silence” in 1965, “Mrs. Robinson” from the movie “The Graduate” in 1966 and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in 1970. Among their other hits were “Homeward Bound” and “I Am A Rock” in 1966, “The Boxer” in 1969 and “Cecilia” in 1970.

Barry Levine writes entertainment stories for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at dot0001@yahoo.com.