BARRY LEVINE: Singer Bobby Rydell tells all in new bio

Bobby Rydell shown in a 1960 publicity photo. (Special photo)

Months ago, rock ‘n’ roller Bobby Rydell decided to do a tell-all autobiography.

And did he ever tell all from losing his virginity as a 17-year-old in his Hollywood suite to requiring a life-saving double transplant nearly four years ago.

From his childhood on the fabled mid-20th-century streets of South Philadelphia, his battles with alcoholism and his double-transplant surgery, the multi-talented entertainer has an incredible story to tell.

On May 4, Rydell’s life story, “Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second chances,” will hit the shelves. Doctor Licks is publishing the 249-page, soft-cover book, which is priced at $16.95.

The bio was co-written with award-winning musician-author-filmmaker Allan Slutsky. Slutsky wrote “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” a book that was made into a movie in 2002.

“Teen Idol on the Rocks” goes beyond Rydell to take in six decades of American pop culture, revealing his encounters with 20th century show business icons including Frank Sinatra, Ann-Margret, The Beatles, comedians Red Skelton and Jack Benny, and Dick Clark. Clark’s whose Philly-based “American Bandstand” helped make Rydell one of the world’s biggest teen idols, bridging the time from Elvis Presley to Beatlemania.

An unknown 16-year-old local singer, Rydell’s first national exposure came from a March 20, 1959, TV appearance on Clark’s “American Bandstand.” That same year in June, he recorded his breakthrough hit, “Kissin’ Time,” the first of 19 songs of his songs that would make the Top 40. Three years later, he was the youngest headliner at New York’s legendary Copacabana nightclub.

Even the Sinatras were fans. Frank Sinatra called Rydell “his favorite pop singer.”

Frank Sinatra Jr., in a quote on Rydell’s website, places him in elite company. “Crosby, Sinatra, Como, Damone, Lawrence, Darin, and — in a different idiom — Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, and even Elvis Presley,” Sinatra Jr. said. “To be such an artist takes more sweat, strain, intense devotion, and dedication than most people can conceive of. Bobby Rydell is that type of artist.”

But it’s not all glamour and glitter. Rydell’s book is also reported to delve into the darker, dramatic events — the death of his first wife, Camille; decades of alcohol abuse; the transplant surgery that saved his life.

Rydell’s intense touring schedule was interrupted when he underwent a 20-hour, liver-and-kidney transplant on July 9, 2012, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. That has led him to bring public awareness to the importance of organ donation through the Gift of Life organization, spreading the word during his tours.

Six Months after his surgery, he returned to the stage in Las Vegas, and he continues to tour with The Golden Boys, Frankie Avalon and Fabian.

One of the most popular singers to come from Philadelphia since 1950, Rydell will celebrate his 74th birthday on Tuesday.

HALF-CENTURY WAIT OVER FOR BEATLES FANS: For the first time in 51 years, Paul McCartney sang “A Hard Day’s Night” during his concert on April 13 in Fresno, Calif. The Beatles’ song was No. 1 for two weeks in the summer of 1964.

Before performing the classic tune on the opening night of his “One on One” tour, McCartney last sang “A Hard Day’s Night” in concert with The Beatles Aug. 31, 1965, at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

This was the first time Sir Paul performed it as a solo act, according to Rolling Stone.

McCartney, 73, performed an incredible 38 songs at the sold-out Fresno concert.

McCartney did a rendition of “Love Me Do,” the Beatles’ hit, which he had never sung solo. The tune was No. 1 for one week in 1964.

Bobby Rydell’s

Top 15 hits

1959: Kissing’ Time, We Got Love

1960: Wild One, Swingin’ School, Volare, Sway

1961: Good Time Baby

1962: I’ve Got Bonnie, I’ll Never Dance Again, The Cha Cha Cha

1963: Wildwood Days

1964: Forget Him

THIS WEEK IN ROCK HISTORY: Del Shannon’s “Runaway” hit No. 1 on April 24, 1961, enabling him to finally quit his job as a carpet salesman. … On this date in 1963, Georgia’s Brenda Lee, 18, married Ronnie Shacklett, 19, six months after spotting him at a Jackie Wilson concert. In 2013 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. … With the Folk music craze in full swing, The Brothers Four enjoyed their biggest hit as “Greenfields” reached No. 2 on April 25, 1960.

Crooner Andy Williams had the top-selling song with “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” on April 27, 1963. Despite being surrounded by rock ‘n’ rollers, Williams placed 14 songs in Top 40 since 1956 and would add 13 more by 1972. … David Seville’s novelty tune “Witch Doctor” peaked at No. 1 on April 28, 1958, and became the fourth-best-selling song of the year. … With the payola scandal still in the news, “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark relinquished the rights to music publishing that he owned on April 29, 1960. The value of those rights amounted to a staggering $80 million.

Barry Levine is an entertainment writer for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at

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