Thursday

WELCOME TO BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE!

 
IT'S AMAZING TO ME: Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz is the subject of a comprehensive new CD anthology on the 7A label that collects the best of his solo releases for the MGM, Lion, Romar and Chrysalis labels. In an interview with Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell, veteran producer Michael Lloyd discusses his involvement as producer of several of the album's key tracks, as well as his own extraordinary work in that capacity with such greats as Lou Rawls, Kim Fowley and Solomon Burke, plus his own recordings with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, the Laughing Wind and the New Dimensions. Click on the Michael Lloyd Interview link under Previous Posts at right for the full story (Click on above image to enlarge).

WELCOME TO THE INTERNET HOME
FOR BLITZ MAGAZINE
SINCE 1975 -
THE ROCK AND ROLL MAGAZINE
FOR THINKING PEOPLE

Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.


Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com.


Michael McDowell
Editor/Publisher
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

E-Mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com for a list of available back issues.


Be sure to follow Blitz on Twitter:
@BlitzMagazine
and
on Facebook at:
Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

AUDREY'S MUSICAL JOURNEY:

Follow the fascinating and unfolding tale (through her favorite music) of the life and times of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell, as told by her husband, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell. A Facebook exclusive! "Like" us on Facebook at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and watch for further installments.

IN THE BITS AND PIECES COLUMN:

 We commemorate the passing of Ilene Berns, widow of rock and roll legend Bert Berns and long time head of Bang Records. Blitz Magazine recently joined forces with key members of the Southern California community of musicians and music journalists (including legendary vocalist and composer Evie Sands and Balancing Act co-founder Willie Aron) for a behind the scenes look at Dodger Stadium. One time Blitz contributor, musicologist and Pastor Gary E. Tibbs currently heads up a team that reaches out to the homeless at First Southern Baptist Church Of Hollywood. a free standing interview on this web site, veteran vocal harmony super group the Belmonts discuss their new single, Welcome Me Back Home with Blitz Magazine's Michael McDowell. 

IN THE REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

The venerable Archeophone label has issued an ambitious, two-CD collection, Songs Of The Night, chronicling the best works of the legendary Joseph C. Smith Orchestra from 1916 - 1925. Experience Hendrix has released at last the complete 31 December 1969 sessions by Jimi Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys (featuring Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox), Machine Gun. Roger Maglio's highly prolific Gear Fab label continues its considerable forward momentum with the first time CD availability of the landmark 1968 first generation garage rock album, A Thousand Trees Deep by the Bleu Forest. The Edmonton, Alberta-based Stony Plain label celebrates its fortieth anniversary with an ambitious three CD collection that features highlights from such label veterans as Rosco Gordon, Ian Tyson, Doug Sahm, Steve Earle, Maria Mulldaur, Jay McShann, Emmylou Harris, James Burton and others. John Mayall and his aspiring group of Bluesbreakers (Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood) are showcased sublimely in the new thirteen-track Forty Below label CD, Live In 1967. The prolific, U.K.-based Real Gone Music label has released an extraordinary four CD collection, The Imperial Records Story 1962, which chronicles the legendary label's best releases for that year. Legendary songwriter Philip Springer is the subject of a Various Artists tribute CD in the latest installment of the Songwriter series on Ash Wells' Rare Rockin' Records label. 


IN THE NEW RELEASES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

In the New Releases section of The Shape Of Things To Come column, prolific solo artist and Karma Frog label president Adam Marsland provides a one man band backing for Albuquerque-based composer and vocalist Rob Martinez's latest CD, New Love Environment. Rock and roll pioneer Jack Scott has turned in an all new collection of originals and well chosen country covers, Way To Survive. The Memphis International label has released Feel Like Going Home, a tribute to the music of the late Charlie Rich, with contributions by Charlie Rich Junior and Shooter Jennings..Vocalist and composer Logan Lynn has confounded expectations with his forthcoming album (his ninth), Adieu. The ambitious Atlanta, Georgia based vocalist and composer, Gwen Hughes takes on classics by Carlene Carter and Swing Out Sister and mixes it with duly inspired and richly diverse original material in her latest Zoho release, Native Land. Michigan based folk/Gospel duet, Joe Kidd And Sheila Burke have raised the bar considerably with their debut collaboration, Everybody Has A Purpose.  

Tuesday

MICHAEL LLOYD INTERVIEW


BEAUTIFUL MUSIC: Musician, composer, arranger, producer and New Dimensions co-founder Michael Lloyd recently discussed with Blitz Magazine's Michael McDowell his work with Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz on the latter's solo recordings for the MGM label, as well as a variety of other projects, including collaborations with the Beach Boys and Barry Manilow.  Pictured above: Beach Boys front man Mike Love, Barry Manilow, Beach Boys keyboardsman Bruce Johnston and Michael Lloyd, backstage in November 2016 (Click on above image to enlarge) (Photo courtesy of Michael Lloyd).

IT'S AMAZING TO ME:
PRODUCER MICHAEL LLOYD
ON WORKING WITH MONKEES
DRUMMER MICKY DOLENZ
(AND MANY OTHERS)
By Michael McDowell

“I’m an artist, and an artist must tear his work down to the bare bones. There is no room for excess in real art. As far as I’m concerned, excess is self-indulgence. That is, the narrow, limited, individualized self. Not the greater, glorious self that we all partake of. You can’t be self indulgent at that level.”

So said Monkees bassist, keyboardsman and co-founder Peter Tork, in an interview conducted with Blitz Magazine in June 1979 and published in Blitz number 36 in May-June 1980. Tork’s observations were part of a greater response to an inquiry about his being able to incorporate his considerable technical acumen into his work without sacrificing the crucial components of universal appeal. heart and accessibility.

And while Tork’s overall recorded legacy to date has been fueled more by pure inspiration than any sort of adherence to the greater parameters of a clearly defined mission statement,  the beloved multi-instrumentalist has unwaveringly succeeded in achieving his desired results through such professed methodology for more than a half century.

To be certain, a greater emphasis on different attributes of the creative process is occasionally evidenced among other musicians. Nonetheless, it is within reason to assert that the notion of utilizing one’s own God given talents in a manner that produces the most aesthetically fulfilling and most widely acclaimed results has likewise been an integral part of the methodology that inspires the work of veteran producer and musician Michael Lloyd.

Born Michael Jeffrey Lloyd in 1948 in New York City, New York, Lloyd pretty much hit the ground running upon making his initial forays into the music business in the early 1960s. Schooled from an early age on piano and guitar, Lloyd developed a working relationship with Mike Curb (with whom he would later enjoy a remarkable run at MGM Records) and the late producer/composer Kim Vincent Fowley, who was garnering ever increasing accolades throughout the early 1960s for his work with the Hollywood Argyles, the Murmaids and the all star group, the Renegades.

Lloyd’s first endeavor of note that featured him in a more prominent role was as co-founder (along with keyboardsman James Boyd “Jimmy” Greenspoon, as well as Art Guy, Craig Nuttycombe, Dave Dowd and Danny Belsky) of the surf rock band, the New Dimensions. The band made their debut for the Sutton label in 1963 with their Deuces And Eights album, which featured such ambitious fare as Junker, Totaled, Blacktop and Bongo Shutdown.

By the mid-1960s, Lloyd and Greenspoon had joined forces with drummer John Ware (who would go on serve in that capacity for Michael Nesmith’s First National Band) and Bob Markley in the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. With Lloyd as rhythm guitarist, the group was an integral factor in the ongoing success of the Fifo label, whose endearing “Fifo Fan” caricature on the label became a prototype for Dunwich Records’ renowned, It’s Dunwich, Man logo. Several years earlier, Fifo was the recording home of rhythm and blues pioneer Joseph Coleman “Sonny Knight” Smith and also released the Triangles’ vocal harmony monster classic My Oh My.

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band made their own singles debut on Fifo with Sassafras / I Won’t Hurt You in 1966, and released their debut album for the label that same year. The band’s Fifo debut album has long been widely hailed as a hallmark of first generation garage rock. At that time, the band also included brothers Danny Harris (lead guitar) and Shaun Harris (bass). The Harris brothers had previously performed with Lloyd in the Rogues, who later became the Laughing Wind. The Laughing Wind’s 1966 Lloyd-penned and Fowley-produced Don’t Take Very Much To See Tomorrow / Good To Be Around single (Tower 266) remains a hallmark of first generation garage rock.

During 1967, Lloyd again collaborated with Kim Fowley as a composer and producer; this time for the latter’s album, Love Is Alive And Well for the Tower label. Lloyd continued in that capacity for albums by the Pasadena-based Saint John Green (in conjunction with Fowley) and October Country.

All of those triumphs notwithstanding, Lloyd at last began to hit his stride in earnest in 1969, when Mike Curb (then president of MGM Records) brought him on board as Vice-President of A&R. Under their watch, the MGM roster grew exponentially over the next several years with such acclaimed signings as Solomon Burke, Lou Rawls, the Osmonds, the Mob, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bloom, Steve Lawrence, Sammy Davis Junior, Billy Walker, John Sebastian, Pat Boone, Eric Burdon and War, Lamar Morris, Chuck Roberts and Curb’s own Mike Curb Congregation, with label veterans Hank Williams Junior, Sheb Wooley/Ben Colder, Conway Twitty and Roy Orbison continuing to more than hold their own. Curb went on to serve as Lieutenant Governor of California from 1979 to 1983, under Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown.

Meanwhile, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Lloyd remained in the spotlight through various projects with Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Righteous Brothers co-founder and MGM veteran Bill Medley (via the 1987 Dirty Dancing soundtrack, which included Medley’s (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life duet with Jennifer Warnes, as well as classics from Mickey and Sylvia, Bruce Channel, the Five Satins, the Ronettes and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs), Go-Gos lead vocalist Belinda Carlisle and Barry Manilow (on Manilow’s 1989 self-titled album). He also worked extensively as producer with American Idol contestant Kimberly Dawn Locke in the early 2000s.

Most recently, the U.K.-based 7A label undertook an ambitious schedule of CD and vinyl releases that includes an album of rarities by Bobby Hart (an expanded edition of his 1980 solo album), a spoken word disc featuring Peter Noone and Micky Dolenz, a single featuring live renditions of Daydream Believer and I Wanna Be Free by the late David Thomas Jones, and (most notably) a four-track EP with new recordings by Dolenz, Christian Nesmith and Circe Link (most disconcertingly now out of print), as well as a seven inch single by Dolenz featuring live renditions of the Monkees’ Sunny Girlfriend and Zor And Zam, and a collection of rare Dolenz solo recordings, The MGM Singles Collection.

Accompanied by a world class essay from journalist/author Mark Kleiner, the latter release encompasses Dolenz’s work with MGM and its affiliate Lion label, both as a solo artist, and with the supergroup Starship. Most happily, The MGM Singles Collection by definition includes Easy On You, which was saluted by Blitz Magazine at the Best Single Of 1971.

In the following exchange with Blitz Magazine (conducted in the closing weeks of 2016), Lloyd offered his insights on those monumental studio collaborations with Dolenz. Inevitably, the scope of the conversation expanded exponentially to encompass Lloyd’s legacy at large; in the process reaffirming not only that the Dolenz/Lloyd partnership was a fortuitous one, but that each brought to the table an extraordinary calibre of talent, instinct, ability and vision that remains among the best in all of music.

BLITZ: The current Micky Dolenz solo anthology fulfills the intended purpose two-thirds of the way, in that it includes an extensive and impressive essay from journalist Mark Kleiner, as well as a recent audio interview with Micky Dolenz himself. However, what it does not include are your own insights and observations as the producer of two of his solo singles.

LLOYD: I’ve never seen it! I don’t know what songs are on it.

BLITZ: It’s on the 7A label out of the U.K. It’s extremely well done. The tracks that involve you would include the Unattended In The Dungeon and A Lover’s Prayer single, as well as both sides of the Starship single on Lion Records.

LLOYD: I think I recorded other things with him. But I don’t know if they are on the record.

BLITZ: It does include the 1971 Easy On You single that he recorded for MGM. You were of course working for MGM at the time.

LLOYD: I was the vice-president of A&R.

BLITZ: The compilation also includes the Daybreak single that Harry Nilsson produced for him as well as the Buddy Holly Tribute single on Romar, plus later tracks like the Love Light and Alicia single that he recorded for Chrysalis. It runs the gamut of his solo career, aside from his two pre-Monkees singles for Challenge Records.

What stood out in your mind with regards to the two singles on this collection with which you were involved?

LLOYD: There is another one that we did, and it’s not on there. Since I Fell For You.

BLITZ: The Skyliners’ classic.

LLOYD: I have copies of it somewhere. Anyway, what was the B-side of Johnny B. Goode?

BLITZ: It’s Amazing To Me.

LLOYD: Yeah, that’s right! Johnny B. Goode was recorded with some friends of mine: Jimmy Greenspoon and Mike Allsup of Three Dog Night, me and the guy who was the bass player for Jimi Hendrix.

BLITZ: That would have been either Billy Cox or Noel Redding. 

LLOYD: Noel Redding, the original one. The drummer was the one that I was using on a few things from Paul Revere and the Raiders. He was a studio drummer. A really good drummer. I can’t remember his name at the moment.

BLITZ: So you are not referring to Mike “Smitty” Smith, then.

LLOYD: No. We’d have to research that a little bit!

Anyway, I recorded that with these guys in just one night. We recorded a whole bunch of things. I was just interested in putting out something that had people from different groups and me doing things. That was me singing on Johnny B. Goode. Micky and I decided to put that out as a Starship record.

BLITZ: It is curious that in opting for a Chuck Berry cover that you chose that particular one. Chuck Berry had recently re-recorded it himself for his London Sessions album. There were also numerous interim versions of it, from the Beach Boys to Buck Owens.

LLOYD: I didn’t care about anybody else! I like the song. There wasn’t any reasoning behind anything. It was just, “What do we like and what do we wanna do?”

That’s why I say, with those guys, we didn’t have any schedule or any list of things. We just said. “Let’s do this!” I also recorded You’re No Good.

BLITZ: The Betty Everett song.

LLOYD: Yeah. And then later Linda Ronstadt and a lot of other people. We recorded a lot that night. So when Micky and I did that single, we both liked it and decided to put it out as a Starship record.

BLITZ: Given the personnel on that single, was there any intention of promoting Starship as a supergroup? When the single was initially released, it just referred to Starship, with no indication as to whom was involved with it.

The flip side, It's Amazing To Me, with Micky’s lead vocal was somewhat of an anti-typical song in that it championed the basics, rather than defer to the supergroup perspective.

LLOYD: That’s all we did. Anything makes sense when you look at it in hindsight. We liked the song and we put it on the B-side. There were no preconceived ideas, where we sat around and analyzed the psychological impact of what we were doing. We liked the song! It’s really good. And since I’m singing Johnny B. Goode, we wanted something that Micky wrote on the other side.

That’s about the extent of the thought process. When you look back on these things, it might appear as if there is some deep seated reason for all of this. But the fact is that we did it because we either liked something or we wanted to showcase something. That’s how things get done. You don’t sit around like you are in a corporate boardroom, trying to decide the ingredients of something, like fifty percent of protest, twenty-five percent love song. It’s just whether or not it’s a good song. Is it a good performance or isn’t it? That’s the only thing that really matters!

BLITZ: In a sense, you have underscored the original point. That single came out at a time when over-thinking tended to take precedence in mainstream rock. Getting back to the basics was remarkable in and of itself.

LLOYD: Well, I don’t know. All of the hits that I had at that time, whether it be Lou Rawls, the Osmonds, Sammy Davis, the New Seekers or any of those people, we were just trying to make good records! So we weren’t over-thinking anything.

Mike Curb and I have been together for over fifty years. I don’t think we’ve ever tried to over-think something. We’ve tried to do the best we can, obviously. And I think that we have tried to find the best song, the best mix and the best artist.

It’s a team of people that work on these things. We have been fortunate to have some wonderful teams! And there were wonderful promoters. Record people like the Scotti Brothers, Tony, Ben and Fred.

I’m recording the Beach Boys with Mike Love and Barry Manilow. The only thing I think about to this day is what’s gonna be good? What is going to touch people in their heart? What is going to make people feel good? That’s the only thing that matters to me! That’s the only thing that’s ever mattered.

BLITZ: It is interesting that you refer to Barry Manilow in that capacity. In his early days with Bell Records, his work gave the impression that he was an artist who really tried hard to think out the whole process. It was as if he was thinking, “Is this an appropriate track for me?”, or “Is there some sort of historical significance or background to this piece?”

LLOYD: I don’t think he ever thought that. Whether it was a song that he wrote, or a song that Clive Davis found, I think they were only interested in hit songs that people could identify with. If you go to a Barry Manilow concert, he is going to play hit after hit after hit. Everybody sings along and knows the words.

BLITZ: My late wife, Audrey and I saw him live more than a dozen times. He had been known to defer from obvious tracks for at least a portion of his set.

LLOYD: But he was thinking, “What can I create that’s great?” You know, every artist obviously thinks, “What can I do that’s great for me?” That’s just a natural part of it. They have to feel that they are creating something for them. Otherwise, they are creating something for some other artist, whether it’s Barry Manilow, whether it’s Mike Love and the Beach Boys, or whether it’s anybody that I’ve ever recorded. They’re thinking, “What’s a great song? Is this something I can really lay out there? Is it me? Do I sound good on it?”

I don’t think Barry ever said, “This is the song I need to sing because this is the moment in time. Barry is way beyond that. He doesn’t look at the prevailing winds. He’s a writer. He’s a musician. He’s a producer. He’s an arranger. He’s an artist. There aren’t a lot out there like that. That’s what he concentrates on. That’s what Clive Davis concentrates on. That’s what I concentrate on! That’s what Belinda Carlisle wanted, and that’s what Micky Dolenz wanted.

I’ve always believed in finding great songs and getting great performances, and hopefully making great records. There have been many times when I have failed. Many, many times. I am trying to learn something new every day. I’m trying to understand what is going to make a better record and what is going to touch people. That’s the basis of it all to me, Mike!

BLITZ: Could that possibly been at least in part a lesson learned during your tenure with Jimmy Greenspoon in the New Dimensions? The albums that you recorded with them were released on Sutton Records. From the perspective of the average end user, a record collector or musicologist, Sutton was one of a small group of labels like Diplomat, Spin-O-Rama and Somerset that were known as “low fi” labels, yet not necessarily in a disparaging way.

LLOYD: Of course! I was thirteen. We didn’t have any control over any of that. The only thing that we were doing is that we were going in and recording all of the time. We recorded with Hite and Dorinda Morgan at their place, the same people that discovered the Beach Boys.

As a matter of fact, the New Dimensions are recording today! I don’t mean today generally. I mean today; this day specifically. Unfortunately, not with my incredible friend, Jimmy. We were friends since the fourth grade. Sadly, he passed away a couple of years ago, as you know. But I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, and he did play on some of them.

Anyway, as you know, the Sutton label was a horrible, nothing label. But those guys didn’t have us under contract or anything. We own all of that stuff.

It was a great education for me, being literally able to record all of the time. I learned an incredible amount doing that at thirteen and fourteen. And then it ended.

I have all of the tapes. But they ended up putting out those records on Sutton. We didn’t make a deal. We didn’t sign anything. We didn’t even know it was happening until it happened!

But you know, it sold for a dollar, or a dollar twenty-nine. Something like that. So we made a little money selling it to them. And I got an incredible education!

I tried to write songs at twelve and thirteen that were related to what I was interested in at the time: surfing! It was the Ventures and it was surf music. So that’s what we did. And interestingly enough, that’s what we’re doing today.

I don’t think anything has changed for me. I’ve gotten older! I still want to have the best song and the best performance possible. I want to be able to communicate something to the listener, so that they feel good about it or like it. Touch people with music! It’s pretty much that same way with everybody that I’ve ever recorded. I’m grateful that I still have that opportunity with some of these wonderful artists that I’m working with, plus some that you’ve never even heard of yet!

I’m still on some really good teams. I’ve been making records for fifty-six years.

BLITZ: You started out during the best possible time. In 1960, the creative atmosphere was still at an all time high.

LLOYD: In 1960, it sure was. And it got even better. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to grow and learn along the way.

I’m very technical. I’ve stayed on top of these things, in terms of the technique of recording as it progressed, from mono to stereo, from three track to four track to eight track to sixteen track and on and on. I’m grateful that I’m technical, because I’ve mixed since the beginning. It’s important for me to know that. I’m grateful that I know the little that I know, and hopefully I’ll know more tomorrow! That’s the thing, Mike. Onward and upward!

BLITZ: Do you think that perspective may have been beneficial in the studio with Micky Dolenz? At the time, he had just come off of his first run as drummer with the Monkees, whom of course Blitz Magazine has championed relentlessly from the onset. But as you know all too well, the band took quite a beating from the mainstream media in the early 1970s, most undeservedly.

LLOYD: Yeah they did, unfairly. But I have a mono recording of them playing live back then at the Hollywood Bowl, right off of the console.

As a matter of fact, I have that for everybody that played then at the Hollywood Bowl: the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Henry Mancini. I have everybody!

BLITZ: Given that, do you think that your perspective helped provide a pep talk of sorts for Micky as he was beginning this new phase of his career?

LLOYD: All of those things helped. But I think that Micky has one of the great rock and roll voices. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Micky Dolenz and Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five. They were just great. They didn’t do anything special. They just sounded great.

BLITZ: You could make a case for adding John Fred to that list, but yes.

LLOYD: The point isn’t that I was thinking of how to protect Micky. I just thought that he was a great artist. We became really good friends.

Sometimes it’s hard to change people’s minds. I think that if I had been able to make a great record, that would have been something. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to make something great for him.

BLITZ: That speaks well for the validity of the team approach. Case in point: no one ever expected, for example, an artist like Doris Day to enter the studio, play bass, write all of her songs, produce and engineer the overdubs. Instead, the best representatives of every category came together for the best possible results. Doris Day on vocals, Columbia for a label, Mitch Miller handling the arrangements, and such. The team approach puts the best of the best together for maximum results. And that’s what you did.

LLOYD: I did. But I guess I just didn’t do a good job. As I said, I am very grateful for whatever success I’ve had. I regret that haven’t been able to do it for more.

But anyway, I am proud of the time that I was around Micky. It was a lot of fun. We remain good friends to this very day. You know, you do the best you can. I just wasn’t up to it. But he made some wonderful records with lots of people. He is one of those rare, rare talents: acting, singing, directing. He is a very, very talented guy.

BLITZ: But as Michael Nesmith once observed, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. And hindsight is twenty-twenty. Those two singles, Unattended In The Dungeon and the Starship single are both excellent records.

You had already set the stage. You were already in place at MGM Records at a very young age. MGM had also undergone radical changes in its artist roster during the few years that you were there. The artist roster at the label between 1967 and 1970 is almost entirely different.

LLOYD: Of course. Mike Curb and I were very fortunate to be able to do what we wanted to do. Nobody wanted the Osmonds. Nobody wanted Lou Rawls. Nobody wanted Sammy Davis. Nobody wanted the New Seekers. But we did!

It wasn’t that we were super geniuses. Getting back to what I said at the beginning, it was something that we felt an attachment to and that we liked. We thought that we might be able to make an impact in a positive way. Obviously with Mike as President and me as Vice-President, we had a great run at MGM, compared to what they did prior to that.

We also had Eric Burdon and War. We had Bobby Bloom. We had the Shocking Blue. I produced all of the other records. But obviously Eric Burdon and the Shocking Blue, we didn’t do those. We had a nice team of people. It was a fortunate moment.

Still, I think of the things that I should have done better, and Micky is one of them. So just as I had number one hits with the Osmonds, I wish I had number one hits with Micky, too.

You know, I’ve said it a hundred times. But as I look back on these things, I am very grateful. And that’s going all the way back to the New Dimensions. You just try to get better, Mike.

BLITZ: The Osmonds had cut some barbershop harmony recordings for MGM several years earlier. A collection of that period of their work was released as an album on MGM’s subsidiary Metro label.

LLOYD: They did do a barbershop album. But that was done through their connections with Andy Williams. Mike had tried to do something with them before at MGM, but we failed. They had been dropped. They weren’t on MGM.

BLITZ: On the Osmonds’ Phase III album, there is a cut called My Drum. Blitz Magazine had a conversation with Donny Osmond in the late 1990s. When we mentioned that track to him, we suggested that it sounded like the Osmonds were impacted therein by Led Zeppelin. Donny took that as a high compliment and said that the track itself was his brother Jay’s idea.

LLOYD: It was a team effort. You couldn’t look at it and say, “Jay, you should do Led Zeppelin”. You should do what you feel! You should do what you’re influenced by.

He felt like that. Jay was a really good drummer back in the day. He played on Down By The Lazy River, Crazy Horses and all of those.

The Osmonds were great with Wayne on guitar, Jay on drums, and Alan a little bit. But mostly Wayne. Merrill played bass. Donny played a little keyboard. And I played guitar! We just made records. They wrote some cool songs. And they sang their butts off. They played with passion. They were very, very into their stuff. They could hand clap and sound like one person. There was no end to their abilities.

BLITZ: Perhaps not unlike the Everly Brothers, with that unique blend that only comes from a sibling perspective.

LLOYD: Absolutely! And that was the Beach Boys, too.

One day, you need to talk to Mike (Love) about it. My band, the New Dimensions opened for them a couple of times. I was thirteen when I met them.

Then I met Bruce (Johnston) before he joined the Beach Boys. We became friends and worked together on a couple of things.

After he became a Beach Boy, he reintroduced me to Mike. Then Mike and Bruce took me to sessions, sat me in a corner, and when they needed someone to play something, I played it. I played on various Beach Boy records up until Good Vibrations.

It was all kinds of little things. And again, it was an education! I was very quiet. I was just observing, back in the corner. It was an, “only speak when you’re spoken to” kind of thing!

But then Mike and Bruce came to a little studio that I had, and they did demos. So we’ve been friends for a very long time.

BLITZ: Prior to that, Bruce had been recording as Bruce and Terry for Columbia with Terry Melcher. In the mid-1980s, the Beach Boys were scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. They were going to perform the Rover Boys / Four Freshmen song, Graduation Day, which the Beach Boys covered on their 1964 Beach Boys Concert album.

At that time, Bruce contacted us at Blitz Magazine. Since that album was released before he joined the band, he didn’t have a copy of it handy. He wanted to listen to Graduation Day and rehearse with the track. We have copies of the Beach Boys’ entire recorded legacy at Blitz. So he asked us if we could make a cassette dub of that song for him, which we gladly obliged.

But interestingly enough, during our conversation, when I mentioned his work with Bruce and Terry, he made a comment, hopefully in jest, about destroying copies of those records. Those Bruce and Terry records are bonafide classics, and we took serious exception to his observation, jest or not. That said, do you think that his perceived shortcomings may have inspired him to greater heights, just as you suggested that your own perceived similar circumstances inspired you to try harder?

LLOYD: Oh, I don’t know. I tend to be more critical of myself, perhaps. I wouldn’t be tossing records in the river, per se! But I would be disappointed that I wasn’t able to do better, that’s for sure. Everyone has a different way of handling these things, I guess.

Bruce’s I Write The Songs is certainly one of the top five most performed songs of all time. That’s pretty remarkable. And Disney Girls has always been one of my favorite songs. He has written others, which I have copies of, and they’re great.

I’ve known him since I was about fourteen. He’s one of my favorite people. He’s the one who sat me down at the piano and taught me how to play God Only Knows.

BLITZ: You also did much at MGM to champion the back to basics ethic with Lou Rawls. When he was still recording for Capitol, his records tended to get more and more into the blues, such as one of his final releases for the label, Your Good Thing (Is About To End).  Wonderful records, but with A Natural Man at MGM, you brought him back into the straight ahead, 4/4 “I am somebody” type of record.

LLOYD: But none of that was the thought. The only thought was, “Here’s a great song for Lou Rawls”. That’s it. He did that little narration bit at the beginning, which was very long. I had to cut it down, because it was a long record anyway! He was famous for those kinds of soliloquies.

A Natural Man came out of the blue. It was just one of those things. We cut it twice. The first time wasn’t as good. But the second time was better. And there you go!

I hadn’t had any hits with my name on them as a producer. I was twenty, or maybe twenty one. This was a great opportunity, and Lou believed it would work out.

There was a publisher involved in bringing Lou Rawls to me named Julie Chester, who believed in me and wanted to get Lou signed to somebody. Julie represented a really great song that we ended up recording with Lou as the B-side of A Natural Man, which was You Can’t Hold On.

If Julie didn’t believe in me, who knows what would have happened? That was a giant fork in the road. We promoted that record for nine months before it was a hit! You talked about a team. Now there was the team in action!

BLITZ: Did you perhaps maintain the same perspective at MGM with Solomon Burke? In other words, great songs like The Electronic Magnetism and Love’s Street And Fool’s Road, so let him do what he does best?

LLOYD: Yeah. Solomon was a dear friend, too. But again, it’s not a case of “let’s get back to minimalism”. I never, ever think of any of that. I never have. I don’t even know what that would mean! I try to find a good song and a good artist and say, “This could be a hit!”

I grew up around Clive Davis, when I was fifteen and sixteen. Mike (Curb) is the same way. No one was thinking, “Is this going to fit into the synthesizer world?”, “Is this going to be minimalistic?”, or is it going to be this or that. It’s whether it’s going to be good!

BLITZ: That perspective keeps coming up because, bear in mind that in the early 1970s, mainstream rock was caught in the onslaught of the so-called AM/FM wars. It was the post-Woodstock generation. Mainstream music in general was becoming more self-indulgent and more negative.

Those of us on the listening end, the end user, if you will, were beginning to say, “Wait a minute! Something is off here!!” But then you and others came along, however inadvertently championing a back to basics ethic. You filled a void, whether you thought about it or not.

LLOYD: Sure, sure. I never thought about it as back to basics. I thought whether it was something I was going to like, and that someone might say, “Great! This reminds me of my dog, my boyfriend, my girlfriend, the dance I was at, school or whatever”. I don’t know.

The only thing I cared about was that it touches them. Back to basics or whatever you call it, be it forward thinking or being an idiot! But what I was thinking was, “Am I accomplishing my goal of touching people emotionally?”

BLITZ: In her new autobiography, They’re Playing Our Song, songwriter Carole Bayer Sager touched on a similar perspective. Therein, she cited Broadway musicals as a catalyst in her writing process. She said, “When the cast would take their curtain calls, I got goose flesh all over. The excitement of a live performance thrilled me. The big emotions conveyed in song, the way each one told a story that all added up to a much bigger story”.

LLOYD: That’s her perspective. It’s what worked for her. And Brian Wilson didn’t surf. But he wrote about surfing.

In a creative world, there is no generalization possible. So if that’s what Carole says, and that’s what she feels, and that’s what works for her, then that’s great.

But would that same thing work for somebody else? Would it be completely different for somebody else? Then that’s great, too.

When I speak at conventions, I can’t teach that. There is no one straight path. “This is what you do, guys”? No, no, no!

I have seen countless ways that people think or imagine. So there is no straight path. You have to discover what works for you. Then, for lack of better words, you have to do it!

BLITZ: And presumably if you don’t, then you can’t convey it convincingly in a song, then. Even if it does not convey personal experience, it is important to at least get behind what you are trying to convey in a given composition. In other words, writing in the third person should not be an issue for you.

LLOYD: Obviously there are people that do. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to work every time. I could say that I want to be a brain surgeon, and then write a song about brain surgery. But maybe I could write it once, and that’s all I’ve got.

I don’t know. There is no pattern in creative thinking. That’s why it’s creative thinking! I have no pattern of any kind. I just try to make good things.

BLITZ: Would it be fair to say then that you had inspirations when you first got into music, but you did not necessarily incorporate those inspirations into your own vision?

LLOYD: Well, everybody gets inspired! I don’t think I do that consciously. Obviously I am inspired by what I have heard over the last seventy years. That could be Frank Sinatra. That could be the Rolling Stones. That could be Percy Faith.

My influences go back a long way. I mean, I’m influenced by the palm tree that I hurried by!

If I’m making a record for Mike Love, I’m naturally thinking of his legacy. I’m thinking of his history and what he’s about. It was the same with Lou Rawls. That’s why I said that we were able to put that little soliloquy at the beginning.

That doesn’t mean that we’re trying to imitate something. Your influences are just whatever they are. You could say, “I saw the palm tree and it reminded me of the spiritual side of things; maybe we should incorporate that”. Who knows? Influences come from everywhere!

BLITZ: It sounds like you’ve just described the legacy of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band! The band’s first album on Fifo Records is a classic. But it was tough to find, even back in the day.

LLOYD: Well, that’s a different vibe! This is very well known, and I’m not talking out of school. We got introduced to Bob Markley through Kim Fowley. We needed equipment. Bob wanted to meet girls! It was good for me to be in the studio and recording.

But it was like making a deal with the devil. It wasn’t good.

BLITZ: Thankfully the legacy doesn’t cloud what was in the grooves. The records hold up very well, particularly that first album on Fifo.

LLOYD: That album was recorded in the studio where Mike and Bruce used to come to do demos.

BLITZ: There was a dramatic change in style and direction between that album and the second one.

LLOYD: That’s when they brought in Hal (Blaine) to play drums. With Markley, it was very, very hard to make sense of things. He would throw out a couple of lines of the lyrics, and there are endless stories about that online.

It’s very unfortunate. Bob had a very unfortunate life. I’m very, very sorry about that. But for us, it was making a deal with the devil. Whoever got along with Bob, your picture would be on the album. If you didn’t get along with Bob, then your picture wasn’t on the album. It was like a punishment! There was all kinds of weird stuff.

By the time 1968 came along, it was very hard for me to put up with any of that. It was a very, very bad psychosis. Very, very tragic. A tough time.

Looking back on it, I wish I had been smarter. But I was only seventeen and eighteen. There wasn’t any way for me to know what was going on.

BLITZ: It sounds as though you were by and large able to sidestep a lot of the largesse and excess that was indigenous to that era. In other words, you were a survivor when many were not.

LLOYD: I am very grateful that God seemed to have His hand on me and kept me safe. There were a lot of my friends that perished. A lot of my friends had horrible moments that they were able to get past years later. But there were some really bad things going on.

I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t do drugs. Mike didn’t, either. And for all of his eccentricities, Kim Fowley was very straight. As I said, God keeping His hands on me kept me away from things that perhaps would have been influencing me. I wasn’t really interested in doing any of that, anyway. For right or wrong, I was pretty focused on what I wanted to do.

So I tried to do that! I kept at it, and I had a little success. I was lucky that the success didn’t lead to things that could have been very negative.

BLITZ: Perhaps you and Kim Fowley had an advantage in that respect because you were both well grounded in the process of making records. He had extensive background through his work with the Hollywood Argyles, the Murmaids and others. It seemed as though that was his priority, as well.

LLOYD: Yes, it was. He was an enormously talented man. All of those eccentricities were all fabricated. It had nothing to do with how he was.

BLITZ: Kim would contact Blitz occasionally whenever he had a new project in the works. In the early 2000s, the Murmaids had reunited and recorded a new album. Blitz Magazine reviewed it, and that came to his attention. He then contacted us to use that as a stepping stone to bring some of his own new projects to our attention.

We of course had heard other accounts about those so-called eccentricities. But such things never, ever factored into our dealings with him. He thought outside of the box, and we always appreciated that.

LLOYD: He really did, and he was a swell guy. He came over to my house for Christmas and Thanksgiving when I was fourteen and fifteen, and my mother and grandmother were there. He was a great guy. I miss him.

BLITZ: We spoke to him briefly a couple of times during his last final months, when he was ill. It sounded as though he was trying to make peace with God and make whatever amends that he felt were necessary.

LLOYD: All I can tell you was that he was a good guy. That I know.

But I’m still carrying on to the present day. You are very kind, and I appreciate your taking this time to show an interest in all of this.

BLITZ: A key component of our journalistic mission statement is that it is incumbent upon us to make the respective artist look good and be presented in the best possible light. Our firm resolve is that music is not “memories” or some sort of byproduct of such periphery as where and when it happened to be recorded. It is timeless art, and is to be respected and treated as such.

LLOYD: I greatly appreciate that. I look back on these things fondly and I wish that I could have done a little better. But I did what I could!

You’ve heard it from me, but some of this could be a little boring. This isn’t what people want to hear. They want to hear “That’s tough” or “This guy screwed me” or “This guy did this and that” and blah, blah, blah.

BLITZ: Well, that’s not Blitz Magazine, either. By the grace of God, we are literally the last still active magazine from the independent music press publishing boom of the mid-1970s. We didn’t get this far by being negative.

LLOYD: I think that’s very wise, which I appreciate. You’ve got to be positive in talking about some of these things.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not pessimistic. I respect the past tremendously. But I live in the today, and I look forward to tomorrow. Obviously, I have a long past. I respect it, and I’m trying to learn from it and get better.

BLITZ: God’s grace and mercy, if you will.

LLOYD: Absolutely! Hopefully that will continue. In fact, the New Dimensions will be here soon. It’ll be fun!

BOBBY RYDELL INTERVIEW



EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES: In an extraordinary career that has spanned more than six decades, vocalist, drummer, actor, impressionist, author and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Robert Louis "Bobby Rydell" Ridarelli (pictured above on the cover of his 1961 Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones album for the legendary Cameo label) has overseen a career that was long blessed with remarkable accolades before personal tragedy nearly derailed his momentum on a permanent basis. Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell spoke at length with Bobby Rydell in July 2016 about these and other highlights of his remarkable legacy.

BORN WITH A SMILE:
BOBBY RYDELL DISCUSSES
JAZZ, ROCK AND ROLL, THE
GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK
AND HIS MIRACULOUS
TRIUMPH OVER TRAGEDY
By Michael McDowell

 You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone.

In many respects, that landmark track from the Beach Boys’ 1972 So Tough - Carl And The Passions album defines the vaunted Hawthorne, California band’s storied career overall. For while the Beach Boys have endured, persevered and excelled as a band for more than a half century, their longevity has come with a price, both artistically and personally. With respect to the latter attribute, their circumstances have been chronicled at length elsewhere.

But in terms of aesthetic merit, much of their most revered output was the direct result of the creative autonomy exercised by bassist, co-founder and principal visionary, Brian Douglas Wilson. And while Wilson himself continues to operate at a level of genius far above the norm, he will nonetheless be among the first to acknowledge the inspirations that drove him to such creative heights.

In the music industry at large, two distinctive (and seemingly incongruous) approaches have defined the recording process. One is the creative autonomy process espoused by Wilson. The other is a “team approach”, in which the cream of each component of the process (composer, producer, arranger, session musicians, vocalists, etc.) join forces for the best possible results.

On a long term basis, there are some artists for whom anything but creative autonomy would be anathema to their mission statement, including the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and the aforementioned Beach Boys. Conversely, a number of superb artists have excelled within their respective niche in the team approach, from Doris Day to Elvis Presley to Dean Martin. Occasionally, there has been the rare artist who has exceeded all expectations by flourishing in both settings, such as the Monkees have done for the past half century.

But to be certain, the key to succeeding and enduring within one’s respective niche as a component of the team approach is to rise far above the herd. To that effect, bassist Carol Kaye of the fabled Wrecking Crew has amassed a most impressive track record on her respective instrument for her role in that capacity in countless landmark sessions. In turn, pioneering entertainment giant Sammy Davis Junior found himself in constant demand in a variety of settings for his rare ability to approach a hugely diverse array of musical (and other) settings with absolute authority, and without compromising the essential components of heart and passion.

It is perhaps that elusive insight that has enabled the subject at hand to persevere at optimum level for more than six decades. Born Robert Louis Ridarelli in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 26 April 1942, the artist long known as Bobby Rydell was blessed with a musically-inclined father who was intent on imparting his wisdom and enthusiasm for the subject onto his son from the onset. Before the end of the 1940s, Rydell and his father had attended a number of key performances by some of the absolute masters of the jazz idiom. Particularly impacting on the younger Rydell was the virtuoso drummer (and veteran of ensembles led by Red McKenzie, Thelma Terry and Benny Goodman), Eugene Bertram “Gene” Krupa, which in turn inspired Rydell to pursue a career as a drummer.

Rydell’s first opportunity of consequence in that respect came with his successful audition in 1952 to become a regular member of the cast of Paul Samuel Whiteman’s TV Teen Club. An immensely respected veteran who had been an active musician since 1907, Whiteman afforded Rydell both a showcase and a reasonable amount of creative autonomy within the defined parameters of the program. In turn, Rydell responded with the assurance of a seasoned veteran in a variety of disciplines.

When Whiteman’s program was canceled months later, Rydell then directed his attention towards the ensemble setting. Having by that time nurtured his skills as a percussionist to a very respectable level, Rydell served in that capacity with a variety of bands throughout the mid-1950s (including the Skylarks and the Emanons); primarily playing dances and various other social functions throughout the greater Philadelphia area.

But by 1958, Rydell’s aspirations began to veer somewhat off course from his professed long term mission statement; albeit ultimately for the better in every respect. After a meeting involving Rydell’s father, Adrio “Al” Ridarelli and his manager Francesco “Frankie Day” Cocchi (himself a veteran of the great Billy Duke and the Dukes of I Know I Was Wrong fame), Rydell was signed to the up and coming Veko label. His premier Veko single, Dream Age / Fatty, Fatty was released in January 1959.

While both sides of that 45 irrefutably demonstrated Rydell’s considerable potential as a vocalist (with the B-side espousing a good natured novelty theme of sorts, not unlike that found in the Kingston Trio’s Coplas or Jim Lowe’s wonderfully screwy The Little Man In Chinatown), the Veko label ultimately proved to not be up to the challenge of providing the prerequisite support to assure the single’s success. Ironically, Dream Age provided labelmates Terri Cerrell and the Backbeats with Veko’s swan song via their rendition in September 1961. Meanwhile, Rydell’s Veko single was subsequently reissued by the Venise label in February 1962.

Undaunted, Rydell and his father, along with manager Day persevered with considerable diligence. Not surprisingly, their persistence was rewarded beyond their wildest expectations just weeks later, and literally right in their own backyard.

Since its inception in December 1956, the Philadelphia-based Cameo Records (and its affiliate Parkway label, which began operations in 1958) had established itself as one of the premier labels in all of music. Founded by former Teen Records head and renowned composer Bernard “Bernie Lowe” Lowenthal with one time comedy writer Kalman “Kal Mann” Cohen (with work for Red Buttons and Danny Thomas to his credit), Cameo (in tandem with the extraordinarily gifted arranger, producer and Applejacks co-founder, David Appell) by the end of 1957 had established a world class artist roster that included Don Gardner, Arlene DeMarco, Billy Scott, the Tommy Ferguson Trio, Ray Vernon, Timmie Rodgers, Billie and Lillie’s Lillie Bryant, the Rays (who were acquired from Robert Stanley “Bob” Crewe and Frank C. Slay’s XYZ label), Dave Appell’s Applejacks and the aptly named Cameos.

But most notable in the early success of Cameo was the signing of one of rock and roll’s absolute masters and visionaries, guitar virtuoso Charles Anthony “Charlie Gracie” Graci. Before the end of 1957, Gracie had firmly put Cameo Records on the map with two of rock and roll’s definitive classics, Butterfly (which the legendary Andy Williams had also recorded most admirably for Archie Bleyer’s Cadence label) and the utterly stupendous, two-sided rockabilly monster classic, Fabulous and Just Lookin’. Gracie’s profile was enhanced even further when actor and Dot Records recording artist, Arthur Andrew “Tab Hunter” Kelm respectfully and successfully covered Butterfly’s flip side, Ninety-Nine Ways.

Throughout 1958, Cameo’s presence increased exponentially, via the signings of such greats as the Storey Sisters (whose larger than life Bad Motorcycle single remains one of rock and roll’s absolute masterpieces), the Playboys (whose gorgeous, late 1957 Over The Weekend single was initially issued on Martinique Records and remains one of rock and roll’s finest examples of balladry) and the legendary Mike Pedicin Quintet. A one time labelmate of Gracie at 20th Century Records, Pedicin brought with him from 20th Century a frantic and astounding cover of Faye Adams’ Shake A Hand that easily ranks among rock and roll’s finest outings of all time.

However, despite those positive developments, Cameo suddenly found itself in a quandary with the departure of its signature artist, Gracie. The details of that saga can be found in Gracie’s essential 2014 autobiography, Rock & Roll’s Hidden Giant for Alfred Music Publishing.

All of which served to make Rydell’s initial meeting with Cameo in those early weeks of 1959 most fortuitous. An agreement was reached, contracts were signed, and Rydell made his debut for Cameo with the ambitious Please Don’t Be Mad / Makin’ Time single in February 1959.

Most tragically, the world of music was concurrently reeling from the horrific and untimely passing of three of its most impacting and enduring giants, Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holly, Richard “Ritchie Valens” Valenzuela and Jiles Perry “Big Bopper” Richardson in an Iowa plane crash on the third of that month. And while those sad developments did not necessarily divert attention from Rydell’s Cameo debut, the team of Rydell, Mann, Lowe and Appell nonetheless returned to the studio shortly thereafter to cut an equally promising follow up single, All I Want Is You / For You, For You, which was released in May 1959. Therein, Rydell was irrefutably showcased as a vocalist with considerable acumen.

But it was with his third outing for Cameo that Rydell had at last earned the breakthrough that had been long in coming. Composed by Mann and Lowe and backed most capably by saxophonist Georgie Young and his band, the Rockin’ Bocs, Kissin’ Time was a flat out exuberant rocker of the highest order. Inspired in no small part by Chuck Berry’s Chess label Sweet Little Sixteen single, Kissin’ Time subsequently earned a cover version by Kiss and was the lead track in the first volume of suburban Detroit radio giant WKNR Keener 13’s four highly acclaimed  Keenergold compilation albums.

It is with the release of Kissin’ Time that the extraordinary capabilities of both label and artist came into play. As Rydell noted in the ensuing interview, Cameo’s recording facilities at the time (which were housed in a high rise commercial building in Philadelphia) were not exactly state of the art, even by 1959 standards. While labels such as Decca, Capitol, Omega, RCA Victor and Laurie were by that time routinely releasing superbly recorded, mixed and produced stereo albums, Cameo instead relied primarily on the considerable capabilities of its principals to replicate such feats on a sonic and aesthetic level.

To the considerable credit of all concerned, each rose to the occasion most admirably. With Mann, Lowe and Appell attending to the technical aspects of the session, it was incumbent upon Rydell to live up to the challenge by delivering in world class manner. And that is exactly what he did not only on Kissin’ Time, but on such subsequent singles as We Got Love, Sway, Lovin’ Doll, Volare and his signature track, the utterly stupendous rocker, Wild One.

Rydell’s momentum continued unabated throughout his first two albums for the label, We Got Love and Bobby Sings, Bobby Swings. The latter album included the aforementioned Please Don’t Be Mad single, as well as a spirited rendition of Hank Williams’ prototypical rocker, Hey Good Lookin’.

But it was throughout that period that Cameo was forced to take a good, hard look at itself in that respect. While Mann, Lowe and Appell were to indeed be commended for the remarkable results they achieved with such modest equipment, it was obvious to all concerned that a technical upgrade was inevitable in the short term in order for the label to maintain its front runner status.

Interestingly enough, Cameo at that juncture was no stranger to such advances. While Rydell’s first two albums for the label were most disconcertingly issued only in monaural, Cameo concurrently experimented with stereo releases. They included An Adventure In Hi-Fi Music, an engaging collection of standards by NBC’s Today Show host Dave Garroway, which was released in stereo in 1958. And while interim releases by the Dixieland-inspired Infirmary Five and the charismatic actress/television compere Denise Darcel (which was aptly titled Banned In Boston) were likewise monaural only releases that year, Cameo rebounded technically in 1959 with a mood music offering by its own Dave Appell Quintet, as well as an instrumental album by keyboard virtuoso Bernie Leighton, both of which were released in stereo.

As Capitol Records learned the hard way in 1959, a contending label could not continue to release albums by its flagship artists only in the monaural configuration, as Capitol did in 1958-1959 with its first two albums by the Kingston Trio. In turn, Cameo wisely opted to upgrade conditions for Rydell. Subsequent tracks were cut in the far better equipped Reco-Art Studios, where Danny and the Juniors’ Dave White and his future Spokesmen collaborator John Madera would oversee the landmark sessions for the Mercury label debut album for the Pixies Three several years later.

True to form, Rydell rose to the occasion impeccably, with the resultant Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones and Rydell At The Copa albums (both issued in 1961) at last showcasing his proven and formidable talents in the best possible light. The latter two albums were reissued in the CD configuration in 2010 by the now defunct Collector’s Choice label (with the Ace/Big Beat conglomerate overseeing the U.K. release), and were the subject of a rather glowing review in Blitz Magazine at that time.

Curiously, Cameo continued to vacillate in that respect throughout the remainder of Rydell’s tenure with the label. While the interim Bobby’s Biggest Hits, Volume One album was a monaural only release (in keeping with the source material), his summit meeting duet album with Parkway labelmate Ernest “Chubby Checker” Evans (released in late 1961) was again a monaural only release. Nonetheless, both artists delivered at maximum capability therein, with such ambitious fare as Voodoo (You Remind Me Of The Guy), their exuberant cover of Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards’ 1927 signature track, Side By Side and the engaging “career exchange” tracks, Your Hits And Mine and Teach Me To Twist all underscoring the wisdom of such a joint venture.

Interestingly enough, Cameo at that juncture apparently took the necessity of such developments closer to heart than outward appearances might suggest. In the liner notes of that landmark Rydell/Checker collaboration, Rydell’s manager, Frankie Day observed that the studio itself featured, “harsh lighting and cold recording equipment”.

Not surprisingly, the label’s J.P. Byrne challenged that assertion in the sleeve notes of the early 1963 release, All The Hits Of 1962 Instrumental by keyboardsman Jack Pleis and His Orchestra. Therein, Byrne contended that the album’s tracks (including Pleis’ genial takes on familiar fare by Sammy Davis Junior, Tony Bennett, Kenny Ball, David Rose and His Orchestra, Mister Acker Bilk, Nat “King” Cole, Valjean, Ray Charles and others) were “(Enriched) and (colored with) the spectacular arrangements of Jack Pleis and (wrapped) in Cameo’s superior recording techniques to present the most exciting package to date”. Interestingly enough, the stereo mix of Pleis’ album sounds disconcertingly close to monaural throughout.

Undaunted by such behind the scenes developments, Rydell pressed ahead throughout 1962 and 1963 by continuing to maintain the integrity and high standards of the team approach. He did so with a series of releases that added considerably to both his legacy and that of Cameo Records, including I’ve Got Bonnie, I’ll Never Dance Again (which Herman’s Hermits covered on their second album, Herman’s Hermits On Tour in 1965), the sublime The Cha-Cha-Cha (with its heart wrenching flip side, The Best Man Cried), Steel Pier, Butterfly Baby, Let’s Make Love Tonight, the curious The Woodpecker Song and the masterful Wildwood Days and Forget Him.

Rydell’s momentum with albums also continued unabated throughout that period, highlighted by Wild (Wood) Days and his contributions to Cameo's All The Hits series. While each of those releases were again issued only in monaural, Rydell nonetheless soars on both; from the title track and spirited interpretations of staples by Eddie Cochran, Nat “King” Cole, the Beach Boys, the Tempos and Frankie Ford on the former to a rollicking reading of Bruce Channel’s Hey! Baby and a curiously non-regendered yet most compelling interpretation of the Shirelles’ Soldier Boy on the latter. Thankfully, Cameo again rose to the occasion at the end of 1963 by at least releasing Rydell’s Forget Him album (parts of which were recorded in the United Kingdom) in electronically rechanneled stereo. During that period, Rydell also guested (along with Cameo labelmate Dee Dee Sharp) on the acclaimed instructional/documentary album, You Be A Disc Jockey.

On top of that whirlwind of recording activity, Rydell continued to maintain a consistent presence in both television and film. In addition to frequent appearances on programs hosted by such beloved greats as Red Skelton, Danny Thomas, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Joey Bishop and George Burns, Rydell also became part of the all-star cast (which also included Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret, Maureen Stapleton, Ed Sullivan, Jesse Pearson and the great Paul Lynde) of the groundbreaking motion picture, Bye Bye Birdie in 1963. In October of the following year, Rydell made his dramatic television debut with a key role on an episode of ABC television’s military drama series, Combat.

In the meantime, Cameo most unnervingly found its momentum beginning to ebb unexpectedly. While both Cameo and Parkway continued to maintain world class rosters throughout 1963 and into 1964 (retaining label mainstays Chubby Checker, the Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, the Tymes and Maynard Ferguson, who were joined by such proven and aspiring greats as folk rocker Peter Antell, the engaging Little Cheryl, the promising Bearcats, Swans and Dardenelles, actor turned first rate country crooner Clint Eastwood, veteran rocker Mark Dinning, jazz pioneer Clark Terry and television personalities Merv Griffin - who was a veteran of Freddy Martin’s Orchestra - and Candid Camera co-host Allen Funt as a bandleader), it was becoming apparent to both label and artist that Rydell’s interests would better be served by a label that was more in sync with the artistic vision he had developed by 1964.

So after leaving them with a parting gift of his first rate rendition of A World Without Love (which eventually reached its greatest notoriety via the interpretation by Peter Asher and the late Gordon Waller), Rydell signed with the Hollywood, California-based Capitol Records, then (as now) based on Vine Street, north of Hollywood Boulevard. With such notables as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Johnny Mercer, Leadbelly, Stan Kenton, Ray Anthony, the Kingston Trio, the Five Keys, Nelson Riddle, the Four Coquettes, Ron Goodwin, the Four Preps, June Christy and the Pastels, the Beach Boys, Hub Kapp and the Wheels, the Beatles, Sonny James, Tex Ritter, the Legends, Ferlin Husky and Nat “King” Cole having been a part of their vaunted artist roster at various points in time, Capitol was an ideal fit for Rydell as he continued to expand his musical mission statement exponentially.

While his October 1964 debut Capitol single, Two Is The Loneliest Number / I Just Can’t Say Goodbye understandably was lost among the abundance of great new releases from the Exports, the Detergents, Lee Rogers, Marianne Faithful, the Dave Clark Five, Nella Dodds, Travis Wammack and former Parkway labelmates, the Tymes that month, Rydell’s subsequent Somebody Loves You album for Capitol was among the best received LPs in his legacy to date. Produced by David Axelrod (who later went on to work with the Electric Prunes in that capacity) and with orchestra conducted by Jimmy Wisner (who had recorded the formidable instrumental Asia Minor for Felsted Records under the name Kokomo in 1961, based upon Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto In A Minor), Somebody Loves You includes a unique ballad remake of Paul Anka’s 1957 ABC Paramount single, Diana (which curiously took into consideration the inspiration of the Moonglows’ The Ten Commandments Of Love and Roy Hamilton’s Ebb Tide), along with memorable takes on Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads’ It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie and Richard Heyman and His Orchestra’s Dansero. Oddly enough, neither side of Rydell’s debut Capitol single were included in that album.

But by 1965, first generation garage rock, rhythm and blues and country were each contributing significantly to what was ultimately the most richly diverse musical atmosphere in history. In turn, first rate albums and singles were being produced at such high volume, that many of them continue to be discovered and lauded more than a half century after their release.

In the process, although his output for Capitol continued unabated throughout 1965 and 1966 with such memorable singles as The Joker, The Word For Today, Not You and the Milton Berle-penned You Gotta Enjoy Joy, Rydell’s momentum was sidelined for a season via his induction into military service. Upon his discharge, Rydell returned to form by signing with Warner Brothers’ affiliate Reprise label.

In addition to such label front runners as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Reprise in 1967 boasted one of the most diverse and formidable rosters in all of music, including Trini Lopez, the Kinks, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Spike Drivers, the Mojo Men, Dino Desi & Billy, Miriam Makeba, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, the Mitchell Trio, Donna Loren, Buddy Greco, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, Don Ho, Jimmy Bowen, the Electric Prunes, Noel Harrison, Arlo Guthrie, Sammy Davis Junior, the MC2, the First Edition, the Rubber Band, Charles Aznavour, Bing Crosby, the Blossoms and Brook Benton. Rydell celebrated his new label affiliation by returning to the studio in December 1967 and  providing Reprise with their first release of 1968, the ambitious folk rocker, The Lovin’ Things in January of that year.

Originally recorded by its co-author, Artie Schroeck in 1967 and covered later in 1968 by both December’s Children and Marmalade, The Lovin’ Things of course later became one of many covers in the Grass Roots’ vast singles repertoire for Dunhill Records. Meanwhile, Rydell followed up The Lovin’ Things with two more singles for Reprise before year’s end, with The River Is Wide (a decidedly uptempo remake of the 1967 high drama original by the Forum, which ultimately again padded the Grass Roots’ covers repertoire) in May and Every Little Bit Hurts just weeks later.

Despite a one-off single with RCA Victor (It Must Be Love) in August 1970, Rydell spent much of the 1970s increasingly turning his attention towards live performance. However, he did resurface briefly in 1973 and 1974 with two new singles for Perception; another label with a richly diverse roster that counts trumpet virtuoso John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, rhythm and blues great J.J. Jackson, veteran garage rockers Golden Earring and future Beach Boys collaborator Ron Altbach’s King Harvest among its alumni.

Yet by 1976, with the burgeoning punk and new wave movement finding many of its most impacting exponents championing the work of such pioneers as Bobby Rydell as key inspirations, Rydell was back in the studio with a vengeance. The resultant Born With A Smile album for Pickwick’s affiliate P.I.P. label is arguably among his finest releases overall. From those sessions also came a most inspired remake of his 1960 signature Cameo single, Wild One, with more than a perfunctory nod to (and profession of solidarity with) the Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself.

With such impressive accolades to his credit at that point, it would stand to reason that Rydell’s tale is a textbook example of unabated blessings. Indeed, he closed out the twentieth century in like manner, recording occasionally and developing an ongoing working relationship with fellow Philadelphia-based rock and roll veterans, Francis Thomas “Frankie Avalon” Avallone and Fabiano Anthony “Fabian” Forte. Rydell, Forte and Avalon continue to perform prolifically as the Golden Boys to the present day, to considerable acclaim.

However, with the onset of the twenty-first century, Rydell’s momentum began to go into a tailspin, due to unforeseen circumstances that were beyond his control. It is at that juncture in the following exchange with Blitz Magazine that the highly unusual step of breaking with journalistic protocol was taken. For while the basic tenets of journalism demand a nearly unwavering adherence to the third person perspective on the part of the interviewer, in this extraordinary situation, both interviewer and interviewee shared a common bond borne of intense personal tragedy. In both cases, each endured what some within the medical profession have deemed the most stressful challenge within the human experience, witnessing the death of a spouse.

For Bobby Rydell, that moment came in 2003, as he watched his beloved wife of more than thirty-five years (the former Camille Quattrone) succumb to cancer. While professionals who work with those undergoing the grief process all concur that the healing process varies widely with each individual, in Rydell’s case, the resultant protracted mourning period prompted him to turn to alcohol for solace. That downward momentum continued unabated throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century, despite repeated attempts at intervention, encouragement and counseling by Avalon, Forte and others. Ultimately, those circumstances led to multiple organ failure, which necessitated both transplants and heart surgery.

During his recovery, Rydell maintained a genial correspondence with Blitz Magazine’s Audrey McDowell, who had been an outspoken champion of the organ donor process. When Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell watched in horror as Audrey abruptly succumbed to a major stroke and brain hemorrhage in October 2014, it immediately gave him the common bond with Rydell as most reluctant members of that unique club of individuals who were abruptly plunged into widowhood.

Most encouragingly for Rydell, he has in recent years seen the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. He has been most happily married to Linda Hoffman since 2009. And as the result of no small amount of prayer from Frankie Avalon and many others, he has rebounded to the point where he has resumed a highly demanding live performance schedule with a vengeance, with his formidable musical skills intact.

In the process, he has also authored (in tandem with Allan Slutsky) a comprehensive and most candid autobiography, Teen Idol On The Rocks for the Cherry Hill, New Jersey-based Doctor Licks Publishing. As was the case with recent autobiographies by radio legend (and former fellow Cameo recording artist) Jerry Blavat and the Five Americans’ co-founder, Mike Rabon, Teen Idol On The Rocks is rife with an atmosphere of candor that is certain to confound the expectations of even the most learned of Rydell scholars and aficionados. With endorsements and accolades from such vaunted colleagues as Little Anthony And The Imperials’ Anthony Gourdine, veteran rocker Dion DiMucci, pioneering vocalist Steve Lawrence, radio legend Brucie Morrow, fellow rocker James Darren, Bye Bye Birdie co-star and RCA Victor Records alumnus Ann Margret, plus colleagues Fabian Forte and Frankie Avalon, as well as the aforementioned Jerry Blavat and the late Frank Sinatra Junior, Rydell therein discusses in great detail many of the aforementioned personal and professional highlights of his career, as well as the tragedies that nearly brought that career to a premature conclusion.

As such, in the following exchange with Bobby Rydell (which transpired on Tuesday the twelfth of July 2016, just hours prior to Major League Baseball’s annual All Star game), the first person exchanges therein out of sheer necessity turned from tragedy to common interests, including baseball, his forthcoming appearance in a major motion picture, the possibility of the release of a comprehensive collection of his Cameo-era works by ABKCO (the label which currently oversees the Cameo-Parkway catalog) and his latent interest in committing his formidable skills as a percussionist to record in an ensemble setting. To be certain, it was most encouraging to come to the conclusion that the artist who was seemingly Born With A Smile not only has ongoing reason through the grace of God to maintain such a positive expression, but continues through his work and inspiration to generate and sustain that reaction in others.

BLITZ: Your autobiography is one of the few books of its kind that is compelling enough to entice the reader to go through it in its entirety without putting it down.

RYDELL: Thank you, Mike. You know, I get that a lot. Many of the people that I have talked to so far, even in terms of the reviews of the book, say the same thing.

BLITZ: There is a rare candor in there that only comes to mind as having been a factor in two other such autobiographies. One is the book by radio legend Jerry Blavat. The other is the autobiography by the Five Americans’ Mike Rabon, High Strung. In all three instances, in terms of their respective impact on the reader, no matter what one’s perception was previously, each book confounds expectations.

RYDELL: My co-author Alan Slutsky and myself, wanted it to be that way. I think it came off just the way we wanted it.

BLITZ: In the book, you mentioned that your father, Al often took you to concerts. It was at one such concert that you saw drummer Gene Krupa live. From your perspective, that was the turning point in which you said that you not only wanted to be a drummer, but an all around entertainer. As such, would it be within reason to cite your father as a major musical inspiration, even peripherally?

RYDELL: Oh absolutely! I was five years old. My father loved big bands. One Saturday afternoon, he took me to see Benny Goodman. At that early age, I didn’t know Benny Goodman from a hole in the wall! It was at a place called the Earle Theatre. When I went in there, there was this guy by the name of Gene Krupa, who I didn’t know, either. All I knew was that he was the drummer in the band.

When I saw him play at five years old, I turned to my father and said, “I don’t know who that guy is, but I want to be him!” So I started playing drums at five or six years old.

BLITZ: Ultimately, that may have had a peripheral impact, too. A few years later, you found yourself as a regular presence on Paul Whiteman’s television show. Not only was that show ahead of its time, but Whiteman was someone who was a seasoned and respected veteran of an entirely different era, and he made the transition well. So that may well have been a factor for you in putting together your own mission statement.

RYDELL: Oh yeah, absolutely. When I did his show, I was ten years old. I won on his show by doing imitations.

There was a record I had heard that Sammy Davis Junior had recorded, the song Because Of You. On one side, he did actors doing singers. On the other side, singers doing actors. So I won on the show by doing actors doing singers, to the tune of Because Of You.

After I won on the show, I became a regular in the production numbers, and so forth. But then the show went off of the air. So at eleven years old, I was out of work!

BLITZ: In the interim, you began to transition into the role of drummer, and played with several bands.

RYDELL: I’ve always loved the instrument. To this day, I still have a set downstairs in my living room that I bought from my old drum teacher, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. But yeah, I played in a lot of bands here in Philadelphia. We did dances, weddings and stuff like that.

There were no big bands around at the time. So we just got a bunch of guys together who were very talented players. You get a saxophone, a guitar, a bass player and sometimes just an accordion. Then you go out and play! We played the tunes that were happening.

My big love was always listening to big bands, and the different drummers who played with those orchestras. As far as drummers are concerned, I have many, many favorites. One of course was the guy who started me off, Gene Krupa. After Krupa, there were quite a few. There was Louis Bellson and Buddy Rich. My favorite big band drummer was Mel Lewis, with Thad Jones at the Village Vanguard in New York. The instrument has always been an integral part of my life.

BLITZ: You mentioned the Village Vanguard, which was also a showcase years later for Elvin Jones as part of the John Coltrane Quartet.

RYDELL: I saw Elvin Jones live! I’m trying to remember. I saw Elvin, but I don’t believe he was yet a part of Coltrane’s band at that time. He had his own trio or quartet at the time.

He really was a different kind of a player. All of those guys were back then. You pick him, you pick Art Blakey, and when you are playing a big band chart and there is a press roll, it would say that you want this press roll to be exactly like Art Blakey’s press roll! He was famous for that, and then he’d hit a crash cymbal!

So I became a jazz freak, as well. A lot of the great players were either in big bands, quartets or trios. I loved that era. I really did.

I remember seeing a guy with whom I became very friendly, Buddy Rich. He was at Birdland in 1961 with a quartet. Sam Most on flute, Mike Manieri on vibes. I forgot who the bass player was (Bill Ruther - Ed.), and Buddy.

BLITZ: Despite all of that impact, influence and opportunity, it nonetheless took you until 1958 before you actually released a record under your own name. That would have been the Dream Age / Fatty, Fatty single on the Veko label.

As near as can be determined, the Veko label only released three records totally, and yours was the first of them.

RYDELL: Correct. They were a couple of guys that were from the Washington / Baltimore area. They convinced my manager and my father to put up some money to record me. Then I recorded those goofy tunes, Dream Age and Fatty, Fatty. But those two guys, whoever they were, absconded with the tapes! And that’s why they are out today.

BLITZ: Even though Veko only had three releases, they nonetheless came along at a time when independent labels were flourishing. There were prominent independent labels such as Candlelight, Herald and Gee. And one such independent, Morris Levy’s Roulette Records eventually became a major label.

Given that atmosphere for potential, what kind of proposal for a mission statement did Veko make to you? Was it along the lines of, “We’re gonna make you a star?”

RYDELL: As a matter of fact, they didn’t even talk to me. They talked to my manager at the time, Frankie Day. They said something to him and my dad in that particular light, to the effect of, “We’re gonna make your client a big recording star!” But of course nothing happened with them.

BLITZ: Thankfully, early in 1959, you joined forces with Cameo Records, which remains widely respected as one of the premier labels in all of music. Cameo already had established a very impressive artist roster by that time, which included Charlie Gracie, the Storey Sisters and the Mike Pedicin Quintet. Although their tenure with the label slightly preceded yours, did you ever have a chance to work with any of them?

RYDELL: I worked with Mike’s son, Mike Pedicin Junior at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City not too long ago. Mike Pedicin Junior was the contractor of the band. We had a seventeen piece orchestra there. It was absolutely marvelous!

Bernie Lowe, who was the president of Cameo, was the piano player for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. And I of course appeared on the Paul Whiteman Teen Club show when I was ten years old. So he went from being their piano player to seven years later being my boss at Cameo!

BLITZ: By that time, the Storey Sisters had already moved on from Cameo. So presumably you did not have a chance to work with them.

RYDELL: I remember them. But I never had a chance to work with them. But Charlie Gracie and I are very dear friends.

BLITZ: In your book, you noted that Cameo’s studios were very basic and rudimentary. It was surprising to read your observation that everything recorded there at the time was done in one or two track monaural.

RYDELL: Absolutely! Cameo’s office was at 1405 Locust Street. It was in a building on the fourteenth floor. It was there that I recorded the single that became my first real hit at Cameo, Kissin’ Time. It was a group on there that always played in Wildwood, New Jersey, Georgie Young and the Rockin’ Bocs.

Georgie Young was a marvelous saxophonist. It got to the point where he could play alto, tenor, soprano and baritone smoothly. He played all of the reed instruments.

The studio was a little two by four studio. We had an Ampex reel to reel tape recorder, and that was it! One or two tracks!!

BLITZ: It is a testament to the genius and foresight of Kal Mann, Bernie Lowe or even Dave Appell that most of the Cameo and Parkway records released at that time had such a full, well arranged and punched up sound, despite being produced under such conditions.

RYDELL: Absolutely! That was all because of Dave Appell. Not only was he a great arranger and guitar player, but he was really good behind the board, as well. Dave was behind the board on Kissin’ Time, and Bernie was the guy who listened to what was coming through the board.

As we moved from there, we went to a studio called Reco-Art, which became Sigma Sound. Joe Tarsia was the engineer there. I recorded with Joe.

Reco-Art, where I recorded a lot of the hit records, had a tremendous sound. A really, really great sound. It was a really big, fat sound.

When Joe Tarsia took over from the original guy who owned the studio, Emil was his name, that studio just developed a phenomenal sound. Joe told me later that to get the reverb, Emil used to put the microphone in the long corridor, which would feed down into the board. The sound he got was absolutely tremendous!

BLITZ: It was, and the interesting thing about it was that in comparison, the saxophone and vocal on Kissin’ Time were punched up in like manner, even under those relatively more challenging conditions. You probably didn’t even have sound on sound to work with in two track monaural.

RYDELL: And Kissin’ Time didn’t have any of the background voices yet. Just Georgie Young and his group, the Rockin’ Bocs.

But for the next record, We Got Love, we recorded it at Bell Sound in New York City. The group that backed me up on that one was the Ray Charles Singers, who used to do The Perry Como Show.

Then we went back to Philadelphia to record Wild One at Reco-Art. That’s when we added the three girls. You know, the ones that made my sound so familiar with the “Whoa, whoas”, the “Yeah, yeahs” and stuff like that.

How they recorded, I don’t know what they did back there. But honestly, it was magic!

BLITZ: What is interesting about Kissin’ Time was the obvious inspiration therein of Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen. Did he ever offer you any feedback on your own record after it was released?

RYDELL: No, but Bernie Lowe was great with that kind of stuff. He was absolutely marvelous. He would listen to a record that was out at that particular time. He would cop that particular sound, but not exactly. It was pretty close!

I remember a story regarding my dear friend Frankie Avalon, when he recorded Why. That was of course a big hit for Frankie.

BLITZ: On Chancellor Records in 1960.

RYDELL: Right. The publishers and writers of In A Little Spanish Town sued them! Frankie’s record was, (sings) “I’ll never let you go, why because I love you so”. And In A Little Spanish Town was, (sings) “In a little Spanish town”. But Pete DeAngelis, who had arranged the song, said, “I never heard the record, In A Little Spanish Town”.

BLITZ: Peter DeAngelis was an original. He recorded his own hit single for Chancellor, The Happy Mandolin, which was one of the most unique sounding instrumentals released up to that point. He was far too creative to just arbitrarily copy another artist.

RYDELL: Yeah, you’re right! Gosh…..

BLITZ: You’re preaching to the choir! Blitz Magazine loves those types of records. Anyway, in terms of diverse fare, your debut Cameo album, We Got Love includes Because Of You and That’s My Desire. You also cover Ray Charles’ What’d I Say, plus You Were Made For Me and Lovin’ Doll. Was the intention there to establish you as a master of stylistic diversity, rather than being an exponent of just one genre?

RYDELL: You know, Mike, I really don’t know. That was all up to the powers that be, meaning Bernie Lowe, Dave Appell and Kal Mann. They were the ones who picked the material. I guess that when we did that first album, they knew that I had the chops and that I was able to sing a wide variety of material, like That’s My Desire and the Tony Bennett tune, Because Of You.

Going back to my dad, I was always in tune with that kind of music at a very early age. After he introduced me to big band music, I started listening to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Then later on, I started listening to a lot of jazz greats. So I guess they knew at Cameo that I had some kind of chops!

BLITZ: You we also an established drummer at that point. Was there ever any intention to showcase you in that capacity on one of those Cameo albums?

RYDELL: You know, I wish that they would have thought about that. That would have been great, even for a throwaway album. If I could have gone into the studio on Cameo and played drums with big band charts, it would have been a lot of fun!

BLITZ: In the meantime, at least from the standpoint of singles, you were still pursuing rock and roll. In many respects, Wild One was a consummate rock and roll record. All of the elements which make a rock and roll record great were in place on that track. Plus it was executed at one hundred percent. What was the session like for that single?

RYDELL: If you remember the Saturday night Dick Clark show, which emanated out of New York City, I did that show. It was either Kissin’ Time or We Got Love. We were going back to Philadelphia in a limo. Dave Appell always had his guitar with him, and a pipe in his mouth!

In the back of the limo, he took out his guitar. He said, “When we get back home to Philly, this is what your next recording is going to be”. He started strumming the guitar with that pipe in his mouth and went (sings the instrumental intro of Wild One). He showed me the lyric. I read the lyric and melody, went into Reco-Art and recorded it. It became the first million seller! I don’t know if it was really a hard rock and roll record.

BLITZ: Nonetheless, it has the groove. It is in some respects similar to Fabian Forte’s Turn Me Loose, in that the emphasis is on attitude.

RYDELL: Absolutely! As a matter of fact, there is a funny story about Turn Me Loose. You know that Frankie Avalon, Fabian and myself do a show together called The Golden Boys. We were doing a show for President Reagan at Ford’s Theatre. Fabe was coming in from Hawaii, so he couldn’t make the rehearsal. So the producer of the show asked me if I could do Turn Me Loose.

Rosemary Clooney was sitting in the audience. We had a big band behind me. Fabian’s chart, when he does that song live, is a big band chart. It’s almost a feel like Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life. So when the producer asked me to sing it, I did it like Frank! Rosemary Clooney was laughing her “a” off!

BLITZ: There is a tie in along those lines with one of your follow up singles. Swingin’ School pretty much sustained that momentum. But there is a little aside in there that, in light of the context of your autobiography, reveals the inner man versus the stage persona. In particular, the call and response between the background singers and yourself, “When they sing, “Oh Bobby oh, everything’s cool”, you say, “That’s cool”, as if to say, “I’m the cool guy”, or “I’m the one in charge”. Was that intentional?

RYDELL: Ha! You know, I can’t remember if that was written in, or if I just said it off of the top of my wig.

BLITZ: In terms of single releases, you were about to change direction. In your book, you mention that you traveled to Italy and had a summit meeting with Domenico Modugno, who of course was the composer of Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu. What were some of the highlights of that meeting, and what was his reaction to your reinterpretation of his standard as Volare?

RYDELL: He was absolutely wonderful. As a matter of fact, when I went to see him, there was a club somewhere in Brooklyn. I don’t remember the name of the club. I had just recorded Volare, and my version was out. I was in the audience, he called me up and we did Volare together.

Maybe a year later, I was touring throughout Europe. I went over to Italy, the U.K., Sweden and Denmark. We were all over the joint! But I had the good fortune of spending quality time with Modugno at his villa in Rome.

There were a lot of pictures in the teen magazines of him at the piano, with the both of us singing, and him talking to me. He spoke some Italian to me, and we went out to lunch at some Italian restaurant. It was truly marvelous. He was a wonderful guy and a great writer.

I remember doing the San Remo Festival in Italy in 1964. I sang a song called Un Baccio Piccalissimo. It had to be done all in Italian. There was another guy there by the name of Gino Paoli, who sang a song called Leri Ho Incontrato Mia Madre, which was The Day I Saw My Mother. It was a great tune! It was written by Domenico Modugno.

BLITZ: In the early 1960s, you also began to tour frequently throughout Australia. While you were there, did you ever have a chance to meet or work with some of the legendary rock and roll pioneers based there, such as Johnny O’Keefe, Col Joye or Dig Richards?

RYDELL: Oh absolutely, yeah! Johnny O’Keefe and I became very, very good friends. As a matter of fact, I did his TV show.

BLITZ: Six O’Clock Rock.

RYDELL: Yeah! It was not unlike American Bandstand. He was very, very popular and we became very close. With me touring Australia twenty-three times beginning in 1960, Johnny would come to see me.

Col Joye and I are really, really close. Every time I go there, he always comes to see me. We have dinner together. He’s just a wonderful guy.

There was another guy based in Australia who couldn’t get arrested in the United States, Johnny Farnham. He was phenomenal! He was once the lead singer of the Little River Band. He’s got chops that are unbelievable, but he couldn’t get arrested here!

BLITZ: Actually, he was signed to Capitol in the United States as a solo artist in the late 1960s, at which time he released the single, Sadie (The Cleaning Lady).

RYDELL: Really? I didn’t know that! But he’s good. He’s marvelous.

BLITZ: You were also all over the map in terms of genre. To wit, when you recorded the Bobby Sings, Bobby Swings album in 1960, you included a cover of Hank Williams’ Hey Good Lookin’. Was Hank Williams also an inspiration?

RYDELL: You know, Mike, it was like I said earlier. All of the things I did at Cameo came from Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann and Dave Appell. When we went in to do Bobby Sings, Bobby Swings, or Bobby Salutes The Great Ones with the caricatures of Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson and Bing Crosby on the cover, that was all their idea.

When I went in to record that type of material, I just loved being in the studio! It was great for my career. The tunes were from the Great American Songbook, which I absolutely adored.

BLITZ: It was with the Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones and Rydell At The Copa albums that Cameo finally began to issue your albums in stereo. What sort of effect and/or impact did the transition to stereo have on the way that you approached your work in the studio?

RYDELL: You know, I really didn’t know! All I knew was that the musicians were in the studio, they put a microphone in front of me, and I sang. What was going on in the booth? I haven’t got the slightest idea!

I can remember that when we recorded We Got Love at Bell Sound, Bernie Lowe was in the booth. Dave was out in the studio, conducting the session. Bernie kept saying through the microphone, “Dave, I can’t hear the bass!”

For three days in a row, we went to Bell Sound to record We Got Love. But the record that was released was the second take from the first day! What was going on in the studio and on the board, as far as what they were doing electronically, I haven’t a clue. I just went out there with the orchestra and the microphone, and just sang.

BLITZ: There must have been some sort of increase in technological awareness at least on their part as the new decade progressed. You recorded a number of cover versions for Cameo, such as Marcie Blane’s Bobby’s Girl, the Tornadoes’ Telstar, the Exciters’ Tell Him, the Earls’ Remember Then and Johnny Thunder’s Loop De Loop. The arrangements on your renditions are not only remarkably close to those found on the earlier, original versions, but your own vocal delivery was also fairly close to those found on the originals.

RYDELL: I woodshedded all of that stuff. When I did the albums for Cameo like Bobby Sings The Hits Of 1963, whether it be a Dion thing like Ruby Baby, I would listen to those particular artists and see what they did with the record. I was not trying to imitate them, because I wanted it to be the Bobby Rydell sound doing those particular hit records. I think it all came off that way.

BLITZ: There was also an ongoing practice at that time at Cameo, and it’s not clear as to whether or not it was due to artistic license. But for example, you recorded a track called Cherie, which was directly inspired by the Gladiolas / Diamonds classic, Little Darlin’. Conversely, you did a track around the same time called The Fish, which ultimately became the prototype for Claudine Clark when she recorded Party Lights. Did you ever get feedback from any of those artists about those particular tracks?

RYDELL: Nothing whatsoever. I remember when I recorded The Fish. I was on American Bandstand, lip syncing the record. I didn’t know what the dance was about, and I didn’t know how to do it! I just went out there and lip synced that record. Kids across the country were saying, “He’s singing Do The Fish. But how do we do the Fish?” I didn’t know!

BLITZ: Do you think that train of thought might have tied in with the project that you did with Chubby Checker, when you sang Teach Me To Twist? Perhaps it was a playful look at the pecking order of the artists on the label!

RYDELL: Aw, well, you know, possibly! It’s just that Chubby was so hot, and I was so hot, that they put the both of us together. It really is a great album, and it was a big selling album for Cameo.

When my book came out and we did the press party in New York at Patsy’s, Paul Schafer was at the press party. Paul came up to me and he said, “Bob, I love that album you did with Chubby Checker. One of my favorites is that tune, Your Hits And Mine. I love that tune! Let’s try and do something. Let’s get together and re-record it!”

BLITZ: You were nonetheless part of some of the technological advances going on at Cameo at the time, as you were an integral part in the instructional album, You Be A Disc Jockey, where veteran announcer Don Bruce taught the listener how to be a radio announcer. Therein, you and Dee Dee Sharp both weighed in with interviews, break ins and the like.

RYDELL: My God, Mike, I only vaguely remember that! I remember that I sat with my manager, Frankie Day when I was very, very young. He wanted to interview me, because he didn’t want me to respond with the one-syllable answers, or “Yes, I did, thank you”. In other words, elaborate on the questions that were being asked of you. I learned how to do an interview at an early age.

BLITZ: Frankie Day’s strategy must have worked, because not only were you an increasing presence in television, but you also landed a starring role in the motion picture, Bye Bye Birdie. One of the attributes that contributed to that film’s success, besides the fact that it was well written, well produced and well executed, was the all star cast. In particular, it must have been an adventure working on the set with someone like Paul Lynde, who was known for an abstract and outspoken sense of humor. Would you say that contributed in part to keeping the proceedings going?

RYDELL: It was just a great cast! Not only Paul, but also Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, Maureen Stapleton, Ann Margret and myself. It was a great feeling to go to the set every day. Everybody got along well.

I’m sure there were times, I don’t remember, as this was all back in 1963. But there were times where Paul Lynde did his Paul Lynde stuff, and everybody fell apart, and the directors yelled, “Cut!” If I had the opportunity to do just one motion picture, I’m so proud to be in Bye Bye Birdie, because it’s a classic.

BLITZ: In 1964, you found yourself parting ways with Cameo. Even though Cameo had pretty much put your career on the map, you nonetheless signed with Capitol that year. What was your perspective of Cameo’s circumstances at that time?

RYDELL: I think Bernie knew by that particular time that things were not happening with the label. It was kind of dying. Bernie said to Frankie Day, “Why don’t you make a move with Bobby? Because at this juncture, we’re really not doing anything”. So we made the move to Capitol.

BLITZ: While you were at Capitol, you recorded one particular cut for the Somebody Loves You album that, while it might not have been entirely in sync with what you had been doing at the time, nonetheless would have made a great single, which was your version of Richard Hayman’s 1953 classic, Dansero. Did you approach that session as such?

RYDELL: No, and again, whoever the A&R people were there at that particular time, they are the ones who supplied all of the material that I did on Capitol.

There is one particular tune on Capitol. I was a regular on The Milton Berle Show. And while I was there, Milton wrote a song, You Gotta Enjoy Joy. I recorded that one on Capitol.

All of the big, heavy musicians in Los Angeles were there. Louis Bellson was on the date. It’s a great tune. The chart was written by Bob Florence, who was one of the great big band arrangers and jazz people on the west coast. It was an absolute ball!

There are a couple of things on (the CD reissue), that Bob Florence wrote. One is a really nice ballad called Blue For You. Then we did a big band version of Mohair Sam.

BLITZ: The Charlie Rich single.

RYDELL: Yeah. People really loved a lot of the stuff that I did on Capitol.

BLITZ: Frank Sinatra then signed you to Reprise, which had one of the most diverse artist rosters of any label, including the Kinks, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Dean Martin, the Spike Drivers, Nancy Sinatra, Trini Lopez, and others. They were all over the map!

RYDELL: And they had Sammy Davis and me! I remember the old man saying to me, “Bobby, I’d love to have you on the label”.

So I said, “Well, Mister Sinatra, how much do I owe you and what time do you want me to be there?” Ha!

BLITZ: As the 1960s progressed, there was the rise of garage band rock and psychedelia. You began to turn your attention more towards live performance at that time. You also served in the United States military, signed with Reprise and got married to Camille. Still you managed to work a lot of live dates. That was a tough time for veteran artists. How did you survive that era?

RYDELL: That’s a tough question to answer. Being so very lucky early in my career to be able to work with people like Red Skelton, Jack Benny, George Burns, Milton Berle, Perry Como and Danny Thomas, if you are any kind of a student, you could do nothing but learn from those people.

I did. I learned a lot from all of those great people that I worked with, as far as timing and how to deliver a line. I think that’s what kept me going through all of those years, when things were not that great. I continued to nurture my craft. And I think that’s why I’m still around at seventy-four years old today, and still doing what I love doing.

BLITZ: Even so, throughout that period, when veteran artists often found themselves having to fight their way back in, you returned to the studio with a vengeance in 1976, when you did the Born With A Smile album for P.I.P. Even though that was during the height of the disco movement, you still made a strong case for stylistic diversity. For example, the title track is obviously inspired by the Turtles’ She’d Rather Be With Me. And the arrangement on the remake of your Wild One single on that album is straight out of the Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself.

RYDELL: Heh, heh! I don’t know, Mike. Disco was big at the time. So we thought we’d go for it. The other one that I thought was a great record and was starting to happen for me, but it fell apart, was (the remake of) Sway.

BLITZ: The album overall nonetheless carries with it an undercurrent of a cerebral element. Were you perhaps trying to raise the bar for a new potential audience?

RYDELL: No, I just went in there and sang like Bobby Rydell would have sang. I think that’s the way the results came out.

You know, I’m really happy with the way I’m singing now. My chops feel phenomenal! At this particular point in my career, I can sing just about anything I want to sing. But that album was me going in, having a lot of fun, and just enjoying what I was doing.

BLITZ: To that effect, in 2000, you released an album called Now And Then for the R.D.R. label, which combined remakes of ten of your Cameo tracks with your versions of ten standards. Saul Davis was one of the co-producers. What do you recall from that particular project?

RYDELL: The only thing I recall from that project was that I said to my wife Camille at the time, “I think I’m going to open up a restaurant!”

“What do you know about the restaurant business?”, she said.

“Absolutely nothing”, I said.

So she said, “You put money into the things that you do. So why don’t you put money into an album of the things you love to do?”

So I got together with Mike Pedicin Junior, and a trumpet player by the name of Evan Solot, who did all of the arranging on Now And Then. We went for it, and I picked the tunes. We did some things with a quartet, some with a trio, and the other stuff with brass, reeds and strings.

They were tunes that I loved to do, like Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered and Here’s That Rainy Day. We did some other little things.

One of the tunes that came off really well was a tune that Kal Mann wrote for his wife, Esther. That song was You’re The Greatest. I always loved that tune. So we went in with just vibes, bass, drums, and that was it. It’s a good album!

BLITZ: You did mention your wife, Camille. Sadly, there is a personal connection there, and you did discuss this at great length in your book. It was not long after that album was completed that Camille became seriously ill. Tragically, that hit home.

You probably recall that my wife, Audrey was one of your friends, and that you used to communicate with her on Facebook. You exchanged communications frequently because she was an organ donor, and you were an organ recipient. As you are also aware, Audrey passed away from a major stroke and brain hemorrhage a little more than a year and a half ago. So sadly there is that connection between us.

You did discuss your long range reaction to Camille’s passing in the book. But in the immediate aftermath of her passing, how did you manage to pick yourself up off of the floor? In all honesty, some of us find ourselves still trying to do so, long after the fact.

RYDELL: Oh, my God (sighs). You know, when Camille passed away, that was in 2003. We were married for thirty-six years and had two children.

I’m sure you felt the same way, Mike, when your wife passed away. It left a big void. There is nobody there. There was nobody to lay in bed with, nobody to talk to, nobody to laugh with, nobody to cry with, nobody to tell stories to.

But then I turned to the bottle. I became an alcoholic because of that. I drank for a lot of years. That resulted in the point where I needed a liver and a kidney.

In the hospital here in Philadelphia in 2010, there was one doctor who told me, “Bobby, if you don’t stop drinking, you’re going to be dead in two years!”

So I figured, “If I’m gonna be dead in two years, I’m gonna go out swingin’!”

But he was right on the money. I came close to dying. In 2012, on the ninth of July, was when I had the double transplant. And that’s why the book is titled, Teen Idol On The Rocks: A Tale Of Second Chances. I got the new liver. I got the new kidney. And I got a second chance at life to do what I really enjoy doing.

BLITZ: In the book, you credited Frankie Avalon, Fabian and maybe to a lesser extent Ann Margret as being your encouragers to get you through that whole challenging era with a bit of tough love.

RYDELL: Actually, Ann didn’t really know until she read the book! She called me and she said, “Bobby, I didn’t know all of the problems that you had. God bless you for realizing it and getting yourself together!”

Frankie and Fabe both knew that I had a problem. They kind of put up with me because, as much as I drank, when the downbeat came and I hit the stage, I was always there.

Even though they knew I had a problem, it wasn’t until later on while doing the Golden Boys that it became apparent. The drinking was starting to affect me to the point where people knew. Bookings were not coming in, because they knew I had a problem.

I got on stage, and if I did twenty minutes, I figured, “That’s enough, because I’ve gotta have a drink!”

But they were always there for me. And even though Ann didn’t know, when she called me, she said, “You have my number, please call me. I’d love talk to you”.

So I called her back. And she’s had her problems, as well. So she kind of related to what had happened to me.

I appreciated her phone call. The last thing I left her with was, “Back in 1963, I was twenty. You were twenty-one. Why didn’t we get married?” And she started laughing! But they’re all close friends. They really are.

I remember the day that I went to Jefferson Hospital to get the liver and the kidney. I called Frankie and told him that I was getting a double transplant. He was thrilled!

He said later, “Bobby, after you called, I went straight to church and prayed”.

BLITZ: It is obvious from the outcome, and from what you are saying that Frankie Avalon did, that God’s hand was in it. Otherwise, we would not be having this conversation now. You had a miraculous recovery!

RYDELL: Absolutely!

BLITZ: And now you are once again pursing your career full time, with a vengeance. Interestingly enough, it seems like the one area that you never pursued throughout the years was songwriting. Did you ever have any aspirations in that respect?

RYDELL: No. When I was in London a few years back, Camille was still alive at the time. I was working at the Talk Of The Town, which is now The Hippodrome. It’s a disco!

I used to write poetry. My wife used to say, “Why don’t you do something with that?” But to me, it was just killing time. I never thought about writing tunes at all.

BLITZ: The team approach has worked well for you. That is, utilizing the best people for every facet of the process, and bringing them together for the best results. In other words, great composers, great musicians, great producers, all in one package.

RYDELL: Oh yeah, absolutely. I was fortunate with the stuff that Lowe, Mann and Appell wrote for me, which were marvelous pieces of material. And then to be able to go into the studio and work with the top musicians, whether they be in New York or Los Angeles.

Plus I got to record tunes that I’ve always loved. In my act, I do my hit records. But I also do a lot of songs from the Great American Songbook.

Many of the tunes are Frank Sinatra tunes. I adored the man when I was thirteen years old! So everything is really good right now.

BLITZ: To that effect, do you have any plans for new studio recordings? Or perhaps working with Frankie Avalon and Fabian in the studio?

RYDELL: There is nothing right now off the top of my head. But you know, I would love to.

But you know what I would really love to do? I would love to just go into a studio with a trio or a quartet and do some tunes from the American Songbook. Not necessarily with a big band, although that would be a lot of fun.

Not to toot my own horn, but I would like to do it as a musician, not just as a singer. I understand phrasing and time.

Working with a trio or quartet gives you a lot of liberties. You can lay behind. You can be on top. You don’t have to stick primarily to a written chart, with brass, reeds, strings and so on. Just working with a trio would give you a lot of freedom as far as singing is concerned.

BLITZ: Working in that capacity may indeed give you liberty in that respect. But conversely, it would be incumbent upon you as a performer, since you have less to work with, each individual participant would have to shine more, as each would be in the spotlight to a greater degree.

RYDELL: But with good players, you don’t have to worry about that! They take care of business, and you do what you have to do.

BLITZ: If you were to pursue such a venture, would you do so as a drummer, as a vocalist, or both?

RYDELL: That would be fun! If I could play on a couple of tracks, that would be wonderful!

BLITZ: It sounds as if there may also be a box set of your work for Cameo in progress with ABKCO.

RYDELL: Yes. Jody Klein is talking to Sony as far as rights for the video in Blu-Ray for Bye Bye Birdie. When I was with Cameo, I did my own album of Bye Bye Birdie, with all of the tunes in the musical by myself, not the soundtrack. But yeah, there is a strong possibility of coming out with a box set.

BLITZ: Were there any production numbers recorded or filmed for Bye Bye Birdie that did not make the final cut?

RYDELL: Boy, I don’t know, Mike. I really don’t know. You probably know a lot more than I do as far as that is concerned!

BLITZ: There is a significant demographic out there which is a peripheral part of your audience. Frankly, this particular segment has been content to let the mainstream media dictate their musical taste for them. In other words, their assessment of you is based either on what television performances they may have seen, or whatever records happened to make the cut on radio. Somehow, they cannot quite grasp that you, or any other artist in your capacity, would be capable of or be interested in the sort of things that are actually a part of your overall mission statement. How would you address someone like that?

RYDELL: That’s a great question. I really don’t know how to answer that, other than to say that when I first started recording and had my first hit record, I was seventeen years old. I did the material that was put in front of me. Now there may have been times when I thought to myself that I would like to go in there and do some tunes or sing some lyrics that I really loved. Yet then again, at that early age, from seventeen until twenty-one or twenty-two, it really isn’t believable.

But now I’ve lived my life, and I’ve been through a lot. I’m seventy-four years old. If I want to sing songs that I truly adore, like Willow Weep For Me, or Angel Eyes - as a matter of fact, I do three songs from Frank Sinatra’s Only The Lonely album - What’s New? or One For The Road, now it’s believable. I’ve been through the mill. I’ve had the ups and downs. So I’m able to sing those types of lyrics now.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you mentioned Frank Sinatra, because it seems like your relationship with him has come full circle. A few months before he passed away, Frank Sinatra Junior gave you an endorsement for your book that pretty much articulates in like manner what you had to say.

RYDELL: You mean the blurb? Oh my God, Frank Junior! To have a normal conversation with Frank Junior was like trying to pull teeth! This man would sit down and tell you what an F-17 does, the hydraulic system, how the flaps work and such. It would drive me crazy!

I knew his father very, very well, and his father was very, very nice to me. Frank Junior and I struck up a great relationship over the past ten years or so.

When he passed away, it broke my heart. I followed him at the place where he passed away, the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Florida. We were supposed to do something for a disc jockey here in Philadelphia, Sid Mark, who played nothing but the old man. But unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

In one conversation way before the book, I told Frank Junior, “Thank you for what you said, that I’m one of your favorite singers.

Frank Junior said, “I never said that!”

I said, “Yes, you did”.

And he said, “No, no, I never said that. My father did!”

So I said, “I love you, Junior. But it’s nicer coming from your dad!”

BLITZ: Frank Sinatra was one of those with a lot of foresight and vision. And in that respect, his endorsement was vindication for you.

RYDELL: I certainly hope so, Mike. It will put me in a whole new perspective. Maybe not me so much, but the public in general will come to see what Bobby Rydell is all about. Hopefully the book will in turn entail a lot of great things in the future.

BLITZ: Are there any plans for a hardcover edition, or just a paperback for now?

RYDELL: That’s a possibility. The book is doing extremely well right now. There is a strong possibility that a hardcover will come out, yes.

And I just had a small, cameo part in Robert DeNiro’s new movie, The Comedian. It’s something that he has wanted to do for some time. It’s one of his pet projects.

The director of the movie was Taylor Hackford. I met him in the make up room. He was a fan of mine. He did The Idol Maker and the Ray Charles movie.

So I thought, “Hey, let’s send him the book. Maybe he has an idea. Or he can get it to the Scorseses, the DeNiros, or Ron Howard”. If you throw enough stuff up against the wall, something might stick! Maybe it will become a screen play.

BLITZ: It might be putting the cart before the horse. But if indeed it does come to that point, is there anyone that you would envision or would like to see play yourself?

RYDELL: My co-writer, Alan Slutsky said, “Bobby, if in fact this does become a screenplay, who would you like to see play you? Justin Bieber?”

I said, “No! No!” Ha! I really don’t know who would play me. Maybe some up and coming actor, who is trying to find himself in Hollywood. Maybe it’s somebody who’s on stage on Broadway. Who knows?

BLITZ: You mentioned Justin Bieber. But there is a disadvantage that he and others like him would have in comparison to what you went through.

When Blitz Magazine asked Johnny Tillotson some years ago about working with label president Archie Bleyer at adence Records, Tillotson replied that Bleyer was a mentor, a father-like figure and was great to work with, as well. It sounds as though you had a similar experience during your tenure with Cameo.

Conversely, someone like Justin Bieber is in an environment where the perspective afforded those who are in positions similar to his is often to milk them for all they’re worth for one or two years, chew them up, spit them out and then leave them to their own devices.

RYDELL: I don’t know. Evidently, he is a very talented individual. But the things that happen to them at such an early age, his mother throwing him on You Tube, and then overnight becoming a multi-millionaire. Things just happened too quickly, and you can’t handle it. I can understand that. I’ve been through the ups, the downs, the lows and the highs.

I was very lucky in that my dad used to take me around to small nightclubs in Philadelphia when I was seven or eight years old. For me, that became my Vaudeville. That’s where I woodshedded. It got me through to where I am today.

You just learn to roll with the punches. Thank God that things are great for me right now. Hopefully the talent that I’ve been given will hold. It’s been keeping me going for close to six decades now.

BLITZ: You mentioned a connection to Vaudeville. In his own collection, did your dad have any of the records made by the prominent and impacting pioneer artists, such as Billy Murray, Henry Burr, the Heidelberg Quintet or any of the others that inspired that movement?

RYDELL: To tell you the truth, I don’t think we even had a record player in our house in South Philly! We would listen to what was on the radio.

But when I won on the Paul Whiteman show and became a regular, the sponsor at the time was Tootsie Rolls. I was ten years old, so that would have been 1952. So I got a lot of Tootsie Rolls. And I got an RCA Victor 45 record player, and RCA Victor television set, and I don’t know how many records! They were all like (Enrico) Caruso, Benny Goodman, Tex Beneke, Artie Shaw, Count Basie, Duke Ellington. It was absolutely wonderful!

When we moved out of South Philadelphia, I had all of those records. But I don’t know what happened to them! I had 78s, I had EPs. But when we moved from South Philadelphia into the suburbs, they got lost in the transition.

BLITZ: Speaking of transitions, Paul Whiteman was also a bit ahead of his time. He made the transition from being one of the leaders of that movement to being one of the forerunners of bringing rock and roll into the spotlight. Presumably you learned a lot about diversity from him.

RYDELL: One of the beautiful things about him that I remember and treasure, because it is just a marvelous, marvelous piece of material, was his Rhapsody In Blue. That has always been one of my favorites.

BLITZ: Were you aware that your future Cameo labelmates, the New Colony Six appropriated Rhapsody In Blue for their second single, I Like Awake? Their Sentar label became a Cameo affiliate in 1967, shortly before Cameo folded.

RYDELL: Really? I didn’t know that. That would have been at the time of Allen Klein. Of course it is now through his son, Jody Klein. We had that great meeting with him, and we are looking forward to doing a venture with him.

BLITZ: From the perspective of musicologists, journalists and record collectors, Cameo/Parkway continues to be regarded as being in the upper echelons among the greatest labels of all time. It was more than a little disconcerting that for decades, in the wake of the label’s demise in early 1968, that the only way that you could get that material was at record collector’s conventions, thrift stores or estate sales. It was not available on CD except in the form of bootlegs. It’s nice to have it available again. But it is a bit disconcerting that they waited so long to make it happen.

RYDELL: Oh, absolutely. I totally agree with you, Mike.

BLITZ: You are presently on tour in support of your book.

RYDELL: We’re doing a lot of book signings through Barnes And Noble. I’ve been to three or four Barnes And Noble outlets so far, and there are many more in the very near future. There are a lot of Q&A sessions at the bookstores.

We’re also doing a big autograph thing, Chiller in Parsippany in October. Plus I’m also on the road, doing what I do, which is singing!

BLITZ: You are a living testimony to miracles, given what you have been through. And in some respects, you are at the peak of your creative powers. That’s quite a testimony.

RYDELL: Thank you ever so much, Mike. I’m one lucky guy right now. Given what happened to me with the transplants, and then a year later undergoing a double bypass heart surgery. I didn’t even know that I had two blockages. One was eighty-nine percent, the other one was ninety-nine percent. That was the widow maker!

But I was feeling fine. I said to the doctor, my cardiologist, on a Wednesday, “I’ve got to leave for Biloxi tomorrow”.

He said, “You ain’t goin’ to Biloxi! You’re checking in right now.

Four days later, I was in the O.R. again, getting a zipper in the chest! But at least I was getting everything fixed.

BLITZ: Presumably, that would have made an impact in your health regimen, and with respect to diet. In other words, many of the things what you had taken for granted in the past were now things that you simply could not do anymore.

RYDELL: Well, you know what? I’m still an idiot. I’m still smoking.

BLITZ: Blitz Magazine’s original art director, Dennis Loren is a couple of years younger than you are, and he is in the same predicament. Dennis is very health conscious. But he picked up the tobacco habit decades ago, and he can’t seem to shake it.

RYDELL: The drinking was one thing. To give that up really wasn’t a major problem. But to stop smoking is really tough.

BLITZ: The remarkable thing is that you, even at age seventy-four, have managed to retain your vocal range. That is indeed miraculous.

RYDELL: And you’re right! My very dear friend, Frankie Avalon said to me, “Bobby, when are you gonna stop smoking?”

Then there was a pregnant pause. And he said, “Aw, you’d better not, because it will screw up your voice!”

BLITZ: Legend has it that Bob Dylan gave up smoking and the result was his Nashville Skyline album, which was remarkably different vocally than that which came before it. It was also reported decades ago that Petula Clark’s doctor told her that smoking was good for her digestion!

RYDELL: Heh, heh! I don’t know. Who knows? It is what it is, I guess.

BLITZ: Everyone has their own respective vices, such as not wanting to give up pizza!

RYDELL: Ha! Well how could you give up pizza?

BLITZ: Pizza would go well with the MLB All Star game, which is on television tonight!

RYDELL: The All Star Game? Well, I guess it’s a little better than pro football when they play the Pro Bowl.

BLITZ: The problem with the All Star game is that everyone plays on such a high level, that they cancel one another out, and it’s difficult to score!

RYDELL: Absolutely! Look at many years ago, when Bobby Abreu was the home run champ! Bobby Abreu? Give me a break!

BLITZ: Indeed. And the Los Angeles Dodgers’ all time home run king is Eric Karros, who was never an All Star.

RYDELL: Yeah, yeah. If you want to get into talking about baseball, we could be here for hours!

BLITZ: The subject may have come up because in your book, you expressed allegiance for the Phillies, and said that if you had relocated to the West Coast, you would be in a position of having to root for the Dodgers!

RYDELL: Well, the Dodgers had Tommy Lasorda, who is from here. He’s a local guy. And he still bleeds Dodger blue!

BLITZ: Tommy Lasorda and Vin Scully are just about the best ambassadors that Major League Baseball has.

RYDELL: Oh God, and Vin is retiring. What a great guy. You know, Vin Scully reminds me of what we had here in Philly when we had Harry Callas and Richie Ashburn. God rest their souls. You didn’t even have to watch it on TV. They gave you the ball game. It’s just the way that those two guys, Ashburn and Callas broadcast the game, you could see the game right in front of you, whether you were actually looking at it or not. They did that on the radio. And that’s what Vin Scully always did, as well.

BLITZ: Since you have long expressed a fondness for one-liners and imitations, there is one particular line that Vin Scully delivered in the 1990s that may interest you. When the Dodgers’ home run leader, Eric Karros was in a protracted slump, he had struck out, grounded out or flied out in more than thirty consecutive at bats, although career wise he racked up 323 home runs for the Dodgers.

During one particular game against Chicago in the middle of that slump, Karros was the third out in one inning. When Karros flied out and the broadcast was about to go into commercial break, Vin Scully just deadpanned, “And once again, Karros proves to be a hallmark of consistency”.

RYDELL: Heh, heh! That’s great! Marvelous!! Absolutely marvelous.

BLITZ: In some respects, that same approach has worked for you. When you tell a story from the stage, it is as much what you don’t say as what you do say that paints the picture for the audience. You have done a great job, and keep up the great work!

RYDELL: Thank you very much, Mike. I’ll try, my friend.

BLITZ: Is there anything that we may not have covered that you would like to add to the story line?

RYDELL: My God, you’re fantastic! Much appreciated. You’re just a plethora of information! You’ve covered a lot of great ground that hasn’t been covered before. Let’s just say that I am very, very grateful for the second chance.