Born Robert Ridarelli on April 26, 1942, in South Philadelphia, Bobby Rydell showed his musical ability at an early age, playing drums professionally at the age of 9. He appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand in 1959, and went on to sell more than 25 million records during his career. His most popular hits include "Kissin' Time," "Wild One" and "Volare." In 2012, he underwent a double organ transplant, and was back performing six months later.
Singer and teen heartthrob Bobby Rydell was born Robert Louis Ridarelli on April 26, 1942, in an Italian neighborhood of South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From a very early age, Rydell enjoyed emulating comedians and impersonators that he saw on television. Recognizing talent in his young son, Rydell's father encouraged him to perform, and by age 5 Rydell was taking drum lessons. He made his professional debut at the age of 9 on Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club as the bandleader's drummer, which he continued to do for the next three years. It was during this time that Whiteman changed Bobby's last name to the less ethnic "Rydell."
As a teenager in the late '50s, Rydell sat in with local dance band Rocco and the Saints, which included fellow future star Frankie Avalon. The group's manager, Frankie Day, singled out Rydell for a career as a solo performer, and introduced him to record label executives. Not long after meeting executives he recorded his first single, "Fatty Fatty," for Veko Records. He joined Cameo-Parkway Records in 1959, and his single "Kissin' Time" became the first of his 19 Top 40 hits, according to Billboard magazine. Rydell's best-known hits are "Wild One," "Sway," "Volare" and "Forget Him."
Rise to Fame
In June 1959, Rydell was just 17 when he recorded "Kissin' Time," which became a hit across the country thanks to the airplay given to the song by Dick Clark on TV’s American Bandstand. His biggest hit, "Wild One," was released early in 1960. Hits "Swingin' School" and "Volare" soon followed.
In the early '60s, Rydell showed his acting and comedic skills when he appeared on The Perry Como Show, The Red Skelton Hour, The Jack Benny Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Joey Bishop Show, Shindig, Hullabaloo and as a regular on The Milton Berle Show. At 19, Rydell was the youngest headliner to play the Copacabana in New York. He had a dramatic role in an episode of the TV series Combat in 1964—an episode that became one of the highest rated of the series.
In 1963, he starred in the movie version of the Broadway hit Bye Bye Birdie, playing Ann-Margret’s long-suffering boyfriend Hugo Peabody. His career was put on hold in 1964 when he joined a local unit of the National Guard in Philadelphia. He served with the Guard for several years.
Later, he signed with different record labels in hopes of gaining the same success that he found earlier in his career, but he was never able to match his early achievements.
The Golden Boys
In the late '60s, Rydell joined the rock and roll revival shows and was a hit at popular cabarets and hotel chains. He appeared in a summer stock version of Bye Bye Birdie, playing the part of the father this time. He also appeared on a number of TV specials and "oldies" revival shows.
In the summer of 1985, he joined his old friends and fellow teen idols Frankie Avalon and Fabian Forte on the Boys of Bandstand tour. The trio continues to perform as The Golden Boys at venues around the world.
In 1995, his hometown of Philadelphia named the street where he was born "Bobby Rydell Boulevard." That year, he re-recorded his greatest hits to produce The Best of Bobby Rydell. He was also inducted into Philadelphia's Walk of Fame. In 2000, he released Now and Then, his first album in two decades, which included remakes of his old hits and some new additions as well.
Personal Life and Health Issues
In 1968, Rydell married childhood sweetheart Camille Quattrone. They had two children, Robert and Jennifer. Camille died of breast cancer in 2003 at age 60. He married former nurse Linda Hoffman on January 17, 2009.
Rydell's intense touring schedule was interrupted when, at 70, he underwent a liver and kidney transplant on July 9, 2012. He underwent the operation at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, which lasted 20 hours. His experience led him to bring public awareness to the importance of organ donation through the Gift of Life organization, spreading the word during his worldwide tours.
He returned to the stage in Las Vegas just six months after his operation, and also continues to tour in Atlantic City and Australia, and with The Golden Boys.
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