Born on September 18, 1940, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Frankie Avalon is considered one of the first manufactured teen idols. His song "Venus" became his first No. 1 single in 1959, and he released six more Top 40 records in that year alone. In 1962, Avalon and Annette Funicello paired their clean-cut looks to make the popular Beach Party surfer film series.
Early Life and Career
Considered the first manufactured teen idol—before Fabian and Bobby Rydell and the myriads of other pretenders hoping to follow in Elvis's blue suede shoes—Frankie Avalon was born Francis Thomas Avallone on September 18, 1940, in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Avalon broke into show business as a child prodigy trumpet player, earning an appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show and making records for RCA Victor Records' subsidiary, "X." In his teens, he played backup trumpet in a local band called Rocco and the Saints, and it was there that local impresario Bob Marcucci discovered the future teen star.
Eight months later, Avalon's first single, "Cupid," came out on Marcucci's Chancellor label, and his third release, "Dede Dinah," hit the Top 10. Then, in 1959, Avalon had his first No. 1 single with "Venus," and went on to release six more Top 40 records in that year alone. Marcucci nudged Avalon away from rock, following the successful run he was having with easy-listening fare.
The following year, Avalon starred in Guns of the Timberland (1960) alongside Alan Ladd and played Smitty in The Alamo, directed by and starring John Wayne.
Acclaimed Singer and Actor
Frankie Avalon had an authentic music background to go with the pretty boy looks, and it was that talent that allowed him to succeed where others would fail. By 1962, the singer's four-year domination of the music charts was coming to an end, but his career wasn't. He teamed up with Annette Funicello and reinvented himself as a clean-cut, pretty-boy surfer in the wildly successful Beach Party surfer film series. Directed by William Asher and written by Lou Rusoff, the series began with 1963's Beach Party, starring Robert Cummings and Dorothy Malone, in addition to Avalon and Funicello.
A symbol of his era, Avalon went on to appear in the 1950s-themed musical Grease in 1978, playing The Teen Angel and singing the memorable "Beauty School Drop-out" in the film. "Kids know me from their Grease DVD, so they instantly respond," he would later say. "You can hear a pin drop when I do my old songs."
Four years after the release of Grease, Avalon branched out to star in a film of a different genre, playing Paul Foley in the horror thriller Blood Song (1982) alongside Donna Wilkes and Antoinette Bower. In 1985, Avalon embarked on a 50-city tour with Fabiano "Fabian" Forte and Bobby Rydell known as "The Golden Boys of Bandstand," which was broadcast by PBS as a segment of On Stage at Wolf Trap in 1986.
The following year, the still-youthful-looking Avalon reteamed with Funicello for the light-hearted throwback Back to the Beach (1987), which included a notable performance of the song "Pipeline" by Stevie Ray Vaughan and "King of Surf Guitar" Dick Dale. Avalon and Funicello starred as parents of a pair of troublesome teenagers in the film. The pair later reunited to put on "nostalgia" shows around the country in the late 1980s and '90s, performing the Beach Party music and hit singles they had made famous in the '60s, until Funicello retired from show business.
More recently, Frankie Avalon created a line of health and beauty care line called Frankie Avalon Products, and has marketed his products on the Home Shopping Network.
In April 2009, Avalon appeared as a guest on the hit television show American Idol, where he sang "Venus."
Avalon published Frankie Avalon’s Italian Family Cookbook: From Mom’s Kitchen to Mine and Yours in October 2015.
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