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A Pre-"Jersey Boys" Four Seasons Primer

Of the Oakland Press

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One season, winter, becomes four this week with the arrival of the Tony Award-winning “Jersey Boys,” at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre.

If it follows suit from other stops, Broadway and beyond, the musical about the formation and career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons will capture the city’s imagination and have Metro Detroiters humming “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and the group’s other hits well into January.

But there’s a rich back story that’s part and parcel of “Jersey Boys” but hasn’t necessarily registered with those who love the music.

So in anticipation of “Jersey” mania, here’s a primer of 15 key points you need to know to be well-versed in Four Seasons lore ...

The Four Seasons were formed during 1960 in Newark, N.J., by Frankie Valli (real name Franceso Stephen Castelluccio), keyboardist Bob Gaudio, guitarist Tommy DeVito and bassist Nick Massi (né Macioci).

Prior to the Four Seasons, Valli was a solo act (as Frank Valley), then joined DeVito in the Variatones in 1954.

He later changed the name to the Four Lovers in 1957.

The Four Lovers single “You’re the Apple of My Eye” hit No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Before meeting the Four Lovers, Gaudio was a teenage member of the Royal Teens, for whom he co-wrote the 1958 hit “Short Shorts.”

The group continued as the Four Lovers until 1961.

After failing an audition to play at a bowling alley lounge in Union Township, N.J., the quartet decided to take the business’ name, the Four Seasons, for the band.

As both the Four Lovers and the Four Seasons, the group worked with producer Bob Crewe, who later helmed records by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels.

The Four Seasons were the first white act to sign with the Vee-Jay Records label, where they would later be joined by The Beatles.

The Four Seasons were the first vocal group to hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart with their first three non holiday singles — “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man.”

In total the Four Seasons had 30 Top 40 hits, with two more No. 1’s — “Rag Doll” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” — during the course of their career.

The group has sold more than 175 million records worldwide.

Massi, who died in 2000, was the first founding member to leave the Four Seasons, in 1965, replaced briefly by Charles Calello and then by Joe Long. DeVito left the group in 1970 and has written an autobiography that has yet to be published.

The group has also released songs under the names the Valli Boys, the Wonder Who?, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Frankie Valli & the New Seasons and under Valli’s name alone.

The Four Seasons were with Motown Records and its MoWest Records subsidiary from 1971-74, during which it recorded a series of singles and an album, 1971’s “Chameleon,” that failed to chart. A compilation, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons: The Motown Years” came out in May 2008. Motown also released Valli’s latest album, the covers set “Romancing the ’60s” in 2007.

Outside of the group, Valli had No. 1 solo hits with “My Eyes Adored You” and the theme for the 1978 film “Grease.”

He also appeared on TV as Rusty Millio in HBO’s “The Sopranos” and on the network shows “Miami Vice” and “Full House.”

The Four Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.

Valli and Gaudio still own the Four Seasons name and most of the group’s recording catalog as equal collaborators in the Four Seasons Partnership.

Gaudio no longer performs live, while Valli leads various lineups of the group.

“Jersey Boys” debuts at 8 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 17) at the Fisher Theatre and runs through Jan. 23. The Fisher Theatre is at 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. Tickets are $34-84. Call (313) 872-1000 or visit www.nederlanderdetroit.com.


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