Bobby Rydell is touring Australia with the All Stars during March, and will call in to visit us at the Glasshouse. Bobby has visited Australia more than 20 times during the course of his phenomenal music career and calls Oz his ‘second home’.
What’s your favourite memory from that golden era – the late 1950s to the 1960s?
As far as Australia is concerned, the Everly Brothers, myself and some other bands worked the old Sydney Stadium [in 1960] – a gentleman by the name of Lee Gordon was the promoter. The kids at the show just went crazy! They started storming the stage, and we couldn’t get off! We had to get the Sydney Police to form a V, so we could get out of the stadium.
We were also one of the first Rock ‘n’ Roll shows to work Perth. There are so many stories – and all the ones that come to mind are from Australia!
You didn’t have the same crowd reaction everywhere else you travelled?
I have a big fan base here [in the USA], but for some reason or another, I have a really big fan base in Australia. This visit will be something like my 20th or 21st visit to your wonderful country.
I try to make it down to Oz every 18 months – and I absolutely love it.
Back in the beginning, when you were evolving your musical style, English artists were obviously watching what the American artists were doing – and vice versa. Did the music coming out of UK at the time have any influence on your act?
No, because we were around before anything that was ever a hit came out of the UK. The artists that I fell in love with when I first started recording were people like Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley and Fats Domino. There really wasn’t any British music here until The Beatles made it, and that’s when the whole British invasion happened in the United States.
You’ve achieved so much over the course of you career – something like 34 Top 40 hits at last count. What was the feeling like when you achieved your first number one?
When I heard my first record being played on the radio, I was driving to New York City – I lived in Philadelphia, which is only about an hour and a half south of New York City. I was with my manager, and we were going to New York to do some promotion. It was WABC Radio – a Disc Jockey by the name of Bruce Morrow (they called him Cousin Brucey). He said, “Here’s a new artist with his brand new hot record – it’s Bobby Rydell, singing Kissin’ Time”!
I went nuts, because it was the first time I’d heard it on the radio. And then, of course, doing The Dick Clark Show for the first time and American Bandstand promoting Kissin’ Time.
I had 3 or 4 records before Kissin’ Time … The Dick Clark Show emanated out of Philadelphia, and my manager would take my records and play them for Dick. The first record, second record, third record got, “No … no” – and I decided I wasn’t really cut out for this business, and I was happy just to play the drums. Then the fourth record – which was Kissin’ Time came out – and it started everything, back in the summer of 1959.
So many years and many hits later, are the number ones all equally as memorable, or does that first one really stick in the mind?
I guess the first hit record always sticks in the memory – and then the first million-seller, which for me was a record called Wild One, in 1960. I was working up to three million- sellers by then and other chart toppers. We actually went back into the recording studio in Philadelphia again to do Kissin’ Time Australia way – and it was a hit in Australia!
With all the places you’ve travelled to perform – is there anywhere else you’d like to travel that you haven’t visited yet?
Ohhh … let’s see. Been to Japan, Hong Kong, Manila, the UK … I don’t know. (Laughs). Is there any place other than Australia?
I’m sure people in other countries might argue their case … but good point!
(Laughs). Well, Australia is my second home. We have a football team over here called the Philadelphia Eagles, and there are people [in Australia] – mainly guys – who’ll come and sit in the audience with Eagles paraphernalia like T-shirts and hats on, because they know I’m a big Eagles fan!
What are some of the songs you’ll be singing at your upcoming show?
I gotta do all the records: Kissin’ Time, Wild One, Forget Him, Good Time Baby, Sway, The Cha Cha Cha. We’ve added some new material, and of course, I do some comedy in the show. One of the things I do – and people love it – is a tribute to Bobby Darin, with 4 of his songs: Splish Splash, Dream Lover, Beyond the Sea and Mack the Knife.
Bobby Darrin must have been a bit of an idol for you …
Absolutely. He was so talented; it was scary. I knew him very well, and of course, he passed away at a very early age – he was only 37. He had so much to give …
You’re obviously looking forward to visiting Australia again. What is it about Australia that you enjoy so much – what keeps you coming back?
(Laughs). Oysters Kilpatrick. I love it – I’d have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I still have a lot of friends down there, the people are absolutely wonderful, the food is fantastic … it’s just one of the greatest places in the world.
Thanks Bobby. Have a safe trip over – and all the best for the tour.
Interview by Jo Atkins.