How could an 84-year-old man make me feel like a teenager again? All it took was hearing Frankie Valli croon “Sherry, Baby” in 12 syllables.
Nearly 24 hours later, I’m still savoring the musical journey through six decades that he led on a stage once graced by Elvis Presley in an historic Florida theater. Frankie’s still got it … and the audience let him know it. Much paunchier and less mobile than the adoring crowd of fit, suntanned youth at Four Seasons shows I saw at Steel Pier in Atlantic City in 1965 and 1966, this audience nevertheless made just as much noise. On our feet often—although not as sprightly—we sang the lyrics and moved to the rhythm, and waved cell phones instead of cigarette lighters. Kids again, for an hour or so.
For me the devotion began in 1962 at age 15 in my grandmother’s rowhouse in South Philly when my cousin Tommy, a couple of years younger, told me about a new group called the Four Seasons and their soon-to-be hit “Sherry.” Huge fans since then, he and I still call each other with any news about the group. He once surprised me with a CD of songs they performed before making it big when they called themselves the Four Lovers.
My collection of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons albums, scratches and all, is treasured. Christmas a year ago my boyfriend bought me a turntable, mostly so I could play them again.
But my favorite Four Seasons song, “Soon (I’ll Be Home Again)”—three syllables, soo-ooo-oon!—which came out not long after “Sherry,” is on only my oldest album and they didn’t sing it at any concert I saw. In the early 1990s before they performed in Hagerstown, Maryland, I had the thrill of doing a phone interview with Frankie for my newspaper and asked him why they never do “Soon.” He acknowledged that it’s a great song and he just didn’t know how it got dropped. Today I go there to buy shag shoes, but back in the ‘90s Judy’s House of Oldies in North Myrtle Beach had the best selection of 45s, many obscure. Digging through the bins, I found “Soon.”
Fast forward to 2006, a dear friend since childhood told me she had a perfect idea for celebrating an achievement in my life—a new Broadway show called “Jersey Boys.” She knows me well. That weekend in New York with three friends from high school holds cherished memories.
Seems like Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons have marked milestones through most of my life with their music, even in my senior years. Early in my now six-year relationship with my boyfriend, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” became ‘our song.’
For the concert last night, I used a favorite evening bag. Inside was a ticket from a 2004 Frankie Valli show at the same theater. To be honest I wondered how much difference I would notice in his voice. The other three Seasons have long been replaced multiple times, most recently with energetic young performers who keep their beat alive. Still a fabulous showman with a huge orchestra, there’s no doubt that Frankie Valli is an old man. Now and then verses seemed to be an octave lower. But especially with “Stay”-ay-yay, just a little bit longer—which actually made me hoot—and “Sherry,” his sweet falsetto sounded as strong as ever.
Oh, what a night!