Today in History – September 15

Courtesy of our friends at History.com, I am pleased to begin each and every day of the week here at Bulldog Pundit with a snippet of some important event that occurred on this date sometime in the past. Some events might come readily to mind while others may take a bit of effort to recall. Not all are historically portentous and some may even seem whimsical. Nevertheless, each and every one is a grain in the hourglass of human history.

I have one or two memories of Franki Valli from when I was a wee lad, around 1965. Prior to his meteoric rise to fame, Frankie was a frequent guest at our house; my mom and dad were friends with many local singers and musicians. Even after he became famous he found time to stop by our house at least once for a cup of coffee. I remember him getting out of the car wearing a light blue suit that seemed to shimmer (I discovered later that it was shark skin), tousling my hair and handing me a twenty dollar bill.

They were the godfathers of Italian-American soul, and though their roots were in old-fashioned doo-wop, they left that style for dead on a Newark street corner when they combined Frankie Valli’s macho falsetto and the Jersey-thick background vocals of Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi with a driving R&B beat in the style of Motown or Phil Spector. While their trademark harmonies may not have been as sophisticated as those of, say, the Byrds, the Four Seasons had a sound fresh enough to remain current even after the arrival of the mighty Beatles. Indeed, the Four Seasons, along with the Beach Boys, were one of only two American groups to enjoy significant chart success before, during and after the British Invasion. Their hugely successful career reached an early high point on this day in 1962, when the song “Sherry” became their first #1 hit.

Frankie Valli (born Francis Casteluccio) had been hard at work trying to become a star for the better part of a decade before the Four Seasons achieved their breakthrough. They had come together as a group in several stages over the previous four years, changing their name in 1961 from the Four Lovers after failing an audition at a New Jersey bowling alley called The Four Seasons. It was keyboard player Bob Gaudio who wrote the song that would launch the group’s career. He later told Billboard magazine that he banged out “Sherry” in 15 minutes before a scheduled rehearsal. Without a tape recorder, Gaudio explained, “I drove down to rehearsal humming it, trying to keep it in my mind. I had no intention of keeping the lyrics, [but] to my surprise, everybody liked them, so we didn’t change anything.”

“Sherry” was released as a single in August 1962 and made it all the way to the top of the pop charts just four weeks later, on September 15. In the next six months, the Four Seasons would earn two more #1 hits with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man,” making them the only American group ever to earn three consecutive #1 hits. “Rag Doll” gave the group its fourth #1 in the summer of 1964, and many other Top 40 hits followed in the subsequent 12 years before the Four Seasons made a triumphant return to the top of the pop charts with their fifth #1 hit “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” in March 1976.

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