Veteran singer Frankie Valli's spirits are quite high these days.
If you go
What: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
When: Friday, doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the show starting at 7:30 p.m.
Where: North Charleston Performing Arts Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive
For more info: www.NorthCharleston ColiseumPAC.com
The legendary pop/rock vocalist and bandleader is back on tour with a full repertoire of hits. It's a buzz of activity in the wake of the smash success of the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys," a Tony Award-winning production that documents the ups and downs of Valli's early musical career with the Four Seasons, one of the best-selling musical groups in rock 'n' roll history.
Release date: June 20
The story: Based on the Broadway musical, "Jersey Boys" is a musical biography of the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Built with a cast of largely unknown actors, Christopher Walken is the biggest name on the bill.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken
Rated: R for language throughout
Running time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
This week, Valli and the latest version of the Four Seasons will visit the Lowcountry to perform an array of vintage hits and fan favorites at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center.
"I'm thrilled to go out on stage and do this, and I'm so appreciative of the audiences that keep coming out and supporting the music," Valli says. "I'm so thankful for fans who've stuck with me through the years."
"Jersey Boys" opened on Broadway in 2005 and has since been seen by more than 18 million people around the world.
Later this month, Valli's life story and the tale of the Four Seasons will be covered in the film adaptation of "Jersey Boys," directed by Academy Award-winning actor and director Clint Eastwood.
"It's been pretty busy this year," he says. "It's kind of hard, with working and performing, but it feels good. It's nice. It's not every day you have a movie coming out about you, you know?"
Valli's early years
Born Francis Castelluccio in Newark, N.J., Valli always had a natural tendency to sing and explore various music styles.
As a youngster in 1940s, he was inspired by great American vocalists such as Frank Sinatra.
He developed his own style during his teen years, mentored by a female country singer named Texas Jean Valley, whose last named inspired the stage name Valli.
"When I was a kid, I really had no formal musical education, except in grade school when music and art were minor subjects," Valli says. "From the fifth to the eighth grades, we had some music. Around that time, I started developing a formula for learning how to sing. I grew up listening to some of the best singers that ever lived. There were a lot of great singers in those times - too many to list. I'd buy their records, play them over and over, and imitate them."
In the mid 1950s, Valli started recording his first singles with the Mercury, RCA Victor and OKeh labels. He blended bits of blue-eyed soul, pop, blues and doo-wop as he gradually fine-tuned his own vocal delivery.
"I found that by doing impressions of singers, it broadened the scope of what you could do with your vocal mechanism," Valli says. "It gives you more options and more places to go. When you figure out how a person gets the sounds that they get, then you know that your voice doesn't have to be in one place all the time. You take from the different people that you admire - a little bit of this and a little bit of that - and you apply yourself to it and develop your own style. It still happens like that."
A full career of hits
In the late 1950s and early '60s, Valli and his backing groups regularly performed in small clubs in New Jersey and around New York City. They recorded and played under a variety of names, including Frankie Valli and the Romans, Frankie Vally and the Travelers, Hal Miller and the Rays, the Village Voices, and Billy Dixon and the Topics.
"One of the things I miss the most is from the very early years, before there was any success, was when I just worked at local bars and clubs where they'd put a stage somewhere against a wall," Valli says. "These places would hire local trio or quartets or whatever, and I miss being able to do shows in places where you could do anything you wanted to do. We could perform things written by great writers like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins. It was open and endless."
In 1961, Valli, Nick Massi, Bob Gaudio and Tommy DeVito recorded for the first time under the name the Four Seasons, doing a rendition of a Bell Sisters hit called "Bermuda." They took the moniker from a New Jersey bowling alley.
In 1962, the Four Seasons scored their first bona fide hit with the melodic, Gaudio-penned original "Sherry," which featured Valli's impressive falsetto and the group's wide vocal range.
A string of hits followed in 1962 and '63, including "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man" and rendition of the holiday song "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."
"When our first hits came, we were able to play our old favorites in the show for a while, but as we scored more hits, we had to eliminate the obscurities and great standards," Valli says. "Every now and then, we'll add an all-time favorite to the set list for current shows - something special for me to enjoy singing."
In 1964, "Rag Doll" and "Dawn (Go Away)" shot to the top of the charts, as well, showcasing the group's sophisticated pop arrangements, call-and-response doo-wop stylings and intricate harmonies.
The 1965 release "Let's Hang On!" veered away from the pop ballad formula toward a gritty soul-rock style.
The title track from the Four Seasons' 1966 full-length album "Working My Way Back to You" hit the charts, too, and later became a hit for the Spinners in 1979.
The Four Seasons underwent various lineup changes through the late '60s and '70s, and they shifted from pop to Motown-style soul to disco along the way.
In 1975, they climbed back into the pop charts with the slickly produced album "Who Loves You," featuring "My Eyes Adored You" and the title track.
The core members of the Four Seasons (during their initial run from 1960-66) were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. They joined the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.
Simultaneous with the Four Seasons studio and road work, Valli began working on solo material.
His mellow ballad "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" reached No. 2 in 1967. The soulful "You're Ready Now" became a hit in the U.S. and the U.K. The soft and melodic "My Eyes Adored You" demonstrated a soul/pop new style in 1974. The disco drum beats and syncopated piano chords drove the 1976 hit "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)." Orchestral sweeps and disco rhythms flavored the 1978 theme song "Grease," written by Barry Gibb as the title song for the musical motion picture "Grease"; Valli's low-tone delivery on "Grease" contrasted the high-pitched falsetto of his early works.
"I'm always critiquing the songs to figure out if we can deliver them in a better way," Valli says.
"I listen back to performances and think of ways we can make adjustments for the next time. I know a lot of artists who are like that. I just want to continue to progress and develop."
On the big screen
On June 20, Eastwood's "Jersey Boys" will hit theaters across the U.S. via Warner Bros. Like the Broadway production, the film will pay tribute to the hits, musical stylings and commercial successes and missteps of the group's career while focusing on Valli's closest relationships, artistic achievements and misadventures.
Eastwood cast actor John Lloyd Young in the lead role, reprising his role as Valli from the Broadway production. The cast also features actors Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza as the Four Seasons
Valli says he's not yet seen the final cut of the forthcoming film.
"I can't make a judgment at this point," he says. "With the play, it took me four or five times seeing it to really get it. It's very difficult to look at something like that when it's about you. There were elements about it that made me ask myself, 'Well, do I really walk this way or talk this way?'
"Certainly, in a two-hour play, it's very difficult to fit every little thing in there. I did wonder why certain things (about my life) didn't make it in there, but I'm a very critical guy."
If the Broadway rendition and big-screen adaptation of Valli's live and musical career merely touches on some of the pivotal moments and key musical numbers of the big story, the singer doesn't mind the artistic interpretations.
Valli genuinely appreciates the acknowledgment and interest.
"Certainly, 'Jersey Boys' has been a big help for me this year," Valli says.
"It's phenomenal what's happened with it," he says." It's already in its ninth year on Broadway. I always thought there was a great story there for a play or a movie, and I never dreamed in a million years that it would become such a success."