Born Fabiano Forte in Philadelphia on 6 February 1943, he attended the same boys club as his neighbourhood friends Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell.
All three had budding ambitions to become famous singers. In 1957 Fabian was introduced to Bob Marcucci and Peter de Angelis, who headed Chancellor Records in Philadelphia and was signed to a recording contract.
De Angelis reasoned that with Fabian’s good looks and just a moderate voice he was destined for major success.
De Angelis recounted the story: “We were talking to Frankie Avalon and he said he knew a fifteen-year-old kid at Southern High who looked like a cross between Elvis and Ricky Nelson. So Bob went over to take a look. He was so pretty, we just knew he had to be a commercial proposition, so we signed him and taught him a few things vocally. But he never really did go much on singing.”
His first single release in 1958 was Lillie Lou which failed miserably in the chart, but his follow-ups I’m A Man and Turn Me Loose established him as a major attraction.
Shrewd guidance by Marcucci and de Angelis, along with brilliant packaging and publicity, kept the wheels of success in motion. Appearances on American Bandstand helped too. The girls went wild. Despite being hailed by one music journalist as “the worst pop star in the world”, Fabian quickly became a teenage heart-throb.
In 1959 he recorded his only million-selling single, Tiger. The same year he was signed to make his first movie, Hound Dog Man. Other films followed in rapid succession including High Time (1960), North To Alaska (1960) and The Longest Day (1962).
Fabian continued to enjoy a successful movie career, and appeared also on television, starring in the celebrated Bus Stop series in the 1960s – His appearance as a psychopath murderer was instrumental in the series being cancelled in 1962.
After 1970 he reverted back to his original name of Fabian Forte. He never regained his former stature but has continued performing for more than 40 years, eventually appearing in concert with Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell as ‘The Golden Boys’.
He posed for a nude photo spread in Playboy in 1974 but regretted it later, saying he looked “fat and stupid”.
The 1980 movie The Idolmaker was a thinly-disguised biography of Fabian (called “Caesare” in the film). In the movie version, singer Caesare – a pretty boy with very little singing talent – goes through a whirlwind of success in a short time, then abruptly fires his songwriters and quits his record label.
Fabian threatened a lawsuit at the time of the film’s release though the filmmakers insisted that the film presented only fictional characters. “Coincidentally”, Bob Marcucci was a consultant on the film.