Nicknamed ‘The Young Sinatra‘ and ‘Golden Boy’ in his hey-day, Frankie Avalon was born Frankie Avallone of Italian stock, in Philadelphia on 18 September 1940.
He was a child prodigy, winning his first talent contest at the age of six, singing Give Me Five Minutes More.
He also learnt to play piano and by the age of 12 was playing local dance halls with a band called Rocco and The Saints – which featured Bobby Rydell on drums. The group later played a summer residency at the Steele Pier in Atlantic City.
At about the same time, Avalon became a regular TV performer, appearing on The Jackie Gleason Show, The Paul Whiteman Show and The Ray Anthony Show. His father later bought a local night club where young Frankie became a popular performer.
In 1956 the venue burned down and Frankie’s father spent several months in hospital, which meant both Frankie and his sister had to work after school to pay the medical bills.
Frankie earned his money singing and was discovered by Bob Marcucci and Peter de Angelis of Chancellor Records, who signed him to the label.
His first releases, Teacher’s Pet and Cupid, were minor hits in 1957 and coincided with his movie debut in Disc Jockey Jamboree. However it was his appearances on top TV show American Bandstand that really kick-started his career, and like his friend Fabian – who followed an identical path to stardom – became a teen idol.
In 1958, Frankie clocked up his first million-seller with Dede Dinah, rapidly followed by three more multi-selling singles in 1959 – Venus, which was #1 in America for five weeks, Just Ask Your Heart and Why.
Both Venus and Why made the British charts in the same year, and between 1958 and 1962 he enjoyed 24 major American chart singles.
During the 1960s his career veered sharply towards films, and he starred in many; The Alamo (1960), Guns Of Timberland, The Carpetbaggers, Panic In The Year Zero, Castalian, I’ll Take Sweden, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Skidoo (1968), The Million Eyes Of Samaru and numerous beach movies.
He starred in Grease in 1978 and made numerous appearances on television in America.