Teen Idol Rode Wave Between Elvis, Beatles

Bobby Rydell also starred in the musical 'Bye Bye Birdie'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 6, 2022 6:17 PM CDT
Bobby Rydell Had Series of Hits Between Elvis, Beatles
Former teen idols Frankie Avalon, left, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell show off their footprints in plaster casts on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ, in 1998.   (AP Photo/B. Vartan Boyajian, File)

Bobby Rydell, a heartthrob of early rock 'n' roll who was a star of radio, television, and the movie musical Bye Bye Birdie, died Tuesday. Rydell died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital in a suburb of his hometown of Philadelphia, the AP reports. Rydell, who credited a 2012 kidney and liver transplant with extending his life, was 79. Along with James Darren, Fabian, and Frankie Avalon, Rydell was among a wave of wholesome teen idols who emerged after Elvis Presley and before the rise of the Beatles.

Between 1959 and 1964, Rydell had nearly three dozen Top 40 singles, including "Wild One," "Volare," "Wildwood Days," "The Cha-Cha-Cha," and "Forget Him," a song of consolation for a bereft girl that helped inspire the Beatles classic "She Loves You." He had recurring roles on the Red Skelton Show and other television programs, and 1963's Bye Bye Birdie was rewritten to give Rydell a major part as the boyfriend of Ann-Margret. He didn't want to move to Hollywood, however, and Birdie became his only significant movie role—though the high school in the hit 1970s musical Grease was named for him.

Rydell lived in the Philadelphia area for most of his life. The block of 11th Street where he grew up was christened Bobby Rydell Boulevard in 1995. "I never thought of myself as a celebrity," he said in 2003. "I was just a guy who went out there and worked." He was born Robert Ridarelli in a neighborhood that would also produce teen idols Darren, Fabian, and Avalon. They knew each other as children—Rydell played drums with Avalon on trumpet in a group. Rydell got his big break in 1959 on American Bandstand, which originally was broadcast from Philadelphia. His first hit, "Kissing Time," followed, and the skinny 17-year-old with a pompadour haircut rocketed to stardom. By the mid-'60s, changing musical tastes defused the hit-making careers of Rydell and his compatriots,

(More obituary stories.)

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