What was Frankie Avalon doing on American Idol?

by Allison Waldman, posted Apr 10th 2009 2:04PM
Frankie Avalon todayI don't know about you, but I was surprised -- floored! -- to see Frankie Avalon on American Idol the other night. Granted, they always have to stretch to fill the one-hour results show, which could truly be done in five minutes, but how odd was it for Flo Rida, Kellie Pickler and Frankie Avalon to be on the same show?

And Frankie kicked off the show! The Idol producers dug up a 1959 video of Frankie Avalon singing "Venus," which of course, lead to the real Frankie appearing on stage to finish the number. With the exception of the dream sequence in Grease (1978) singing "Beauty School Dropout," has Frankie done anything relevant to warrant such major exposure?

I'm not really knocking Frankie because I have nothing against him. However, a review of the hits of 1959 reveal a few other artists that might have been a better get for AI. Paul Anka, for instance, had "Lonely Boy" and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" top the charts that year. Neil Sedaka hit had a huge success with "Oh! Carol."

There were also classics like "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin and "What A Difference A Day Makes" by Dinah Washington. Either of those songs would have been better choices for a star spot, even if Bobby and Dinah are no long with us. They could have brought on one of today's stars -- or former Idol contestants (plug, plug) -- to do the honors.

The bottom line, I guess, is this. I didn't believe for one second that Simon Cowell's smile was sincere. It was forced frivolity and fake as can be. Simon doesn't exactly have a poker face and he was gritting his teeth through Frankie's performance. Was Frankie Avalon really the best they could come up with? After all, they are the number one TV show according to the Nielsen ratings. I'm sure singers are begging for a three-minute spot.

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Amanda Rae

I thought Frankie did a GREAT job and is definately an original idol. The whole judge panel looked pleased. I, by the way, am 28 years old and love Frankie. I developed a crush on him when I first saw Back to the Beach! I've seen all the old Frankie and Annette movies. You have got it wrong. He was a perfect fit for the show. Frankie, it was great hearing you sing. You have still got it!

April 13 2009 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce N.

One more thing, you changed your original post, didn't you? You also removed the original comments that had been posted, too. Obviously didn't do you any good. People remember good talent.

April 11 2009 at 12:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce N.

My goodness, you must be very young. I was there, a twelve year old in 1959 who had "discovered" rock and roll and was in love with it. Frankie Avalon was one of our first "idols" and he was cute and very "swoonable". His movies with Annette made him more accessible to us. Simon struck me as very pleased to see Frankie and I was pleased to see one of the "original" idols still looking and singing so well. Allison, you don't know what you're talking about.

April 11 2009 at 12:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A better question would be what was Flo-rida, or however you spell it, doing on American Idol?

April 11 2009 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, typo. Let's Rock was '58.

April 11 2009 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And I thought Simon looked totally surprised and genuinely delighted.

April 11 2009 at 9:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your age is showing. You have no idea what you're talking about. Frankie Avalon was HUGE. I was there. I remember.

He had 7 Top Ten songs in 59-61, as well as 13 Top 40 hits and 24 Top 100 hits in 58-61, a bunch of MONSTER beach movies with Annette Funicello (of the Mickey Mouse Club), and was a clean-cut cutie pie, just what all the girls wanted. And he was the only singer you mention who had a number one record in 1959 and a number one record in 1960. "Venus" was the number 3 song OF THE YEAR in 1959.

Contrary to what you said, "Lonely Boy" was not a bigger hit as the number 7 song of the year and "Put Your head on my shoulder" was the number 16 song of the year (and a #2 hit). Paul Anka was a talented songwriter but he started out as a short pudgy dumpy kid with oily hair and a big nose who almost always sang on key. Check on the R&R movie "Let's Rock," 1953 I think, to see him sing "Puppy Love." (That movie starred JULIUS LA ROSA, that's how very hip it was). Anka had hit records but he was no heart throb. He may have been a wonderful human being, I don't know, but I can tell you that none of the girls were swooning over him.

Same for Neil Sedaka. Another great songwriter who wasn't much of a pop star. "Breaking Up is hard to do" was his only number one of the 1960s (he didn't have a number one in the '50s) and that was in 1962. By the way, that was the original "Breaking Up," which was NOT a ballad. (His two other number ones were in 1975)

Dinah Washington was a jazz artist, not a pop star or a rock&roller. She sang with Lionel Hampton's band in the 1940s. "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" was her first appearance on the charts (went to #8 in 8/59), folllowed by two more top ten hits in 1960. She's been dead for forty-six years, probably wouldn't have been available for AI rehearsals.

(Okay, you're already gagging than An Old Person is speaking, but I just remembered that "What a Diff'rence A Day Makes" was playing when I had my first kiss. Yeah, go ahead and laugh now, but I got to live through the 1960s and you didn't.)

Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" was the number one song of 1959 but he was not a pop star.. he was a pop singer who appeared in nightclubs like the Copacabana and wore tuxedos when he sang and sang standards and big band songs. "Mack the Knife" in fact is adapted from Dreigroschenoper, the German extravaganza on which "Cabaret" was based. He was older. He wasn't a teenager. "Mack" was his only number one record. His other pop hits were (the first) "Splish Splash" and "Dream Lover," but if you look at his catalog you will find real oldies, ie, songs from the 1930s and 40s.

The top ten Number One records of 1959 (in order of ranking from the most weeks at #1 to the fewest) were recorded by Darin, Johnny Horton, Avalon, Lloyd Price, The Browns, The Fleetwoods, Anka, The Platters, Guy Mitchell, Santo & Johnny. Darin, Avalon, Price, The Platters and, marginally, the Fleetwoods were the only ones you could really call stars of the time. The others were basically in the one-hit-wonder category or novelty songs.

And, FYI, Frankie Avalon is the only one of ANY of the people I've mentioned who had a number one hit in 1960, the year Simon claims he was actually born.

So, now, tell me again, who do you think they should have invited on AI?

By the way, You want to learn about rock&roll singers and great records? Go find "Tweedlee Dee" by Lavern Baker. (Okay, it's R&B, but go find it. Trust me.)

April 11 2009 at 9:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

From someone of Simon's era, this was a big deal and congrats to Frankie for a) being able to still belt it out, and b) looking pretty damned good for his age. So, you are way off here,

April 11 2009 at 8:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I disagree. I think Simon was pleasantly surprised and genuinely happy to see him there. Actually, I noticed that right away and thought "Wow, it's so rare to see him like that". It was cute. His reaction was so different from his usual "I don't care" attitude that I don't understand where you saw him "gritting his teeth".

April 11 2009 at 7:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Four words: Back to the Beach


April 10 2009 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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