Frankie Avalon is a teen idol best known for singing the hit “Venus” and co-starring in the Beach Party film series with Annette Funicello.
Early Life of Frankie Avalon
Frankie Avalon, who was born on September 18, 1940, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is regarded as one of the first manufactured teen idols. In 1959, his song “Venus” became his first No. 1 single, and he went on to have six more Top 40 hits that year. Avalon and Annette Funicello teamed up in 1962 to create the popular Beach Party surfer film series.
Avalon rose to prominence as a child prodigy trumpet player, appearing on The Jackie Gleason Show and recording for RCA Victor Records’ subsidiary, “X.” In his teens, he played backup trumpet in a local band called Rocco and the Saints, and it was there that future teen star Bob Marcucci was discovered.
Avalon’s first single, “Cupid,” was released on Marcucci’s Chancellor label eight months later, and his third release, “Dede Dinah,” reached the Top 10. Then, in 1959, Avalon scored his first No. 1 single with “Venus,” and he went on to have six more Top 40 hits that year. Following his successful run with the easy-listening fare, Marcucci nudged Avalon away from the rock.
The following year, Avalon co-starred with Alan Ladd in Guns of the Timberland (1960) and played Smitty in The Alamo, directed and starring John Wayne.
Professional Career of Frankie Avalon
Frankie Avalon had a genuine music background to go along with his pretty-boy looks, and it was that talent that enabled him to succeed where others would fail. By 1962, the singer’s four-year reign over the music charts was coming to an end, but his career was far from over. In the wildly successful Beach Party surfer film series, he teamed up with Annette Funicello and reinvented himself as a clean-cut, pretty-boy surfer.
The series, directed by William Asher and written by Lou Rusoff, began with Beach Party in 1963, starring Robert Cummings and Dorothy Malone in addition to Avalon and Funicello.
A symbol of his time, Avalon went on to play The Teen Angel in the 1950s-themed musical Grease in 1978, singing the memorable “Beauty School Drop-out” in the film. “Kids recognize me from their Grease DVD, so they respond instantly,” he would later say. “When I do my old songs, you can hear a pin drop.”
Four years after the release of Grease, Avalon branched out to play Paul Foley in the horror thriller Blood Song (1982), alongside Donna Wilkes and Antoinette Bower. In 1985, Avalon embarked on a 50-city tour as “The Golden Boys of Bandstand” with Fabiano “Fabian” Forte and Bobby Rydell, which was broadcast on PBS as a segment of On Stage at Wolf Trap in 1986.
The following year, the still-young Avalon reteamed with Funicello for the lighthearted throwback Back to the Beach (1987), which featured a memorable performance of Stevie Ray Vaughan and “King of Surf Guitar” Dick Dale’s song “Pipeline.” In the film, Avalon and Funicello played the parents of two troubled teenagers. Later, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the pair reunited to put on “nostalgia” shows across the country, performing the Beach Party music and hit singles they had made famous in the 1960s until Funicello retired from show business.