SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Nobody sings like a man quite like Frankie Valli.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALK LIKE A MAN")

THE FOUR SEASONS: (Singing) Walk like a man, talk like man, walk like a man my son. No woman's word, walking on the earth, so walk like a man, my son...

SIMON: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons had their first number one hit 50 years ago this month.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHERRY")

SEASONS: (Singing) Sherry, Sherry baby, Sherry, Sherry baby, Sherry baby, Sherry, can you come out tonight?

SIMON: "Sherry" was the start of a career that has lasted for half a century. The group's rise from the projects of Newark to the tops of music charts has been celebrated in the Tony Award-winning musical "Jersey Boys." And now, Frankie Valli himself is set to make his own Broadway debut with a weeklong concert engagement next month at the Broadway Theater in New York. Frankie Valli joins us from the studios of NPR West. Mr. Valli, thanks so much for being with us.

FRANKIE VALLI: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: You weren't born with that name, were you?

VALLI: No, I wasn't. My name actually is Francesco Castaluccio.

SIMON: And where did Frankie Valli come from?

VALLI: I had a manager that thought that Castaluccio was too long and no one would understand. At that time, he could have called me anything he wanted as long as I was getting this shot.

SIMON: Well, you, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, scored a string of hits right after "Sherry." There was "Walk Like a Man" and then "Big Girls Don't Cry."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY")

SEASONS: (Singing) Big girls don't cry, big girls don't cry. Big girls, they don't cry, they don't cry...

SIMON: So, Mr. Valli, I got to ask you about the falsetto. What made you decide to sing up there?

VALLI: Well, every once in a while it just came out and here we are.

SIMON: Oh, my.

(LAUGHTER)

VALLI: I don't know. You know, I thought everybody had falsetto. And since I wasn't a schooled singer who studied with anybody, I just thought anybody who had a voice could do anything they wanted with their voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY")

SEASONS: (Singing) Hoped that she would call my bluff, then she said to my surprise, big girls don't cry...

SIMON: The musical, "Jersey Boys," has been so successful. I gather there were some stories that are related in the musical that you didn't necessarily feel that it would help you for the public to know when you were actually living those years.

VALLI: Well, all through the early days of our success, the one thing that I was afraid of more than anything was that the public might find out we were not clean-cut kids who went to church every Sunday. Some of the guys in the group had prison records. So, we just prayed and hoped that nobody would ever find out.

SIMON: Was music your step up and out?

VALLI: That was my only way out. I mean, I don't know what would have happened if it wasn't for being involved in the music business. I mean, I started out very young and I was really convinced as to what I wanted to do. And I would buy these songbooks. It was lyrics that all the songs that were popular at the time and I would sing along when these songs were being played on the radio. And then I started to mess around a little bit with doing impressions. And by doing impressions, I began to realize what this vocal mechanism was really capable of doing. And I took a little from the various different people that I liked a lot and created a style of my own.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE JUST TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE")

VALLI: (Singing) Just too good to be true, can't take my eyes off of you. You'd be like heaven to touch, I want to hold you so much. At long last love has arrived and I thank God I'm alive. You're just too good to be true. Can't take my eyes off you...

Establishing a style is important, it really is, but a lot of singers get so involved with their instrument, and more so than they do in what they're singing. I think you really have to think about what you're singing. You have to make the public believe what you're singing. And in order to do that, you have to believe it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE JUST TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE")

VALLI: (Singing) You're just too good to be true, can't take my eyes off you...

SIMON: I have also read that if you hadn't become a singer, you would have been a hairdresser.

VALLI: Right. Until I realize that you couldn't sing and do hair at the same time.

SIMON: Well, that could be a gimmick for some new shop.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE JUST TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE")

VALLI: (Singing) I love you, baby, and if it's quite all right, I need you, baby, on a lonely night, I love you, baby, trust in me when I say. Oh, pretty baby, don't bring me down, I pray, oh pretty baby, now that I've found you, stay, and let me love you, baby, let me love you. You're just too good to be true...

SIMON: Has it been hard to say goodbye to the other original Four Seasons?

VALLI: It was very difficult. You know, the first guy that left the group was Nick Massi. And it almost broke my heart when he left the group. But Nick was a particular kind of guy that being on the road was really not what Nick was all about. But I never in my life have known anybody who was more in love with music than Nick Massi. Learned a lot of his music in the penitentiary. And Tommy DeVito was a terrific guitar player. Again, here's a guy who learned to play guitar in jail. And Bob Gaudio was an incredible writer.

SIMON: So, what's, after 50 years of this, what's the key to keeping going, staying fresh?

VALLI: Well, I think the key is that you have to be in good health. You have to really love what you do and be capable of doing it, or do it at least until you're not capable of doing it anymore. Right now, I'm feeling fine and I'll do it for as long as I can.

SIMON: You're feeling fine and opening on Broadway.

VALLI: Right. You know, and I am so excited about that. I mean, really excited. We've been able to accomplish a lot of things that were just dreams, you know. To play Broadway and be able to do a two-hour show, that's very special.

SIMON: Frankie Valli. And you can see him and the Four Seasons at the Broadway Theater in New York starting October 19. Frankie Valli spoke to us from NPR West. Mr. Valli, a real pleasure. Thank you, sir.

VALLI: It's been my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHO LOVES YOU")

SEASONS: (Singing) Who loves you, pretty baby? Who's gonna help you through the night? Who love you, pretty mama? Who's always there to make it right? Who loves you...

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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