They were the godfathers of Italian-American soul, and though their roots were in old-fashioned doo-wop, they left that style for dead on a Newark street corner when they combined Frankie Valli’s macho falsetto and the Jersey-thick background vocals of Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi with a driving R&B beat in the style of Motown or Phil Spector. While their trademark harmonies may not have been as sophisticated as those of, say, the Byrds, the Four Seasons had a sound fresh enough to remain current even after the arrival of the mighty Beatles. Indeed, the Four Seasons, along with the Beach Boys, were one of only two American groups to enjoy significant chart success before, during and after the British Invasion. Their hugely successful career reached an early high point on this day in 1962, when the song "Sherry” became their first #1 hit.
Frankie Valli (born Francis Casteluccio) had been hard at work trying to become a star for the better part of a decade before the Four Seasons achieved their breakthrough. They had come together as a group in several stages over the previous four years, changing their name in 1961 from the Four Lovers after failing an audition at a New Jersey bowling alley called The Four Seasons. It was keyboard player Bob Gaudio who wrote the song that would launch the group’s career. He later told Billboard magazine that he banged out “Sherry” in 15 minutes before a scheduled rehearsal. Without a tape recorder, Gaudio explained, “I drove down to rehearsal humming it, trying to keep it in my mind. I had no intention of keeping the lyrics, [but] to my surprise, everybody liked them, so we didn’t change anything.”
“Sherry” was released as a single in August 1962 and made it all the way to the top of the pop charts just four weeks later, on September 15. In the next six months, the Four Seasons would earn two more #1 hits with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man,” making them the only American group ever to earn three consecutive #1 hits. “Rag Doll” gave the group its fourth #1 in the summer of 1964, and many other Top 40 hits followed in the subsequent 12 years before the Four Seasons made a triumphant return to the top of the pop charts with their fifth #1 hit “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” in March 1976.