Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bye Bye Birdie

Back in the early 1960s, there seemed to be a plethora of singing Bobbys: Darin, Rydell, Vinton, Vee, Curtola, etc. etc. Well, when it comes to singing Bobbys, mostly I'm a fan of the great Bobby Darin, and I'll likely be doing a post on him sometime in the near future. But I also favoured Bobby Rydell, who, like Darin, brought a bit of that swinging Sinatra sound to the image of the teen rock and roll idol to create a sound that had a more lasting appeal. A couple weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of seeing Bobby Rydell in concert at Stage West here in Mississauga. I'm happy to report that Mr. Rydell, now 66, is still in very fine singing voice. Actually, I prefer the way his voice has matured as an adult, over the teen idol voice he had back at the start of his career, as it puts him very much in the realm of Sinatra, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, etc.

Prior to going to see him in concert, I had drawn a caricature of both he and Ann-Margret in their roles in 1963's "Bye Bye Birdie", the musical that created some good-natured fun by spoofing Elvis's being drafted by the U.S. Army. The Elvis type character is fictionalized as the gyrating teen heartthrob,"Conrad Birdie", hence the title of the show. Bobby Rydell played the hapless boyfriend, "Hugo Peabody", being ignored by Ann-Margret's all-American girl,"Kim McAfee", who has been randomly chosen to give Birdie his one last kiss before the army gets him. The movie is a lot of fun and gives both Bobby and Ann-Margret an opportunity to really show off their song and dance skills. I think Ann-Margret is a phenomenal performer who wasn't given enough venues to display her musical talents onscreen. She's also terrific with Elvis himself in "Viva Las Vegas", which she made the following year, both films having been directed by George Sidney. It doesn't surprise me that she went on to great success on the Vegas stage, singing and dancing up a storm after those skills seemed to not be in high demand at the movies anymore.

I was pleased to see that Bobby Rydell still enjoys the film role, as he does a medley in his show of most of the songs from the score, while a montage of film clips plays on the screen behind him. As it turns out, Bobby Rydell was good friends with Bobby Darin back then, and he did a marvelous tribute to his late friend by singing a medley of his big hits. Of course Rydell performed most of his own big hits, such as "Wild One", "Volare", and "Sway", the latter song's swinging arrangements having likely inspired the more recent rendition by Michael Bublé.

Though I was hoping to present the framed caricature in person to Bobby Rydell, I'm afraid that turned out not to be possible, but I did manage to get it to him via the show's local promoter, who also got Bobby to autograph an additional print for me as I'd requested. I was told he got a real kick out of it, anyway.

So now, what better way to end off but to post the clip from "Bye Bye Birdie" that I'd based this caricature on. It's my favourite scene in the film, as it shows Ann-Margret at her sexiest as they all sing the swinging "A Lot of Livin' To Do". Enjoy!


Will Finn said...

Pete--haven't had a chance to check in since the Sinatra post (tho only a casual listener, it was an enjoyably heartfelt tribute).

Lots of great new stuff! Loved Vincent Price, although without sounding morbid, maybe he'd prefer celebrating his 'death day' to his birthday.... Mhhoohoohahahha.

My favorite new one though is the Dick Martin/Harvey Korman tribute. For all the "wackiness" on LAUGH-IN, my favorite part was always the monologue ("duologue"?) between Rowan & Martin at the beginning. Their easy rapport and Martin's affable "dumb-smart" swinger persona still makes me laugh like a loon when I see old clips.

Ken Mitchroney said...

Hi Pete
I agree with you about Ann. A great performer and one of the reasons i have been stuck on redheads all my life.
Wonderful art as well Pete. You never disappoint.

Christopher Olson said...

They look a little older than I remember them, but then again, all teenage characters looked a little too old to play their parts.

I was in a local production of Bye Bye Birdie, and so I have all the songs memorized. It helps when you're in the shower and you need something to sing. ;)

Daveland said...

Great job Pete - you picked a classic "Birdie" outfit for Ann Margret!

Unknown said...

I saw him 3 times in concert.
GREAT personality abd voice,
thanks for the picture.