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'Golden Boy' Bobby Rydell lights up stage and hearts

“Volare…cantare…let’s fly way up to the clouds, away from the maddenin’ crowds…”

With his endearing grin and caramel-coated voice, Bobby Rydell lit up the stage at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido on Friday, November 14.

If the warm audience response was any indication, this smooth 66-year-old performer lit up their hearts as well. Most, like me, came to remember, and his energetic performance helped transport us back to a time that was breezy and carefree.

Striking good looks and a mellifluous voice made Rydell a shoo-in for teen idol status in the late fifties to the mid-sixties. I was eight years old when I began to admire his appearance, but that didn’t stop me from appreciating his music as well. With a discerning young ear I was enthralled by the easy rhythm and smooth tones.

In high school I was a closet Bobby Rydell fan. When my friends were listening to rock groups like the Eagles or Doobie Brothers on 8-track tapes, I would drag out the record player and albums from my bedroom closet and strains of “Volare” would once again drift through the air.

Once, my friend George surprised me with a ticket to see the three “Golden Boys of Bandstand” in San Francisco. Two of those boys, Frankie Avalon and Fabian, were unmistakably golden, but my golden boy was still Bobby Rydell.

Years later I was able to attend another Rydell concert and George urged me to bring one of my record albums for the singer to autograph. I had felt a little silly since I was well on my way to middle age, but I am still grateful that George encouraged me to dig out that album. So what is one of the treasures in my fire evacuation box? The album signed, “Love Ya – Bobby Rydell.”

When I heard about the “Bobby Rydell and Friends” concert I just had to attend. All of the entertainers, including the “Friends” portion of the show, were class acts.

A 13-year-old dynamo who is billed as Kid Kyle sang fifties tunes with flair.

Sixties singer/songwriter Lou Christie belted out several of his hits, including “Two Faces Have I” and “Beyond the Blue Horizon.” The latter is a song which he gave the producers permission to use in the movie “Rain Man.” At age 65 Christie demonstrated his admirable ability to switch to the impressively high falsetto notes.

When Bobby Rydell appeared, the cheers and applause from the audience reached a crescendo. This quintessential showman sang forty-five minutes worth of his repertoire, including a medley of tunes from the film “Bye Bye Birdie,” in which he played the part of Hugo Peabody.

When Rydell sang the haunting “Forget Him” my eyes began to glisten just a bit as I recalled my elementary school days playing that song over and over until I am sure my mother and my parakeet were both very tired of it.

Rydell left the audience screaming for an encore after singing the bold and inspiring “Volare,” his signature song.

When Bobby Rydell sings, you can tell he is enjoying the music. In a post-concert interview he shared that his favorite songs are “Forget Him” and “Volare.” The songs “Wildwood Days” and “Sway” also made the list, “Wildwood” because of the fond memories he had of his grandmother’s boarding house near the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey, and “Sway” due to the rhythm.

After my brief encounter I was convinced that Rydell possesses a gracious demeanor both on and off the stage. With his enduring voice and commanding stage presence he still has the power to sway an audience; and I am sure that the “Volare” man will continue to send crowds flying “way up to the clouds” for many more years.

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