The vocal group the Four Seasons rose from their working-class roots in Newark, NJ, to become one the most commercially successful recording acts of all time. With over 25 singles in the Top 40, they helped define the sound of mid-60s Pop, and remain popular over 50 years after their initial success.
Versions of the group were working in New Jersey clubs and lounges and recording for small labels as early as 1953 under various names. It wasn’t until lead singer Frankie Valli, guitarist-vocalist Tommy DeVito and bassist-vocalist Nick Massi added keyboardist-vocalist Bob Gaudio to the band in 1959 that things started to happen. A key development came when the band began working with producer Bob Crewe, who used them as background singers on recording sessions, and ended up cutting a single for the band: “Sherry,” written by Gaudio. With an assist from Dick Clark, who featured the song on American Bandstand, "Sherry" went to No. 1.
“Sherry” set a template that the group would follow, with astounding success, for the next few years. It featured Valli’s soaring falsetto with the others’ tight harmonies adding counterpoint, all swooping over tracks with big, insistent beats that owed a debt to Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production style. Over the next three years, mostly with material written by Gaudio and/or Crew, the Four Seasons were chart mainstays, with hits like "Big Girls Don't Cry,” "Walk Like a Man,” "Dawn (Go Away),” "Rag Doll" and "Let's Hang On!.” It’s notable that all this took place in the midst of the British Invasion, a time when many U.S. recording acts saw their careers nosedive.
For the rest of the 60s the group continued to generate hits, but less often and with less impact, as the kind of innocent Pop they purveyed fell out of favor. After an ill-fated effort to stay contemporary with the psychedelia-flavored 1969 concept album “The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette” and a short, nonproductive stay with the Motown label, the group started to splinter. Valli kept a version of the band going through the 1970s, concentrating on their still-popular live act.
The band had a resurgence in 1975, after Valli landed two Top 10 solo hits: “My Eyes Adored You” and “Swearin' To God,” leading to a deal with Warner Brothers for the current version of the group. The resulting album, “Who Loves You,” became a surprise million-seller, yielding the group’s last No. 1 hit, "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)."
Valli would have one more solo chart success, with the title song from the 1978 blockbuster movie "Grease.” While the hits stopped coming after that, the band never lost its popularity on the oldies circuit, and their songs have remained staples on classic-hits radio. In 2005, the rags-to-riches story of the band was depicted in the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, a massive success that introduced the band’s music to a new generation.