There are some teen/pop artists from the 60s that are good. Then there are some that are great. But wait! There's another category - the elite - the outstanding, amazing, and the awesome. Rick Randell is truly all of the above and the Rare Rockin Records blog is proud to present an interview with this legend of music.
Rick's real name is Rocco Gaeta and he has some truly interesting tidbids behind the records you all know and love. Check it out!
Kyler:Rick, to start off let me just say that you are one of our all time favorite artists and it is a pleasure to be interviewing you. Where were you born and raised? Did you know you wanted to sing from an early age?
RICK:I was born and raised in Newark, NJ, in the Ironbound neighborhood. Still a thriving, vibrant area of Newark. The radio in our home was always on. My mother loved Country/Western music. I loved the sound of the steel guitars. My parents bought me a guitar when I was 9 years old. In the 8th grade my family moved to the suburb of Bloomfield, NJ where I attended Jr. High and High School.
Kyler:I have heard a recording from 1958 by “Rick Randle and The Rockers”. Is this in fact a Rick Randell recording and how did it come to be?
RICK:In Jr. High I started a band called “The Rockers”. This group lasted into High School where we would play for the HS dances. We also did Rock n Roll Sock Hops at Daley’s Meadowbrook, Cedar Grove, NJ every Saturday for 2000 attending teens. The owners of ARC Records (Ed Danback/Joe DiMaggio – not the baseball player) heard us, liked us and signed us. We recorded “That Day” side A and “I’m Hurt” side B in 1959. We managed to be on the “Alan Freed” radio show, THE Rock n Roll number one show at that time. This is when “The Rockers’ became known as “Rick and the Rockers”.
Kyler:Tell our readers about “Rick and The Randells”. You had a really nice doo wop record with them called “Honey Doll”. Who were “The Randells”? Any history or insights?
RICK:People from ABC Paramount were interested in us from this first recording with ARC. So ARC let us out of the contract and wished us well as we signed with ABC Paramount. We recorded “Honey Doll” in 1959. That same year we recorded “Let it be You” for ABC. Since we were still in HS, permission from Parents and school district had to be obtained for Rick and the Rockers to go on a 2 month leave in order to tour the US and Canada. At this time we did an appearance on Dennis James’ Cerebral Palsy Telethon in NYC with such headliners as Connie Francis, Dwayne Eddie, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell etc… We were supposed to do 1-2 songs but the phones began to ring off the hook. We were the only performers to stay on live TV and continue playing for 45 minutes! The Rockers were Pete Schultz and Bobby Brown. We added Matty Ferrara and the 4 of us became “Rick and the Randells”.
Kyler:How did you get signed to Apt Records?
RICK:In 1960, ABC Paramount dropped the group, kept me (Rick Randell – Rocco Gaeta was too ethnic a name for the times) where I recorded for APT Records, a subsidiary of ABC Paramount.
Kyler:Out of your releases with Apt, which one did you think was the best? Among them are “More of The Same”, “Ring That Thing”, and “Mr. Butterfingers”.
RICK:My Favorite recording for APT was “Have You Ever Been Lonely”. It was a big production with full orchestra.
Kyler:How was it doing concerts and shows back then? Did you get to perform with any other 60s musicians, and if so, who were your favorites?
RICK:I was a regular at Palisades Park, NJ with host Clay Cole (a very dear friend ‘til today). I appeared with Joann Campbell, Leslie Gore, James Brown, Conway Twitty, Jackie Wilson, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, Everly Brothers, Jackie Wilson, The Shirelles, The Angels, Tommy James, Chubby Checker, Johnny Mathis, Tony Orlando (to name a few). These shows at Palisades Park were televised. My all time favorite performers and still close friends are Denise Ferri (The Angels) and Joey Dee. Although I appeared solo, I did still work with The Randells headlining 4 of NYC’s most famous nightclubs – Wagon Wheel, Metropole, Alan Freed’s Camelot and the infamous Peppermint Lounge.
Kyler:I would like to move on to your United Artists material now. What were the circumstances of signing with that label?
RICK:About 1962/3 ABC Paramount contract was up and United Artists made them an offer for me that they couldn’t refuse.
Kyler:There were two singles released on UA, which means four songs. Would you please tell us about each one and maybe any stories you have about them? For our readers - "Young At Heart", "Dining And Dancing", "Take My Name And Number" and "Stars" are the titles.
RICK:Permission had to be given to UA from Frank Sinatra in order for me to record “Young At Heart”. I had to sign a management contract with Al-Jill Enterprises (Al Schwartz/Jilly Rizzo). Jilly was very close friends with Frank Sinatra and owned one of NYC most famous night spots – “Jilly’s”. At this time “Dining and Dancing” was recorded. It is also one of my favorites. This recording received the most requests for air play from both coasts. “Stars” was a fun recording for me. Reaching these falsetto notes was never a problem – I had an extraordinary range. In 3rd grade in Newark, I won a talent contest by Yodeling – I still yodel pretty good today!
Kyler:Did you tour or do TV Shows to promote your UA releases?
RICK:I did the televised Clay Cole Show out of Palisades Park, NJ. I also did a nationally televised show (can’t remember the name) out of Baltimore with “The Big Bopper” – “Chantilly Lace”. The morning after this show, the Big Bopper and I were interviewed on Baltimore radio. After that interview, the Big Bopper boarded a plane with Richie Valens and Buddy Holly. The plane crashed – it was “The Day The Music Died”. Did tons of radio and dances to promote my recordings. Performed on a TV show “Upbeat” where James Brown was the guest host.
Kyler:In 1964 you signed with Decca and released a magnificent single called “Debbie”. It has been said Jay & The Americans do background vocals on it. Is this true?
RICK:Partly right. The Americans did do the background on “Debbie”. Jay was not part of this song. The connection to “Jay and the Americans” is that the writer of “Debbie” also wrote “She Cried” – a big hit for Jay and the Americans.
Kyler:Of course throughout the course of your career there were many other records released with your involvement. Did you ever record under a pseudonym? Are there any unreleased Rick Randell recordings still in the vaults from the 60s?
RICK:I recorded with Denise Ferri (the Angels) under the pseudonym of “Silky and Sage”. Joel Diamond produced us. In between all this, I always had a performing group for nightclubs with my dear, long-time friend Joe Pesci – called Pesci and Randell. In the late 60’s I signed with FTB Productions (Frankie, Tommy, Bobby) for MGM. These are 3 of “The Four Seasons”. I have been close friends with Joey and The Four Seasons for 50 years! We see each other all the time. Then Joe Pesci was signed using the name Jonathon Marcus. In 1973 Joey and I recorded “Mad About You Baby” and “What About Me”. I sing harmony and lead with Joe on both.
Kyler:Thanks for answering all these questions, Rick, our readers will really appreciate it! One last one, what are you up to these days and what do you think of when you look back upon the 60s???
RICK:I continued in the music business my entire adult life and made a good living with my group “Just Us” playing nightclubs in NY/NJ. I managed to get married and raise two beautiful daughters. This business is more than talent and looks – it is just plain LUCK! I enjoyed every single moment and I am so very pleased that my music is being appreciated by a new generation.
ROCK ON!!! Rick Randell
On behalf of Rare Rockin Records I would like to thank Rocco for taking the time to answer my questions and giving our readers a glimpse "behind the scenes"! Until next time, like Rick says, ROCK ON!