Another taste of vintage Valli

Frankie Valli's distinctive sound has remained popular for more than four decades, and now it's a hit on Broadway.

Published February 16, 2006

Frankie Valli has no idea where he is.

"Hang on, I'm going to find out," he says into the telephone. "I'm in Florida but I just got in last night and I don't know what city I'm in."

For an uncomfortably long time, no words come through the receiver, just the sound of rustling papers and opening drawers. Somewhere in his hotel room, there must be a clue. He's determined. "I'm going to find it," he repeats.

Maybe Miami, the caller suggests. Or Orlando or Jacksonville.

"I'm in none of those places," snaps Valli, sounding a little annoyed. Then, finally an exultant cry of "I'm in Fort Myers!"

As a solo artist and as the lead singer of the Four Seasons, Valli has spent a lot of the past 44 years on the road. So it's understandable if he sometimes gets a little disoriented.

In fact, even though he hasn't had a chart hit in more than a decade, Valli is touring as much as ever. The songs he made famous - Can't Take My Eyes Off You, Walk Like a Man, Grease and the rest - still resonate with audiences.

"These songs meant something to people. They've been a part of people's lives," Valli said. "So they'll still come to hear them when you come to town."

Valli and the Four Seasons (though none of the original members remain) will be at Ruth Eckerd Hall this evening to perform some of the songs that were radio staples in the pre-Beatles 1960s and stayed in play through the eras of disco, Southern rock and punk and well into the hip-hop years.

"We're going to play our hits, and we'll throw in some new stuff," Valli said. "We've been fortunate enough to have a lot of hits. We've had 65 records on the charts. So we don't really have to look much beyond that to put together a show."

The newest hit in Valli's career is Jersey Boys, the Broadway musical based on the career of the Four Seasons. It has brought new audience members to Valli's concerts.

"I think what the play has done is open up markets that may have been dormant for a while," Valli said. "There's been a lot of excitement about it. People are saying, 'Wow, I didn't know they did all these songs.' "

Valli consulted with the writers, producers and actors involved in Jersey Boys when they were putting the show together. Still, he said, it was a little unsettling when he saw someone portraying him onstage.

"I think the first couple of times it was weird," he said. "Now it's fine. You can't expect someone to do it exactly the way you do. It's that person's point of view."

And, he said, he realizes he's fortunate to be able to participate in the telling of his own life story.

"It's better this way than after I'm dead, you know," Valli says. "At least this way I have some input into it."